September 23, 2022

ACLU-NM: Surveillance video indicates inmate was beaten at state corrections facility

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico released a surveillance video that shows a group of incarcerated men beat another inmate while two guards look away at the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas.

The video appears to contradict the incident report filed by the guards regarding what took place. New Mexico Department of Corrections told NM Political Report that “an investigation has been initiated and two staff members have been placed on administrative leave.”

“There was an incident reported on August 10, 2022, at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility where a verbal disagreement led to a physical altercation between low-security level inmates actively participating in a work crew. NMCD takes the safety of staff and inmates very seriously and acknowledges the concerning nature of the video,” Carmelina Hart, public relations manager for NMCD, said through email.

According to the incident report obtained by the ACLU-NM, a guard confronted the alleged victim, whose name has not been released, about refusing to work and the victim said he would turn violent on the guard. A group of other inmates, hearing the verbal altercation, then rushed down a set of stairs and beat the victim. The group of four inmates allegedly told the guards they did so because they respected the guard and didn’t want him to come to harm.

But, the video appears to show a guard talk briefly to an inmate in an empty room. According to the ACLU, the room is part of an empty housing unit on the main compound of CNMCF’s Reception and Diagnostic Center.

The guard appears to remove items from his pant’s pockets. According to a statement by the ACLU, corrections staff and incarcerated individuals sometimes resolve disputes by fighting. The ACLU said that the guard removing items from his pockets could indicate he intended to fight the inmate.

While the guard and the victim were talking, four additional incarcerated individuals and another guard entered the empty room to watch the verbal altercation.

The alleged victim then left the empty room but returned and descended below a stairway following the guard he had spoken with. Then one of the four incarcerated men descended into the stairway area and began punching and kicking the victim, who did not appear to try to fight back. The other three incarcerated men then descended into the stairway area and also engaged in the attack.

The first officer, who talked to the victim, exited into another room for a moment during the beating but remained partially visible in the camera footage while the beating was taking place.  The second officer, who entered with the additional inmates, remained in the room and watched the attack.

The ACLU-NM said through email that it does not have legal action ready against CNMCF. According to an incident report, all of the inmates involved in the incident went to a medical clinic after the attack and guards placed the victim and three of the four who attacked him into solitary confinement pending disciplinary processes.