August 6, 2020

Inmates in Cibola County protest over COVID-19 conditions

A small group of federal detainees held a protest on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the private company which runs the facility confirmed.

Amanda Gilchrist, the director of public affairs for CoreCivic, the company that oversees the western Cibola County Correctional Center, said in a statement that the group of detainees were protesting their “quarantine status” and said the protest ended without injuries.

“During the incident, these detainees blocked the pod door, covered the windows and cameras, and refused to comply with verbal directives provided by facility staff,” Gilchrist said in an email. 

She added that medical staff “reviewed the individuals involved in the protest” and that guards “Successfully restored order, with no injuries occurring as a result of this incident to detainees or staff.”

In May, guards at the Torrance County Detention Facility used pepper spray to subdue detainees, Searchlight New Mexico reported.

The Cibola County Correctional Center houses federal detainees, which include those detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last week, the facility saw a significant increase of COVID-19 cases. According to state health officials, the facility has seen a total of 291 confirmed cases of the disease. The Cibola County facility, which is in western New Mexico, outpaced the Otero County Prison Facility in southern New Mexico, which also houses federal detainees.

Gilchrist dismissed the notion that the detainees were subjected to subpar conditions. 

“The allegation that detainees with COVID-19 symptoms have not received medical treatment is patently false,” she said. 

She also said face masks are being provided for all staff and detainees and that staff and detainees are encouraged to take preventative measures like social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment. 

During numerous news briefings, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said that she has taken great lengths to work with federal prison officials to encourage taking proper precautions, though the state does not have authority to issue mandates for facilities holding federal detainees. Three weeks ago, there was a protest among inmates at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center over conditions and a lack of hot meals.