It’s quiet outside the Metropolitan Detention Center, a hulking facility of brick, cinderblock and glass nearly 20 miles west of Albuquerque. On a recent day, cattle graze near the jail’s parking lot and though the Sandia Speedway is just up the road, the tracks are silent. Even the air is fresh — free of the stench of rotten eggs from the Cerro Colorado Landfill just two miles away. Inside New Mexico’s largest jail, it’s a different story. The long hallways are lined with heaping piles of trash; there aren’t enough guards or custodial staff on hand to remove them.
An incarcerated woman in New Mexico filed suit last month against the state Department of Corrections after officials allegedly discontinued her prescription for methadone. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed an emergency injunctive relief on Monday in federal court for a plaintiff known as “S.B.” who suffers from opioid use disorder. She relies on doctor-prescribed methadone as part of her active recovery from heroin addiction, according to the complaint. The NMDC bans the use of methadone and other Federal Drug Administration approved medications for addiction treatment (MAT) for most prisoners, according to the complaint. Eric Harrison, public information officer for NMDC, said the department could not comment on active litigation and said that S.B. is not in NMDC custody.
A New Mexico state district judge ruled this week that detainees in Bernalillo County’s house arrest program are allowed to use medical cannabis while serving out their sentence.
In her ruling, Second Judicial District Judge Lucy Solimon wrote that Bernalillo County’s Community Custody Program (CCP) is, in effect, the same as parole. New Mexico’s Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, as of 2019, allows medical cannabis patients who are on parole or probation to continue their use of medical cannabis.
“Although CCP is not specifically mentioned in the Compassionate Use Act, [Bernalillo] County fails to demonstrate that CCP should be treated differently than probation or parole,” Solomon wrote. “Therefore, it appears as though the Compassionate Use Act does apply to defendants on CCP as it does to defendants on probation or parole. The issue of whether medical cannabis patients on house arrest can use medical cannabis goes back to 2019 when Albuquerque resident Joe Montaño was sentenced to the Community Custody Program after his seventh drunk driving conviction. Montaño, who was already a registered medical cannabis patient, previously told NM Political Report that he didn’t hide his cannabis use from his case worker during a home visit.
Bernalillo County announced Monday that an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19. The county said MDC learned of the positive test on Sunday and the patient is now isolated and receiving treatment from the detention center’s medical team. Four MDC staff are now self-isolating after coming into contact with the inmate. The detention center says inmates are being monitored, but none are currently exhibiting symptoms.
According to the release, the inmate was booked on Thursday, March 26 and did not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19, which are a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The jail learned two days after the inmate arrived that the inmate’s mother was hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19; the inmate had been caring for his mother.
Three Bernalillo County detention officers, one former officer and a local public sector labor union filed suit against the county, half a dozen jail supervisors, the Bernalillo County Sheriff and two other county law enforcement officers.
The suit alleges top officials at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) along with the county Sheriff’s office and upper county administrators actively prevented union members from associating with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), New Mexico Council 18, Local 2499. According to the lawsuit, in 2015 county officials were “caught red-handed” trying to “engage in an actual conspiracy” to hire staff who would work against union leaders. Then, the lawsuit says, county jail leaders continued to retaliate against vocal union leaders like Eric Allen, a corrections officer who was fired from MDC for two instances of use of force, and Stephen Perkins, an MDC corrections officer who is currently on administrative leave and is currently facing false imprisonment charges. Both Allen and Perkins were already in the news this year.