The right to be free of inhumane denial of medical care as well as the provision of medical care in a cruel and inhumane manner are addressed by numerous international human rights treaties including:

“article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its protocols. The right to health is also enshrined in over 110 national constitutions.”

CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS & HUMANITARIAN LAW, A n t i – To r t u re I n i t i a t i v e
Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report

According the above report, the United Nations long ago adopted principles prohibiting “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” of prisoners. In doing so, the 1982 UN General Assembly declared rightly that refusal to provide needed medical care and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading provision of medical services to prisoners constitutes not just a gross violation of medical ethics but a violation of international law. In short, provision of medical care in such as fashion is by international standards considered torture.

Likewise, the U.S. Supreme Court barred cruel and inhumane medical care or lack thereof in the 1976 case of Estelle v. Gamble. The U.S. Supreme Court does not use the term torture, but the behavior described and prohibited would very likely fall within the definitions set forth under international law.

United Nations’ Examples of Cruel and Inhumane Medical Care

The Report gives examples of behavior that would fit into the international definition of torture including “unsanitary pre-trial detention and prison facilities, lack of medical care, and death of prisoners and detainees as a result of defective medical assistance”.

These examples clearly describe New Mexico prisons under the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and the contractors that hire to provide medical care. Sadly, our firm alone Collins & Collins, P.C. can provide horrifying examples of each in NMCD with just the cases upon which we have filed lawsuits. Basic math will tell you that if our small firm has encountered numerous situations involving deaths and permanent severe physical injuries resulting from the intentional, deliberately cruel and inhumane denial of basic and what should be routine medical care, then there are many more cases out there of which we are not aware.

Examples from New Mexico Prisons

The medical care or more accurately, the lack of medical care in NMCD facilities most definitely fits the parameters of international definition of torture.

To illustrate, the best place to start here is with our firm’s prison spinal osteomyelitis cases. Osteomyelitis is an infection that gets into the bones. Spinal osteomyelitis is an infection that gets into the spine. Osteomyelitis is a rather slow moving infection. In other words, it takes quite some time for an infection to spread into and invade the bones, including the spine. Once it gets into the bones, it is still very easily treated with even minimally competent medical care. Like any infection, it can very readily and effectively be treated with antibiotics.

However, in NMCD facilities, it is not treated at all in many cases. It is not a matter of simple medical error or oversight. The refusal to treat what begin as very trivial infections until such time as they are life-threatening is a deliberate choice made by NMCD and its medical contractor. Refusal to treat osteomyelitis is cruel and inhumane to the nth degree in the case of NMCD.

Common Spinal Infection Fact Pattern in NMCD Facilities

Collins & Collins, P.C. has seen the same fact pattern in multiple cases that the firm has filed. These are the facts showing extreme medical negligence that recur repeatedly:

An inmate will have a minor infection, it could be a scratch, a pimple, a cut or some internal infection. The infection will begin to grow causing as infections do increasing levels of pain. The inmate will ask to have the infection checked out and for treatment. The inmate is told there is nothing wrong and is given ibuprofen. No lab tests are conducted to determine whether there is an infection despite the rampant rate of infections that prevails in prison environments.

The infection continues to grow for weeks and months with repeated requests for medical care, and repeated denials. During this time, the inmate reports increasingly severe pain. Due to the utter failure of the medical providers to provide basic care, the inmate will file medical grievances. Nothing happens, there is still no medical care and the grievances are either ignored completely or denied summarily by non-medical NMCD personnel.

The spinal infection continues to grow. The inmate conditions continues to worsen as the infection takes to the bones. Still, there are no lab tests conducted. Still there are no antibiotics. Still the inmate is given ibuprofen at told there is nothing wrong. Still there is no referral to a local emergency department to arrest the growing and now emergent spinal infection.

The infection continues to grow due to lack of basic antibiotic treatment. No lab tests are conducted, no antibiotics are prescribed, ibuprofen is the cure-all for the emergent infection and the crippling pain that ensues.

