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 14 men transported to the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County in 2020 allege they were terrorized, sexually humiliated and forced to endure violence. The former inmates are suing former CNMCF assistant warden Joe Lytle and eight other corrections officers who were allegedly present or participated in the incident. Eric Harrison, public information officer for the state Correction Department, said that the department cannot comment on “the specific allegations due to active litigation.”
“Please know that NMCD is committed to the safety of all inmates within our care and we maintain a zero tolerance policy regarding any and all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment,” he wrote in a statement. Harrison also said the department will be “investigating the allegations thoroughly and will take action to make certain that any staff involved in any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior are held accountable to the highest level.”
Lytle was involved in a similar lawsuit against him and others working for the department in 2011. That civil case, which led to a $750,000 settlement, involved Lytle forcing men at the Los Lunas facility to sit naked “nuts to butts” in a row for hours.
A former inmate is suing the New Mexico Corrections Department and some of its employees for allegedly endangering the man’s life while transporting him and others in an unair-conditioned vehicle in 2019. Lawrence Lamb, 61, filed the suit last week in Santa Fe state district court. The suit alleges that on June 21, 2019 Corrections Department officers loaded him and seven other inmates into a transport van to carry them 300 miles from the Los Lunas-based Central New Mexico Correctional Facility to the Clayton-based Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility. Due to a high-rate of speed, sometimes as much as 90 miles an hour, the rear passenger tire blew out and a metal object blew through the plywood floor and struck Lamb in the leg, the complaint states. Lamb’s lawyer, Steven Allen, the director of New Mexico Prison and Jail Project, said getting hit with a bolt was “the least of his concerns” after what allegedly came next.
As the coronavirus established a foothold in southern New Mexico’s Otero County Prison Facility in mid-May, state officials quietly moved 39 inmates out of the massive complex near the Texas border to another prison near Santa Fe. The inmates shared something in common: None was a sex offender. In the days before the 39 departed the massive correctiional complex where New Mexico’s only sex offender treatment program is housed, officials were still transferring sex offenders from other state prisons into Otero. It was a routine practice they had yet to stop, even though more than a dozen COVID-19 cases had already emerged elsewhere in the prison.
Six weeks later, 434 inmates — or 80% — have the virus, within a prison population that’s now entirely composed of people who, at one time or another, were convicted of a state sex offense. Three have died.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced 121 additional COVID-19 cases and ten additional related deaths Thursday. The places with double digit numbers of new cases are three counties: Bernalillo, with 31 new cases; Doña Ana, with 18 new cases and McKinley with 14 new cases plus Otero County Prison Facility, with 17 new cases of state-held inmates who tested positive for the respiratory illness. The ten additional deaths related to COVID-19 brings that total to 420 across the state. The DOH did not give details on underlying conditions but gave basic information on each case:
A male in his 60s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized.A male in his 80s from Doña Ana County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Jim Wood Home in Hatch.A male in his 80s from McKinley County who had underlying conditions and was a patient at the Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque.A second male in his 80s from McKinley County.A female in her 80s from San Juan County who was a resident of the Life Care Center of Farmington in Farmington.A female in her 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of Beehive Homes in Farmington.A second female in her 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of Beehive Homes in Farmington.A male in his 50s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Cedar Ridge Inn facility in Farmington. The state said through its daily announcement that some numbers previously reported that were incorrect have been corrected.
The state announced the biggest single jump in daily cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 331 additional positive tests with a large part of the increase in cases coming from the Otero County Prison Facility and the northwest corner of the state. This brings the total number of cases to 8,672. This is the second day in a row when a large portion of the number of additional cases came from the Otero County Prison Facility, with 116 cases from federal inmates and 13 cases from inmates held by the state. McKinley and San Juan counties have the next highest number of additional cases, with 77 new cases in McKinley and 52 new cases in San Juan County. The state Department of Health also announced four additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths to 387.
The state announced 134 additional test positive COVID-19 cases and seven additional related deaths on Saturday. The largest number of new cases were again in the northwest region of the state, with 58 new cases in McKinley County and 23 in San Juan County. All seven of the deaths were residents from McKinley and San Juan county residents. The new cases bring the total number of new cases to 7,624. The total number of related deaths is now 351 in the state, according to the state Department of Health.
The state Department of Health announced 108 additional test positive cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths related to the type of coronavirus. The new test positive cases brings the total number of cases of COVID-19 in the state to 7,364 and the total number of deaths related to the disease to 335. DOH released basic information about the deceased:
A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from McKinley County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. She was a resident of Red Rocks Care Center in Gallup.A male in his 20s from McKinley County was hospitalized.A male in his 50s from McKinley County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from Rio Arriba County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 60s from San Juan County had underlying conditions. The state has processed 183,544 tests as of Thursday, an increase of 4,001 tests since Wednesday.
Without intervention, as much as 100 percent of immigrants in detention centers could test positive for COVID-19 within the next 90 days and overwhelm state healthcare systems, according to a recent study. The study, produced by the Washington D.C., nonprofit advocacy group the Government Accountability Project, states that, optimistically, 72 percent could become infected with COVID-19 in immigrant detention facilities. The projected 100 percent reflects the pessimistic estimation, the study says. Those projections mean that state health care systems would be overwhelmed, the study reports. A group of advocacy organizations organized a rally, called “Free Them All Friday,” which consisted of about 30 cars that drove around the Cibola County Correctional Center, which holds immigrant detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Friday afternoon to try to bring attention to this problem.
A group of more than two dozen New Mexico prison inmates, many with compromised immune systems, are considering legal claims against the state Corrections Department for its “gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the dangers of COVID-19,” according to documents obtained by SFR and New Mexico In Depth. As the rest of New Mexico remains under an order against gatherings of over 50 people and pleas from officials to practice social distancing, the state’s prison system has not tested any of the thousands of inmates locked up or the corrections officers guarding them. And there do not appear to be contingency plans in place should an outbreak occur. Parrish Collins, an Albuquerque-based attorney who specializes in civil rights, visited clients at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas on March 9, he wrote in a notice sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and corrections officials four days later. An officer told him the minimum-security lockup “was taking no precautions against coronavirus.”
“It was indicated that it was not a serious threat and there was nothing to worry about,” Collins wrote in the notice.