Judge rules inmate is safer from COVID-19 in prison than at home

Despite conditions that make social distancing difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, a New Mexico state district judge ruled that keeping a man in state prison would be safer than going home roughly four months early. 

District Judge Albert Mitchell ruled on Aug. 20 that despite his underlying health conditions and close living conditions in prison, Stanley Ingram would be safer in prison than at home with his girlfriend in Tucumcari. 

In the order, Mitchell acknowledged Ingram’s health conditions, including diabetes and heart arrythmias, and how those conditions have been reported to create a higher risk of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19. Still, Mitchell reasoned that since there is only one reported case in the Penitentiary of New Mexico, where Ingram is detained, and fifty cases in the county where he would live when released, Ingram is safer in prison. 

“The policies and procedures implemented at the Department of Corrections facility where Mr. Ingram is being held appear to be more effective in protecting the individuals in state custody from COVID-19 than the Governor’s orders as implemented in Quay County, New Mexico,” Mitchell wrote. 

In a phone call last week, Mitchell told NM Political Report that he cannot speak about Ingram’s case specifically because it’s still considered pending. 

Ingram could still appeal the ruling, but he said he can not afford another attorney and that the issue would likely not be settled before his pending Dec. 15 release date.  

During a call from prison, Ingram told NM Political Report he was disappointed by the ruling.  

“That’s ludicrous what he did, and it’s not right.” Ingram said. 

NM Political Report previously reported that Ingram had obtained a number of educational and drug treatment certificates while incarcerated and was initially not given credit towards early release. The New Mexico Department of Corrections finally did honor his certificates and Ingram expected to be released in November.