CLOVIS, NM - After 14 inmate escapes in five years, a new solution to secure the Curry County jail finally seems to be working. It's mostly because of a plan that revolves around working with the convicted criminals instead of just trying to control them.
"It's turned 180, it's like flip a coin, it's a brand new coin. It's now livable, people are a lot more happy," inmate Tobies Villa said.
The solution was really the brainchild of new Jail Administrator Keith Norwood, but he's shy about taking any credit - saying his amazing staff and the inmates themselves are doing most of the work.
"We're trying to keep the place clean. The cleaner the place the better off," Norwood said.
To make over the once run-down and dangerous jail, Norwood is asking inmates to use any skills they had on the outside, like artists, electricians and janitors.
"Everybody needs to know they can still be useful regardless of their situation," Norwood said.
"It changes jail. It's not so much a boring and ugly place. It brings it to life and it's helping us. And he didn't tell me to say that. You can ask any of the guys in here," Inmate Gabriel Rodriguez said while painting a mural in the jail.
The inmates also say being able to work in the hallways demonstrates the staff trusts and respects them, and that in turn makes them trust and respect the staff.
"If I can get their trust, then it helps me know maybe I could win my family's trust back and my friends," Inmate Ruben Mireles said.
Plus the work gives them a feeling of ownership in the jail.
"Coming here, it's my own little domain. My own little office, sitting here I can relax and talk to God," Inmate Bernardo Rodriguez said.
And having a way to stay busy never hurts.
"It keeps me out of trouble (laugh), if I don't do something then I get all bored and want to pick fights," Inmate David Davanport said.
But the bottom line is that everyone we talked with says they're sure those inmate escapes are over.
"No I don't think it would happen right now," Villa said.
Meaning the jail maybe able to finally close the door on the problems of their past.