Clovis kids go straight to jail (just visiting)

Parkview Elementary fourth-grader Jessica Leyva, 10, left, looks around a cell at the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center as Curry County detention officer Paul Cash explains life in jail Tuesday during a tour. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Ryan Lengerich

Surrounded by white concrete walls and security cameras, Parkview Elementary students sat eyes gazing and mouths wide open in the waiting room at the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center on Tuesday.

During the field trip, detention center administrator Rose Workheiser gave the fourth graders a laundry list of reasons to avoid a stay in the building.

Inmates awake for breakfast at 6 a.m. and the cook doesn’t ask if you like the food. The mattresses are thin and there are no light switches, bedroom doors or windows.

“There is no privacy here; there are cameras everywhere,” Workheiser told the students. “You are going to spend a lot of time in your room thinking about what you have done.”

The talk got the attention of 9-year-old Brittany Gutman.

“I am not going to be bad,” Brittany said.

The school’s trip to the detention center was part of a full day of exercises promoting responsible activity and avoidance of alcohol and drugs. The program targets fourth graders throughout Curry County and is sponsored by the Curry County DWI Task Force. Children’s Youth and Families Department in Santa Fe provides the program’s funding.

In the morning session, representatives from the Curry County Sheriff’s Office, Clovis Police Department, New Mexico State Police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving visited with students. After the field trip, high school students spoke with the forth graders.

County Special Projects Officer Twila Rutter-Wooley said the detention center trip tends to have the most impact on the youngsters.

During the visit, some children held their nose to block the stench inside the barracks. Detention Center officer Paul Cash said a backed up sewer system and a lack of windows caused the deep stench. The students toured a jail cell while no inmates were in the area. A bed on a metal support frame, a sink and a toilet were all the cell’s amenities.

“I would never want to come here,” said 9-year-old Jessica Roman.

Students shook their heads “no” when Workheiser asked if they would like to wear the black- and white-striped inmate uniforms each day.

They all agreed they wouldn’t want to don Workheiser “jewelry” — shackles and handcuffs.

Workheiser said parents have asked her to speak to their children, because the parent can’t control them.

Scaring the students, she said, is an approach she believes is successful.

“I don’t want these kids to think this is a trip.”