Former inmate sues Corrections Department for negligence

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.

Inmates say detention center quarantine is much like solitary confinement

New Mexico public officials have made it clear they want anyone who has come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 to get tested and self-quarantine until they get results back. Likewise, anyone who travels into the state must quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay. 

But in prisons, quarantining means isolation and it isn’t pleasant, according to one group of inmates. Three men who were transferred from a state prison in Grants to the penitentiary in Santa Fe told NM Political Report they were subjected to the bare minimum in terms of sleeping and hygiene provisions while they were quarantined. They claim it took them days to get basic necessities like toilet paper and were treated like animals. But the Department of Corrections disputes those claims, and said they have surveillance tapes to prove it. 

Tom Murray, who is serving out a years-long sentence for receiving a stolen vehicle and not registering as a sex offender, said he and three other inmates were transfered from the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, to the Penitentiary of New Mexico (PNM) in Santa Fe on July 9.

Q&A with Santa Fe inmate

NM Political Report first wrote about Stanley Ingram in June when we looked at what he and another inmate had to say about conditions inside the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe. At that time he said he was worried that if he told prison staff that he wasn’t feeling well, he would be quarantined with COVID-19 positive inmates before he was tested himself.  

We later heard from him in July when he told us about his trouble getting credit for an educational certificate he earned while serving time. His story is nothing new to many who have family in prison, or those who have been incarcerated. 

But his story did highlight the sometimes confusing path inmates often have to navigate in order to shave time off their sentences, even after earning what is commonly referred to as “good time.”

Ingram said prison doctors told him that he is prediabetic and so he takes a tube of glucose when needed. He also said he has a heart condition. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order earlier this month that allows certain inmates to leave prison a month earlier than their original sentence, as a way to limit the number of inmates in prisons, and therefore decrease the spread of COVID-19.

The confusing path to getting out of prison early

Unless he gets an early release, Stanley Ingram is set to leave state prison in about 100 days. His parole plan, he said, includes going to live with family in Tucumcari and trying to put his Associate’s degree in wind energy technology to use. Besides his two year degree, he also earned two occupational certificates in the same field and a certificate for completing drug treatment while in prison. He said after spending years in and out of prison and struggling with substance abuse, he’s ready to leave his old life, and even his own self, behind. 

“That old Stanley’s dead and gone,” Ingram said. 

There’s little doubt that Ingram has already received second, third and fourth chances before he began his latest stint in state prison. According to court records, Ingram violated probation numerous times after he was convicted of a handful of felonies, including burglary and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 

Ingram’s record inside prison seems to show he’s made a turn, although there is enough in his prison disciplinary record to make his attempts at early release more difficult. 

He was able to appeal most of the infractions he faced inside.

Accounts from inmates on COVID-19 response differs from officials’

Stanley Igram says he’s turned his life around in prison. Speaking with NM Political Report by phone last week from the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe, Ingram talked about his plans after his release, scheduled for later this year. 

“I’m gonna have to be in Tucumcari for a little bit, but my plan is to follow my career, man,” Ingram said. “I mean I got a degree in wind energy and you know, there’s things I can do.”

Ingram, who’s from Tucumcari, has a long list of priors, but he said it was his drug addiction that led to his downfall. He said it was inside the detention center walls where he found religion, began leading a “black awareness” group and got his degree. But amid a COVID-19 pandemic, Ingram said he’s getting increasingly nervous about each day he stays in prison, awaiting his fall release date.

121 additional cases and 10 additional related deaths due to COVID-19

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.

Single biggest daily jump in COVID-19 confirmed cases Friday with 331 positive tests

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.

Attorney alleges ‘deliberate indifference’ to COVID-19 in NM prisons, threatens legal action

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.