This exercise continues over and over and over until the inmate can no longer walk, care for himself, use the bathroom, shower, clothe himself or get to the dining room without help from fellow inmates. In one tragic case, the inmate went into a coma before he was finally transferred for treatment. Ultimately the result in this case was death because osteomyelitis and sepsis had destroyed his spine and full system failure from the sepsis had resulted.

And this is what it takes to get medical care for what are easily preventable spinal infections. Literally, it took a coma to get medical attention. In other cases, it comes close with full system failure imminent before the inmate is transferred for treatment.

Is this Medical Torture

At the risk of stating the obvious, of course it is, at least by international standards. Of course, as blue as it is, New Mexico by way of NMCD and the other powers that be, do not view it as such.

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Think of a time when you had a cut that began to get infected. Think of how that cut begins to throb and burn. Its painful most would agree. Now imagine that the infection continues to grow and grow. The infection now moves into your bones, lets say a finger. Now you have bone infection. If you have never had a bone infection, which few people have, you will now have to imagine what that bone infection might feel like. Now lets imagine that bone infection is allowed to continue to grow and with it the pain gets worse and worse. The infection still is allowed to grow now doing damage to the bone. The infection creates pus pockets in the bone creating enormous pain. Consider now that you go a urgent care or the emergency room and the doctor tells you that you are not in pain, that you are faking and sends you home with ibuprofen. Now consider this occurs time and time again until finally you are transported by ambulance to the hospital because you can no longer drive yourself. Consider that you are now in the hospital for weeks or months with multiple painful surgeries and painful invasive antibiotic treatment.

Finally, consider that all of this could have easily been prevented had the doctor behaved in a humane and professional manner.

Is it torture? Given that this is done deliberately and repeatedly to inmates, one would be hard-pressed to argue that it is not, at least again under international norms. NMCD norms could only call it typical.

Why Should You (the Taxpayer) Care

The math is not difficult here. Basic medical care could prevent the spinal infection at nominal costs to the prison medical contractor. This costs has already been paid to the medical contractor by the terms of the contract with NMCD. The contract itself exceeds $40 million in the first year alone. The contract increases by the millions each successive year. Taxpayers have already paid for basic healthcare for the inmates. The medical contractor for any number of reasons, upon which I will allow you to speculate, decides not to provide this medical care. The medical contractor does this knowing that if the infection goes untreated, the inmate will likely at best to need weeks or months of hospitalization to cure the untreated infection. Some as with our client mentioned above will die, in that case after months of hospitalization.

Who pays for the extended hospitalizations? You would be justified to guess that the medical contractor would pay for its gross reckless and deliberately inhumane medical neglect for which it alone is responsible. You would be wrong if you guessed this to be the case. In fact, it is you the taxpayer that pays. Once the inmate is in the hospital for 24 hours, New Mexico Medicaid picks up the tab. And New Mexico Medicaid is New Mexico taxpayers.

Action Items

If you are a concerned taxpayer, Contact your legislator to tell him or her to stop medical tortue in New Mexico prisons.

If you or a loved one has seen this same fact pattern in your own medical care while in the custody of NMCD, contact Collins & Collins, P.C.

The New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) has engaged in something of a shell game around the topic of solitary confinement. Specifically, they seem to believe that by referring to the practice as placement in a Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU), somehow no one will notice, and all will be fooled. We noticed, and solitary confinement by any other name is still solitary confinement.

