New government report details reportedly unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Inspector General issued an alert this week to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to recommend that all individuals housed at the Torrance County Detention Facility be relocated due to reportedly unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The 19-page report issued on Wednesday detailed conditions that include […]

New government report details reportedly unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Inspector General issued an alert this week to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to recommend that all individuals housed at the Torrance County Detention Facility be relocated due to reportedly unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

The 19-page report issued on Wednesday detailed conditions that include a broken toilet containing human waste in a vacant cell in an occupied housing unit, as well as staffing shortages, a lack of hot water access and other issues. Several nonprofit organizations that advocate for the rights of detainees called on ICE to release the individuals housed at Torrance County Detention Facility.

The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation also issued a press release late Friday condemning the “inhumane” conditions and called on President Joe Biden to “act swiftly” to address the reported unsafe conditions.

“ICE should no longer defend the inhumane living conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility. In December, we alerted the administration to our concerns that Torrance’s routine failure to meet inspection standards underscores the deeply-rooted structural problems at the privately-run facility. The findings by the DHS Inspector General are extremely troubling and in many cases validate the audit ICE itself had commissioned last year,” U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández and Melanie Stansbury said in a jointly released statement.

ICE responded to a request for a comment by saying that the agency’s response is in the report. ICE questioned the integrity of the report and the individuals who conducted the surprise inspection in early February, the report states.

Ryan Gustin, director of public affairs for CoreCivic, said in a response to NM Political Report that the for-profit prison company, which runs the facility, also questions the integrity of the report, citing that the inoperable equipment were in areas where detainees were not living and that they were scheduled for repair. Gustin said CoreCivic was also trying to recruit more officers for the facility.

The OIG inspectors found 53 percent of the detainee cells to have plumbing issues, including toilets and sinks that were inoperable, clogged or continuously cycling water. There were sinks missing cold and hot water buttons and some faucets did not produce hot water. Broken sinks and water fountains rendered restricted due to COVID-19 resulted in detainees getting drinking water from a faucet intended to fill mop buckets.

The report states that the inspectors found mold and leaks throughout the facility and the problems remained unresolved beyond a 12-day work order timeline.

The inspectors also observed detainees dumping buckets of water from a second story railing in “what appeared to be an attempt to quickly clean the housing area,” the report states.

In addition to the reported unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, the report said that, due to significant staffing shortages, detainees were at times unsupervised and the facility lacked the level of staffing necessary to provide safety and security to detainees.

The report states that one detainee told inspectors that he felt he would be unable to receive immediate attention in the event of an emergency due to the staffing shortages.

This isn’t the first time Torrance County Detention Facility has faced reports of problems. Guards at the facility allegedly pepper sprayed several detainees in 2020. According to a lawsuit filed by nine asylum seekers last year, the detainees were engaged in a peaceful hunger strike to protest their living conditions, lack of information provided and the lack of COVID-19 precautions at the facility.

Related: Lawsuit against alleges civil rights violations by private prison company, Torrance County

Late last year, legal experts trying to offer assistance to detainees at Torrance County Detention Facility alleged that new immigrants arriving at the facility were not being allowed their due process rights. The immigrants were asylum seekers from Haiti and they arrived at Torrance County shortly after the incident involving a man on horseback apparently whipping a Haitian refugee at the border in Texas went viral on social media.

Related: Legal experts say Haitian asylum seekers held at Torrance County Detention Center not allowed due process rights

The nonprofit advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, said the Torrance County facility has a long history of mismanagement, abuse and neglect of the individuals it houses.

Both the nonprofit groups and the Congressional Democrats cited CoreCivic as part of the problem.

“It is clear that CoreCivic continues to fail to meet their responsibilities in managing this facility in a safe and responsible manner,” the Congressional Democrats said in their joint statement.

While the OIG report recommended that the detainees be relocated, the locally-based advocate groups said in a joint statement that the detainees should be released immediately. The advocates said relocating the detainees would “re-traumatize” them and they would continue to be denied adequate medical and mental health care and this would be “unacceptable and cruel.”

“We are shocked but not surprised by the findings in the OIG report describing dangerous, unsanitary and inhumane conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility. We call upon ICE to immediately release, not transfer, all the people detained there, allowing them to reunite with their loved ones and receive the community-based resources and care they urgently need,” said Rebecca Sheff, ACLU of New Mexico senior staff attorney through the news release. “CoreCivic has an egregious track record of neglect and abuse at Torrance and these disturbing conditions are sadly common at ICE detention facilities in New Mexico.”

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

Both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of guv’s proposals for special session

A representative from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office outlined on Thursday the bills the governor’s office will back during the upcoming special session, but…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

By Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico Last fall, the international community rose up in defense of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood and salt purveyors,…
Program administrator outlines how waitlisted community solar projects will be selected

Program administrator outlines how waitlisted community solar projects will be selected

The program administrator for New Mexico’s community solar program released guidance Thursday for waitlisted projects. The new guidelines follow a petition from several developers…
Community organizations propose providing naturalized immigrants with public lands passes

Community organizations propose providing naturalized immigrants with public lands passes

A group of advocates are asking the federal government to give naturalized citizens a one-year pass to the national parks. President Joe Biden’s signing…
Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

Stansbury outlines funding secured for early childhood and youth services programs

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury secured $8.3 million for childhood development and youth services in the 1st congressional district through federal community project funding. Stansbury,…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

With nearly 53 percent of the precincts reporting as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, most of the legislative candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes New…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
Senate Republicans block bill to ensure access to contraception

Senate Republicans block bill to ensure access to contraception

Senate Republicans blocked an effort to pass a bill to protect access to contraception this week. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján,…
Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

Democrats announce spending on CD2 race

The Democratic National Committee announced on Monday that it will spend $70,000 for organizing staff to aid U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, the Democrat trying…
Handful of legislators lose primaries

Handful of legislators lose primaries

Every legislative seat is up for grabs in 2024, which means all incumbents who sought reelection had to face the voters. Most did not…
Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

Many Democrats endorsed by reproductive rights group won primaries

With nearly 53 percent of the precincts reporting as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, most of the legislative candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes New…
Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion medication access remains after Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Texas-based Christian group trying to restrict access to abortion medication on Thursday. The case, FDA v. the…
How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

How abortion care has changed since Dobbs 

In the month of March 2024 alone, 1,650 clinician-provided abortions took place in New Mexico, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.…
LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

LANL plans to release highly radioactive tritium to prevent explosions. Will it just release danger in the air?

By Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico Last fall, the international community rose up in defense of the Pacific Ocean. Seafood and salt purveyors,…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report