Grievance Procedure Deadlines Run Very Fast
To begin, deadlines run very quickly on prison grievances. Think days not weeks. Obtain the procedures from the subject corrections facility and follow them closely. Because the deadlines run so quickly, Collins & Collins, P.C. does not get involved in the grievance procedure. Chances are the grievance procedure will have run prior to Collins & Collins, P.C. even having an opportunity to review the file or possible civil rights claims.
The grievance procedure must be fully and properly completed by and inmate (rules do not apply to non-inmates) prior to filing a lawsuit. This is referred to as exhaustion of remedies. Failure to exhaust remedies will with very few exceptions bar a subsequent lawsuit in state or federal court.
How to Navigate the New Mexico Inmate Grievance System
The rules below are for New Mexico Department of Corrections facilities only. They do not necessarily apply to local and county facilities, each of which may have their own unique procedures. Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities also have their own rules and procedures. It is extremely important that the inmate follow the rules and procedures of the specific facility. This outline is merely a guide. It is not meant as legal advice. Because the deadlines run so quickly, it is solely up to inmates to follow the procedures at their own facility. The rules and procedures must be made available to the inmate under the Prison Litigation Reform Act as well as New Mexico law.
Also, keep in mind that there is a different process for emergency grievances that has an expedited process. This would include grievances for sexual assault.
The Informal Grievance Process
Step 1: Try to work it out before using the grievance system.
Step 2: File an Inmate Informal Grievance within 5 working days of the incident that is the cause of the complaint. This needs to explain in detail the complaint, there can only be one issue for each grievance. There also needs to be a relief sought in each grievance, whether formal or informal. The grievance needs to be addressed to the Unit manager or the Chief of Security or whomever the facility designates.
Step 3: Once the inmate has the response from the Unit Manager Chief of Security or designee the inmate has 5 working days to file an Inmate Grievance. If the complaint is resolved, a copy of the resolved complaint will be given to the inmate. If it is unresolved then the grievance and paperwork for formal grievance will be given to the inmate.
The Formal Grievance Process
Step 4: Once the inmate receives the unresolved grievance they need to file the formal grievance within 5 working days of receipt of the unresolved grievance. The formal grievance, in the form of an Inmate Grievance, needs to be filed with the Grievance Officer. To file a grievance the inmate can put it into a Grievance mailbox, which is checked once a week. Or if sent by general mail, the grievance needs to be sealed and marked “legal mail” or “grievance” and sent directly to the Institutional Grievance Officers. A grievance can not be filed by handling it to a staff member.
The grievance will be presented to the Warden within 15 working days of the Grievance Officer receiving the inmate’s grievance. Then, the Warden will have 15 working days from the receipt of the grievance to make a determination. Finally, the inmate will then be notified of the Warden’s decision within 5 days of the Warden’s decision. The inmate is also notified of the appeal process at this time.
Step 5: If the inmate is unsatisfied with the determination the inmate has 5 working days from the date the inmate was received the decision to appeal the grievance to the Secretary of Corrections. To do this, the inmate fills in the appeal portion of the Inmate Grievance form and submits the grievance.
Once the Statewide Grievance/Disciplinary Appeals Manager receives the grievance, they will conduct further investigations and give the Secretary of corrections a recommendation within 20 working days of receiving the appeal. The secretary will then make a final decision. Once this decision is made the inmate will be notified within 3 days of the outcome and the reason behind the outcome. If the inmate is unhappy with the result then the inmate can file a case in civil court.
NMCD Policies New Mexico Corrections Department Grievance procedures. Available in English and Spanish. Go to Inmate Rights then to Grievance Procedures to view all rules and procedures.
In Prison or Jail – The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) | American Civil Liberties Union
In Prison or Jail – The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) | American Civil Liberties Union The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) makes it harder for prisoners to file lawsuits in federal court. This fact sheet outlines the information you need to know before filing a lawsuit.