Common Meaning of Solitary Cofinement

What is solitary confinement? A dictionary definition reads as follows: “the isolation of a prisoner in a separate cell as a punishment.” The National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) provides a more expansive definition:

“Solitary confinement is the housing of an adult or juvenile with minimal to rare meaningful contact with other individuals. Those in solitary confinement often experience sensory deprivation and are offered few or no educational, vocational, or rehabilitative programs. Different jurisdictions refer to solitary confinement by a variety of terms, such as isolation; administrative, protective, or disciplinary segregation; permanent lockdown; maximum security; supermax; security housing; special housing; intensive management; and restrictive housing units. Regardless of the term used, an individual who is deprived of meaningful contact with others is considered to be in solitary confinement”.[i]

Rename or Completely Deny it’s Existence

NMCD plays games with the terminology. It tries to trivialize the reality of solitary confinement by renaming less menacing names such as administrative segregation, protective custody, restrictive housing and among my favorites, “special housing”. Special housing must refer to the room service to which NMCD employees compare solitary confinement.

In renaming solitary, NMCD and its employees will then try to deny solitary confinement exists at all. One NMCD employ testified at the legislative hearings:

I don’t believe that’s been used in the United States since probably 1900, early 1900, 1912…

This is clearly the company line. Returning to the NCCHC definition, what would you call a situation where an inmate is confined to a cell 22, 23 and often 24 hours a day. While so confined they are denied contact with any other human beings, they do not get any rehabilitative services, they are denied phone calls at times even with their attorney.

Anyone with any sense and basic human morality would recognize this for what it is. Not so for NMCD, instead as put even more harshly by yet another outspoken NMCD employee proponent of solitary confinement:

I’ve never seen an inmate in solitary confinement. Not one.··Not one.··The amount of rights, the privileges that these guys have is unbelievable. They have more rights and privileges than I do as a private citizen.

Let that sink in. An NMCD, no doubt trained and taught this absurd belief by the higher ups, suggests that being in small cage 22 to 24 hours a day with no meaningful human contact, no privileges, no phone calls, no rehabilitation, no education has it just as good as the average citizen. This quote alone screams for an overhaul of NMCD from the top down.

Its Not Room Service

In the estimation of the United Nations solitary confinement surpassing 15 days constitutes torture. Other international human rights organizations view the practice in a similar vein. In correctional settings in the State of New Mexico, inmates are often kept in such isolation for periods far exceeding 15 days, going into months and even years. They do this by redefining and even more cynically renaming solitary confinement. In legislative hearings, NMCD employees said such things as solitary is like room service. In fact, 2 NMCD employees stated that it was like room service one putting it this way:

I’ll tell you that restrictive housing is truly perceived as a vacation, getting room service

NMCD’s level of cruelty and cynicism is unacceptable in any society, most certainly in New Mexico.

Solitary Confinement in the New Mexico Corrections Department

In a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal, an article entitled “New NM law requires state prisons to track use of restricted housing units”,[ii] journalist Elise Kaplan raises some of the central issues arising in the wake of the passage of a new law governing the use of solitary confinement. In House Bill 364, known as the Corrections Restricted Housing Act, which bans its use for juveniles and those with mental illness, there was also a provision for the production by the Corrections Department of quarterly reports on numbers of inmates held in solitary.

The first quarterly report was released in October and covered the period July 1, to September 30, 2019. The article by Kaplan notes that one inmate was held for 9 months in isolation, spending 22 hours alone in his cell. It is not an infrequent occurrence that that New Mexico Inmates are held well beyond the 15 days the UN has deemed torture.

In December of 2018, two inmates, both of whom’s families are represented by Collins & Collins, P.C., hung themselves on the same day, in the same prison, in the same solitary conditions. Both inmates had a history of mental health issues and yet they were kept in a restrictive housing unit (solitary) for weeks, until they both succumbed to their untreated mental illnesses and took their own lives. Yes, that is right, they were placed in solitary confinement and given no mental health treatment despite severe mental illness.

These were by no means the only two inmates who, under similar circumstances, committed suicide while housed in a New Mexico Corrections Department-run facility. As the aforementioned article notes, another inmate also recently took his life. In addition, this problem manifests at local correctional facilities—county jails—as well.

