Family of Otero County inmate sues for negligent healthcare 

The estate of an inmate at Otero County Jail, who according to the complaint, died by suicide last year, is suing the Otero County Commission due to negligent care, inhumane conditions and constitutional rights violations at the jail. The inmate, Jacob Gutierrez, died by suicide in June 2023, according to the complaint. He repeatedly made […]

Family of Otero County inmate sues for negligent healthcare 

The estate of an inmate at Otero County Jail, who according to the complaint, died by suicide last year, is suing the Otero County Commission due to negligent care, inhumane conditions and constitutional rights violations at the jail.

The inmate, Jacob Gutierrez, died by suicide in June 2023, according to the complaint. He repeatedly made attempts to take his life after he was detained in the Otero County Jail, the complaint states. He made two attempts to overdose on fentanyl, both of which required hospitalization, the complaint states. He told staff he wanted to kill himself and guards placed him on a suicide watch but put him in a cell that was not designed to hold an inmate who is suicidal, according to the complaint. The cell contained a payphone and guards did not check on Gutierrez every 15 minutes as they were supposed to, even after he stuck himself with a needle and guards had to remove it, according to the complaint.

Left unwatched, Gutierrez was able to use the phone cord to die by suicide, according to the complaint. His estate alleges constitutional rights violations, inhumane conditions and negligent healthcare.

The estate of Gutierrez is also suing Vital Core Health Strategies, LLC, which is “contractually responsible” for healthcare at the Otero County Jail, according to the complaint. 

R.B. Nickols, Otero County attorney, said the county cannot comment on pending litigation. Vital Core Health Strategies did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Gutierrez estate is suing with legal help from New Mexico Prison and Jail Project, a nonprofit legal organization trying to raise awareness about inmate constitutional rights violations. 

“The jail knew Jacob was suicidal,” Mallory Gagan, an attorney at the New Mexico Prison & Jail Project, said through a news release. “He even said so to them. It was obvious that Jacob’s actions were a series of desperate cries for help. There is no plausible justification for housing a suicidal inmate in a cell with a readily-available noose without observation. This devastating outcome was entirely avoidable.”

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