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Sandoval County Detention Center warden, deputy fired

A Sandoval deputy looks through binoculars as she searches for an escaped inmate from the Sandoval County Detention Center near 550 and Sprint Blvd near Bernalillo last week. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

The warden and deputy warden of Sandoval County’s Detention Center were fired Monday following three jail escapes in three months.

County Manager Dianne Maes said SCDC warden Matthew Elwell and deputy warden Bobby Brookhouser had been relieved from their positions, effective immediately, according to a news release.

Maes said she asked the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office to take temporary control of the day-to-day operations of the detention center.

While also assisting in the search for a new detention center director, an outside consulting firm is conducting an evaluation of the detention center to determine if changes in policies and procedures are needed.

“Recent events at the detention center make these management changes necessary,” Maes said. “Community safety is our first concern, as is detention center staff safety, as well as inmate safety.”

County Commission Chairman Don Chapman said it was a tough decision to make when it came to replacing both the warden and deputy warden.

“It is not uncommon to see sheriff’s departments running jails in other counties and cities,” Chapman said. “This was a decision made with everyone’s safety in mind.”

Elwell was chosen to be the county warden in January, taking over the position from Al Casamento, who served as warden for eight years.

Last week, SCDC inmate Ryan Griffin was mistakenly released, sending police on a manhunt that ended the following day in Albuquerque.

Griffin was one of three inmates to escape the detention center in the past three months. In May, Blake McPherson and Paul Garcia, both from Albuquerque, escaped through a fence in a construction area. Both were apprehended within a few days.

Sandoval County Public Information Officer Sidney Hill said the sheriff’s office is equipped to handle administrative functions at the detention center on a short-term basis, which is what this will entail.

“The county manager is already working to assemble a management team from existing detention center personnel who can run the facility on an interim basis until a new permanent director is hired,” Hill said. “This will not leave the sheriff’s department short-handed. A few members of that department’s command staff will be at the detention center. No rank-and-file sheriff’s staff will have to be reassigned.”