The Reasons Cited for the Practice of Confinement in Isolation

If you ask corrections staff the reasons why a specific inmate is placed in solitary confinement or restrictive housing, a number of responses may result, among them;

  1. Awaiting transfer to another correctional facility (“pending transport”).
  2. For the safety of the inmate
  3. County Hold
  4. For Disciplinary Infractions

Awaiting Transfer

In our experience, in the first instance, there’s a fair amount of game-playing that takes place on the part of Correctional Staff. Say, for example, an inmate files a bunch of grievances or a law-suit. In retribution, they can merely transfer that inmate to the Central New Mexico Correctional-RDC for “evaluation” or “reclassification” then hold the inmate for an unspecified period of time with status listed as “pending transport”. The inmate might be held for weeks, or months, in isolation awaiting transfer to another facility. That same inmate after being held awaiting transfer may then end up at the very same facility from which he was to be “transferred”

In short, the pretense a transfer and reclassification is used to punish inmates for filing a grievance in accordance with NMCD rules and the Federal Prison Litigation Reform Act. It might be asked why any bu the most dangerous prisoners would need to be held in solitary for reclassification and/or transfer to another facility.

Safety of the Inmate

For reason number two, the safety of the inmate, a plethora of possibilities exist, among them; gang affiliation, threats against the inmate, health reasons, etcetera. Again, there’s a lot of room for maneuver and the main point of focus should be whether or not, under any of these circumstances, inmates should be held for months or even years in solitary a de facto form of solitary confinement. Policy is rather clear that that should never happen, and yet it does. For those who care to look for themselves, the appropriate section in NMCD Policy is CD-090100 Inmate Discipline. [iii]

County Holds

For item number three, County Holds, the specific policy is CD-143500 Safekeeping of County Jail Inmates.[iv] This specifically allocates space in New Mexico Correctional Department facilities for those inmates whom local county jails lack the appropriate services to accommodate. An example would be inmates with severe mental health issues as in the case of one of the inmates mentioned above who took his own life at the CNMCF in Los Lunas. He was, again, placed in isolation 22 hours a day—he hadn’t even been convicted, and he died.

Disciplinary Infractions

Lastly, placements in Restrictive Housing Units for Disciplinary Infractions. The policies governing infractions and possible commensurate punishments meted out are covered in the “Inmate Discipline” policy section mentioned above. Suffice it to say that, in our experience, the policies as they are set forth are not strictly adhered to at the facility level and there’s a fair amount of meandering around policies that takes place. If you ticked off a classification officer or someone in the administration or you’re bucking the system, they will find room for your punishment under this policy section. Understanding all of the above, no is no reason to believe that fair and just discipline ever enters the determination of whether or not to place an inmate in solitary.

Our Treatment of Prisoner Defines Us

A variety of authors and thinkers, across centuries, have discussed the proposition that a society is defined by how it treats the least of its citizens; the poor, the hungry, the mentally ill, the infirm and, yes, prisoners who often are often those same aforementioned poor, hungry, mentally ill or sick. The treatment we accord them defines us more than it defines them.

Contact your legislator.


i. https://www.ncchc.org/solitary-confinement

ii. https://www.correctionsone.com/law-and-legislation/articles/new-nm-law-requires-state-prisons-to-track-use-of-restricted-housing-units-qAMMXIOHE2O34Wuq/

iii. https://cd.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CD-090100.pdf

iv. https://cd.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CD-143500.pdf

There have been a number of stories over the last few years surrounding the abuses of immigrant detainees in private prison facilities. The coverage has shown a level of cruelty within this industry that most people could not have imagined. Even banks and investors, not known to be particularly moral themselves, have found the behavior of the private prison contractors’ behavior to be too atrocious to ignore. Even these folks don’t want to profit off the inhumanity and cruelty of the private prison industry. The State of New Mexico, on the other hand, is glad to do it.

