A report from the Albuquerque Journal indicates that nine inmates died while in the custody of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) during the prior August 2020 to January 2021. At least 72 inmates died in the custody of NMCD from June 2016 to November 2019.
What is the common denominator in all these deaths? Centurion Correctional Healthcare of New Mexico (Centurion) was the medical contractor providing medical care to those deceased inmates. The question is whether or not this is purely coincidental?
As of the writing of this article, Collins & Collins, P.C. has filed 18 lawsuits against Centurion. The most recent lawsuit filed by the firm, Estate of Samuel Bryant v. Centurion, Bernalillo County, et al, involved a detox death at MDC. Sadly, again according to the Albuquerque Journal, Samuel was one of six MDC inmates that died during detox. One detox death is inexcusable. Six approaches criminality. Until that lawsuit, the firm had not filed any lawsuits against MDC. Rather, the lawsuits were limited to New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD).
Centurion according to the contract with MDC took over medical care at the facility on January 1, 2020 with a first year compensation base of $13 million. These 18 lawsuits will by no means be the last. It is expected that there will be additional lawsuits arising out of Centurion’s medical services at MDC. Likewise, there will likely be additional lawsuits arising out of NMCD medical care despite the fact that Centurion vacated the contract in November 2019.
Centurion Vacated NMCD Contract Early
The original contract between NMCD and Centurion was for 3 years. The term had been extended for one year so the contract should have ended around June of 2020. However, Centurion as mentioned above vacated early in November 2019.
Centurion Vacating MDC Contract Early
According to press reports, Centurion will be vacating the MDC early as well. The contract with MDC was for 4 years. Assuming the press reports are accurate, Centurion will be leaving about 2.5 years early on its 4 year contract. It is not known yet why Centurion is leaving but that is certainly something that Collins & Collins, P.C. will be exploring in its most recent lawsuit against MDC and Centurion.
Centurion Cannot Exit New Mexico Soon Enough
Centurion’s performance in New Mexico prisons and jails is appalling to say the least. This can be judged purely on the basis of the number of deaths at NMCD and MDC under Centurion’s medical watch. However, it is much worse than that. The clients of Collins & Collins, P.C. have suffered severe and permanent injuries at best while a number have died under the care of Centurion. Keep in mind that Collins & Collins, P.C. is a small firm among many law firms in New Mexico. There have been many other suits filed by other firms with equally devastating and avoidable injuries arising out of the callous medical neglect of New Mexico inmates. Likewise, there have been other deaths. Worse still, the true toll of Centurion’s tenure in New Mexico is not known as few inmates actually file suits for many reasons which are beyond the scope of this article. In addition, NMCD deaths resulting from Centurion’s gross incompetence are likely far higher than the 72 identified since deaths that occur outside NMCD premises do not show up in Office the Medical Investigator reports.
The toll on inmates and their families is incomprehensible. The toll on New Mexico taxpayers has not been measured but the costs associated with medical neglect in NMCD facilities is enormous.
Prison and Jail Medical Care Unlikely to Improve
Even if Centurion leaves the state completely, the medical care for New Mexico prison and jail inmates will not improve as things stand now. With regard to the state’s prisons, the big problem is NMCD itself. NMCD is a renegade agency, chocked full of corruption, incompetence, and deliberate cruelty. NMCD simply does not care about constitutionally adequate medical care. If it did, why would it keep the same medical providers as the medical contractors come and go. That’s right, the individual medical providers, including doctors, physicians assistant, nurses and others, remain the same after one contractor leaves and the next takes over. It is not a change in medical care, it is simply a change in payee on the checks written by the taxpayers of New Mexico. Even worse, the contractors are on a revolving plan. One contractor gets fired or leaves, the next one steps in. This would not be so bad, but NMCD simply fills the slot with medical contractors that had already failed in the State. This will likely be the same with MDC which is illustrated by the fact that MDC hired Centurion to begin with despite the large number of suits filed against Centurion both in New Mexico and other states.
Centurion Involvement Coincidental?
Perhaps coincidental is not the right word. Centurion just happens to be the payee on the checks now written by MDC and formerly the checks written by NMCD. It is not coincidence. It is standard operating procedure on the part of New Mexico prison and jails. They rotate the same bad actor medical contractors from one contract term to the next. At the same time, the same incompetent and too often deliberately cruel individual medical providers stay in place from one medical contractor to the next.
This is unfortunately the state of prison and jail medical care in New Mexico for the foreseeable future. This is certainly the case at the present with the successor to Centurion, Wexford, performing as poorly and arguably worse than Centurion. The beat goes on and this will continue until NMCD is completely overhauled beginning with its contracting practices.