DEMING – Lee Cook Jordan is changing the perception of the Luna County Detention Center. As new director, Cook Jordan is making sure that the needs of staff and inmates are met daily. “We all have choices in life, and some of us make bad ones every now and then,” Cook Jordan said during a Headlight interview. “There are no bad people in here. …. Only bad choices.”
Cook Jordan began his career at the old county jail in 1999 and spent three years as a guard. He went into construction until the industry suffered a setback before moving on to the Deming Police Department. “I worked my way up the ranks and into detective and on a task force,” Cook Jordan said. “I tried to get my hands into all that I could in terms of law enforcement.”
Cook Jordan thought he found his niche with the Deming PD but a course in leadership provided by the FBI changed his mind when it came to an opportunity for an administrative career.
“I had a great time with the Deming police, and I love everybody I worked with, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to move into a leadership role with the county,” Cook Jordan said. Cook filled the director’s position in July of 2021.
There have been challenges for the new director of the LCDC. The global COVID-19 pandemic has been on ongoing issue that have made it difficult to isolate and manage.
“Anytime to have people in a confined area you have to get a handle on the health and well-being of staff and inmates,” Cook Jordan said.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020 the LCDC experienced an influx of out-of-town inmates who tested positive for the coronavirus, putting the general population in danger of an outbreak. Luna County officials followed the CDC and state pandemic protocols for corrections facilities and were able to get a handle on those testing positive and keep the general population safe.
Cook dealt recently with the two faulty boilers that prevented hot water from reaching inmates for their necessities (showering, coffee, commissary food prep). “We provided hot water for the inmates during the time our boilers were being replaced. It was sanitary and provided in abundance for use,” Cook Jordan said.
Rumors surfaced in the community from family members concerned that inmates were receiving hot water in buckets which was not true.
“I learned as a police patrolman and detective that you can change lives here,” Cook Jordan said. “People that know me know my reputation. I try and help people. Sometimes people say they don’t want the help, or they are not ready. I wanted to be in a position where I could make a difference in people’s lives.”
Cook Jordan now finds himself in his dream position as director of the LCDC. His work with inmates is on one level of rehabilitation but he is also working with staff on improving morale and working conditions.
Most inmates use their time productively in the LCDC. Cook Jordan hopes he can get the backing of the county government to film a documentary on the art talent among the general population. “There are some extremely talented artists in here and I would love to help them use that talent once they leave our facility,” Cook Jordan said.
Many of the walls in the facility display the art by inmates. The pandemic has halted outside programs that are normally available to the inmates.
The LCDC houses just over 610 inmates. The population is currently at around 400. Numbers are purposely kept down to account for COVID-19 protocols. “This is a game plan that was developed by our people and is now followed by other corrections facilities in the state,” Cook Jordan explained.
The LCDC has divided pods into the general population side and an intake side. Obviously, the intake side is where incoming inmates are tested, kept in quarantine, and checked for the coronavirus and its variants.
Testing is done on a multiple basis and staff is tested regularly. To date there are nine positive tests at the LCDC – four of them are staff.
“In a secure setting, it is outside sources that can bring in an infection,” Cook Jordan said. LCDC accepts inmates from Hidalgo and Sierra counties.
During an early-morning tour of the facility, inmates and staff went about their daily routines without incident. Cook Jordan interacted with inmates and staff and a mutual respect was on display.
Cook Jordan told the Headlight, “I will typically catch inmates leaving our facility after paying their debt, and I tell them, ‘do me a favor, don’t plan on coming back.'”
Bill Armendariz can be reached at 575-546-2611 (leave a message) or [email protected].