Prison Cruelty is Nothing New

Cruelty seems to be the norm in American prisons. There is no shortage of literature on the topic. Likewise, there is no shortage of lawsuits related to prison cruelty. Our firm alone has numerous suits where we have alleged and intend to prove callous and deliberately cruel denial of emergency medical care. In many of those cases, simple infections have been allowed to progress to the point that they infect the spines of the prisoners in the form of osteomyelitis and sepsis. Both osteomyelitis and sepsis are life-threatening. Both are easily preventable. Both result in permanent and rather severe damage to the spine.

In the cases Collins & Collins, P.C. has filed, the infections were obvious or should have been obvious to even a marginally competent medical student. There were numerous signs of worsening infection that were ignored. Among these signs were sick call requests and medical grievances that were not properly addressed, trivialized and often ignored completely. Some of our clients were pleading for their lives, yet nothing was done to help them. They were in such intense pain that other inmates would act to assist them by also pleading with NMCD and medical staff for help.

In short, prison cruelty is not a hypothetical. It is very real and is the norm at least insofar as medical care is concerned which is where Collins & Collins, P.C. focuses its attention.

Societal Bias Against Prisoners

A lot of folks have difficulty empathizing with prisoners. In fact, I was one of those people before starting to work on prison medical neglect cases. In addition to general bias, one could argue rationally that courts, especially federal courts, are biased against prisoners no matter the atrocities suffered and alleged. In fact, there are not a whole lot of law firms willing to even consider prison cases because of the bias. It turns on a business decision made by law firms. The costs and risks of loss, on somewhat arbitrary grounds at times, weighs against taking prisoners as clients.
Banks, pension funds and other investors no doubt shared the bias. They have been to date among the chief architects of the American prison system. They apparently had no problem with the daily systemic cruelty of prisoners and their contractors toward prisoners.

What changed? Perhaps it was the children in cages.

Business Decisions?

As aforementioned, many law firms simply cannot take on the risks and costs of prison cases. This is a valid and understandable business decision. I suppose the bias against prisoners is also understandable given the way prisoners are portrayed. However, due to the growing spotlight on the cruelty of prisons and especially private contractors, many businesses are distancing themselves from private prison contractors.

It has taken a long time for any businesses to take note of the cruelty of private prison contractors. It took photos of children in cages and infants being yanked from their mother’s arms to get their attention. Without belaboring the point, they should have taken notice decades ago as private prisons and prisons generally are a direct and successful attempt to replicate slavery in a legal form.

100% of Banking Partners Divest from Private Prison Sector

Divestiture of investments from the private prison sector is indeed a business decision. Banks will invest in anything that makes money. Banks are not known for taking the moral high ground. Instead, they are often bottom feeders which is where private prison contractors reside. The fact that 100% of private prison sector banking partners have divested is an extraordinary indictment of the cruelty of private prison contractors.

Nation’s Largest Pension Fund Divests

In addition to the banks divestiture, the country’s larges pension fund has pulled out of private prison funds and investments. Other pension funds will most assuredly follow suit.

New Mexico Embraces Private Prison Contractors

In light of the discussion above, it is truly outrageous that New Mexico, a blue state, continues to work with private prison contractors. In fact, New Mexico has the highest percent of facilities run by private contractors of any state. The State of New Mexico is sticking with them, even the ones who have been the cause of children in cages and toddlers taken from their mothers’ arms.

Why would New Mexico stick with private prison contractors even when the banksters won’t and these private contractors are costing New Mexico millions upon millions in settlements, verdicts and legal costs. That is a good question to ask the governor and your legislators. I encourage you to do so.

GEO Group Running Out of Banks as 100% of Known Banking Partners Say ‘No’ to the Private Prison Sector

Why America’s Largest Pension Fund Is Cutting Ties with Private Prisons

Many people look at a topic such the medical care of prison inmates with measured indifference or outright disdain. The underlying subtext reads, “they deserve what they get”. This broad social indifference to the health of inmates offers a bad guide for policy with dire repercussions in a broader social context.

