Rehabilitation Programs Continue at Otero I Despite COVID-19 Challenges

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Otero County Prison Facility

Through the pandemic and all its challenges, the Otero County Prison Facility, in Chaparral, New Mexico, has remained committed to offering quality programs to the residents, doing all they can to help the men prepare for their successful release.

Roxana Mercado is a counselor in the programming department.

“It does take a lot of effort from everybody in this facility to make sure that the programs continue to run. From security, to make sure that our guys are here on time, from the facilitators being here and ready to work, from getting approval from management, to getting the resources and the tools that are necessary, to making sure that our groups run smoothly. And it also comes from the inmates, them being able to come here every day, be on time, hygiene, making sure that they are ready to go. Because they know this is a work for them as well.”

“HVAC is what I am doing right now,” says resident Kevin Baasch, “It is something that is phenomenal. “It is something that we can do here, learn, we can do on the job training. We’ve been going upstairs working in some of the units up there.”

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Otero County Prison Facility

Daaron Pablo is also a resident at the facility, taking advantage of programming available.

“Doing all this,” he explains, “as far as carpenter work, electrical, concrete, metal work, all of it, everything is going to benefit in the future. My next plan will probably be HVAC, because I think it will benefit a recent inmate just to kind of integrate back into society and try to get the feet planted and hopefully live a good life and stay out of prison.”

“Mrs. Macias, she is the number-one teacher around here,” Kevin Baasch says. “She will bend over backwards for everyone and anyone to help them out, bringing them courses and trying to get them motivated. Officer Gonzalez, the HVAC teacher, he is really helpful, he is very knowledgeable. He knows all the maintenance, all the woodwork, all this stuff. He is really good at what he does, also.”

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Otero County Prison Facility

Keeping the programs going hasn’t been easy, but the skills the men are learning have not only helped them prepare to enter society, but it has also helped them cope with the stress of the pandemic.

Elda Stepp is a mental-health counselor at the facility.

“They are going through stress,” she says of the incarcerated men. “They are going through emotional drainage, because family out there, they are afraid of this Coronavirus; [they are afraid of] their family contracting it, and then they come into the prison and then they are scared. They had to really implement all of the teachings that we provided them here. They were able to get through with it, and they were very grateful for that.”

“There is so much opportunity,” states Kevin Baasch, “I can’t neglect it.”

About Otero County Prison Facility

Otero County Prison Facility is accredited by the American Correctional Association—
achieving 100% compliance for both mandatory and non-mandatory standards in
its most recent audit. Other accreditations and certifications include the Correctional
Education Association and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).