An article in the Oxford University Press on clinical infectious diseases, published in 2007, noted that one in thirty-three adults in the United States was either in prison, jail, or on probation or parole—a total of 7 million people. Regarding infections in prisons, the article states,

“Compared with the general public, newly incarcerated inmates have an increased prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus infection, hepatitis B virus infection, hepatitis C virus infection, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. While incarcerated, inmates are at an increased risk for the acquisition of blood-borne pathogens, sexually transmitted diseases, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, and infection with airborne organisms, such as M. tuberculosis, influenza virus, and varicella-zoster virus.”

Prison inmates are not only exposed to one another, they are also exposed to prison staff and guards and, who upon exiting the correctional settings in which they work return each day to their communities and families and if their medical conditions are not dealt with they go on to propagate them in the general population. Thus, the recognition and treatment of infectious disease among prisoners is something that should concern us all. In 2010, an article in The Atlantic notes, “of more than 10 million incarcerated people in the U.S. alone, 4 percent have HIV, 15 percent have hepatitis C, and 3 percent have active tuberculosis.”

Infectious Disease in New Mexico’s Jails and Prisons

As bad as the statistics above are, the picture in the State of New Mexico is far worse. According to an article published in the Albuquerque Journal in December 2015 approximately half of the inmates in the State’s prison system have Hepatitis C. Similarly high rates of Hepatitis B have also persisted among New Mexico jail and prison inmates. New Mexico in Depth published an article entitled, “An Ignored Epidemic in New Mexico’s Prisons” which further highlighted the problem-and the indifference:

“…although the state’s inmates have the highest prevalence of hepatitis C of any group in New Mexico — more than four in 10 are infected — the prisons are hardly treating any of them: Out of some 3,000 prisoners diagnosed with the disease, just 46 received treatment for hepatitis C during the 2018 fiscal year. They are locked in for their crimes, but the life-saving medications they need have been largely locked out.”

The article goes on to note, “Whether or not the prisons are prepared for change, it may be forced upon them” in reference to the mounting lawsuits filed against the New Mexico Corrections Department and its private medical contractors entrusted with the healthcare of those in New Mexico’s penal system and by extension the State of New Mexico.

Other types of infectious disease also tend to have a much higher incidence in prisons and jails as noted above. But of particular interest here is Staphylococcus A and B infections such as Osteomyelitis and related spinal sepsis which are the product of the gross neglect of prison infections.

Staphylococcus A and B infections: Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone. While it is considered rare, it nevertheless is occurring at incredibly high rates in the State of New Mexico’s prison system illustrating pervasive and extreme medical malpractice. Such infections get into the bone when they occur in neighboring tissues or spread through the bloodstream. Osteomyelitis is more likely to occur in settings where people are packed together such as jails and prisons. People who have other health conditions are also at higher risk again pointing toward inmates in correctional facilities given the statistics above. However, osteomyelitis is readily controlled even in vulnerable populations. It is a lack of appropriate medical care and lack of adherence to accepted standards of infection control in New Mexico prisons that has led to the current epidemic.

Epidemic? Do the Math

Rates of incidence for osteomyelitis vary, depending on the source. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgeons of America published an authoritative article in 2010 which looked at occurrence of osteomyelitis in a population-based study from 1969-2009 placed the number at 21.8 per 100,000 people.

Given that there are a total of about 7000 New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) inmates, simple math illustrates the epidemic of osteomyelitis in the New Mexico prisons. Collins & Collins, P.C. alone has filed or will in the near future have 10 or more lawsuits involving prison osteomyelitis and/or spinal sepsis. If the math is not already apparent, that is about five times the national average.

Prison Osteomyelitis Epidemic is the Result of Medical and NMCD Institutional Negligence

At Collins & Collins, P.C. over the course of the past two years, we have had many calls and have taken on numerous cases involving inmates who have contracted osteomyelitis and/or spinal sepsis while incarcerated in one or more of New Mexico’s correctional facilities.

Osteomyelitis is not difficult to diagnose. It is not expensive to diagnose. It is predictable in a prison environment. If it is properly diagnosed, it can be easily and inexpensively treated. It is very dangerous if it is not . It can lead to lengthy hospitalizations and death if not diagnosed and treated properly. Unfortunately it is not being properly diagnosed and treated in New Mexico Prisons leading to grave harm to inmates and their families.

This is ongoing. It is allowed to continue as a result of what seems to be utter indifference on the part of the State of New Mexico and NMCD to the health and safety of the state’s inmates. It seems the only way to get anybody’s attention on these matters is through the courts and this is precisely what Collins & Collins, P.C. intends to do.

New lawsuit accuses New Mexico prisons, health provider of poor care

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Lawsuit: Department of Corrections ignored red flags

Most of the discussion surrounding our broken prison system revolves around the abuse of the rights of inmates. Collins & Collins, P.C. has commented on these matters numerous times. More often than not, what is lost in the discussion is the systemic neglect, abuse and harm suffered by guards as a result of that same broken system. When the plight of guards is discussed, it is generally discussed by the institutional players in the prison system, both governmental and private, to frame the debate by pitting guards against inmates.

Framing the discussion in this way allows those institutional players to lobby for ever increasing budgets while perpetuating the harm to both inmates and guards. Guards and inmates both suffer at the hands of a system driven by money and power.

Lack of Basic New Mexico Prison Reform

Even basic reform of cruel, inhumane and completely ineffective practices hits roadblocks. The practice and abuse of solitary confinement helps to frame a the wider debate around prison and criminal justice reform in New Mexico.

Currently, there is a bill working its way through the New Mexico legislature to reform solitary confinement. The bill seeks to restrict the use of solitary confinement to prevent its use on children, pregnant women and the mentally ill. One might think, given the enormous amount of research showing the physical and psychological harm caused by extended periods of solitary confinement, that in a “blue state” in the “Land of Enchantment” and enlightenment, this bill would be a no brainer. Not so.

At one hearing on the bill on February 27, 2019, there was enormous opposition to the bill. The opposition came from the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD). More specifically, the opposition came from many NMCD guards who accompanied NMCD administrative officials to fight against the bill. Several of the guards gave very compelling testimony regarding threats to their own safety faced daily in the New Mexico prison system. Several discussed violent attacks that they personally suffered. Others discussed attacks on fellow guards.

There is no disputing that prison guards face extraordinary daily safety risks. However, the risks do not derive from solitary confinement. The risks derive from the broken New Mexico prison system. The greatest risks facing guards, one might argue as would I, is not from the inmates but from prison system itself, writ the guards’ employers. NMCD uses guard safety as a pawn in constant grasp for greater budgets and power.

Workers Rights at the Heart of Prison Reform

One speaker at the legislative hearing pointed out that the issue of solitary reform was a workers’ rights issue. This is partly true. The broken prison system is most definitely a workers’ rights issue. But again, the threat to prison workers derives largely from the system itself. The systemic abuse of the use of solitary is just one manifestation of the gross neglect of the rights of prison workers including the guards.

One need only follow the money to reach this conclusion. The New Mexico prison system is grossly understaffed with at least one prison operating with just 30% of American Correctional Association (ACA) guideline staffing levels. All New Mexico prisons are understaffed. The chronic and severe understaffing puts guards at risk in all areas of the prisons. The risks are most apparent in the general prison population given that there is 1 guard to every 100 prisoners in NMCD. Getting back to the reform of solitary confinement, one might ask why this is relevant?

The plain and simple truth is that NMCD uses solitary as a substitute for manpower. NMCD uses solitary as a substitute for rehabilitative programming. NMCD uses solitary as a substitute for mental health services. In doing so, NMCD and its corporate allies put inmates and guards at grave risk of harm. Ultimately, given that inmates are eventually released, NMCD puts the people and families of New Mexico at risk. And don’t get me started on the financial harm that the system causes New Mexico and its citizens.

Broken Prison System’s Toll on Correctional Staff

The toll on correctional officers and their families is extraordinary. Below are a a couple tidbits of shocking information regarding that toll:

Correctional officers suffer greater levels of PTSD than combat veterans. In fact, the rate of PTSD in correctional officers (34%) is more than double the level of military veterans (14%).

Correctional officers have a shockingly high and unacceptable rate of suicide, which is again greater than the rate for military veterans. The rate of suicide for correctional officers is 39% higher than all other professions combined.

Worse still, correctional guards typically get no help with these issues. Instead, they are ostracized and even punished for their PTSD. In fact, correctional officers suffering PTSD related to recent violent attacks on their person are forced back to work in short order to the same conditions and environment in which they were attacked.

Worker Rights, Human Rights, Civil Rights of the Forgotten

The working conditions of correctional officers are an affront to their worker rights, human rights and civil rights. These working conditions are imposed by a system driven entirely by money and power at the administrative levels. Its not just the inmates who are cast away and forgotten, it is also the guards and other prison personnel.

I can’t understand why the correctional workers union hasn’t filed class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of prison guards and staff. Further I do not understand the role of a corrections worker union if they are not to step up and protect the workers from whom they too profit. Its an absolute disgrace to New Mexico that this broken system continues to flourish unabated while inmates and guards alike suffer extreme physical and psychological harm related to its perpetuation of the status quo.  The status quo will change only when both guards and inmates are recognized for their humanity and society, writ NMCD, treats them as such.

“Behind Bars, Rookie Season” is an A&E series depicting the lives of new correctional officers in the New Mexico prisons. There is scene in one episode that shows some of the training. It is worth noting because NMCD was proud enough of the lunacy to allow it to be filmed. The training officer basically tells the rookies that every day is life or death, the inmates are the enemy and they will be lucky to get home alive to spend measly $15/hour that they are paid. And Welcome to the New Mexico Corrections Department!

Dangerous Training

The training exhibited in the A&E series is not just incompetent and irresponsible but dangerous. It puts the guards on hair trigger all the time, no relief. It must make even walking the halls where prisoners are present a stressful event.

Correctional guards have PTSD rates equal to that of military veterans. No doubt it starts with cheerful training sessions like these which give any new employee nightmares. Worse the training itself is self-fulfilling. If you treat inmates like enemies, which too often means treating them like animals, you are going to get enemies with animalistic behavior. Its biological. It’s a perceived matter of survival on both sides with the stage set by the NMCD administrators that come up with such bone-headed training.

Despite the countless lawsuits, settlements and judgments against NMCD, NMCD and the State of New Mexico has yet to learn anything. NMCD fought tooth and nail to prevent the reform of solitary confinement which has disastrous consequences for the mental and physical well-being of the inmates in solitary.

Collins & Collins, P.C. has two ongoing solitary suicide lawsuits that illustrate the inhumanity of solitary. Men and women are put in cages with little or no human contact for weeks, months and years at a time. Try sitting alone in the privacy of your own bathroom for 24 hours (or even 2 hours) and you will get a very small hint of the inhumanity of solitary.

It is worth noting that solitary reforms did indeed pass. Yet NMCD has made no changes for which they will be facing additional lawsuits, settlements and judgments.

Corrections is Not the Place to Cut Corners on Costs

Why is NMCD so insistent on the use of solitary? The aforementioned training is one part. The guards are trained to believe that this is the only way to keep themselves safe. The other reason is just good ole fashioned greed. Putting a person in solitary 23/7 with only an hour to exercise and shower is cheaper than hiring guards. No matter that the costs of those avoided labor costs come back in spades in lawsuits.

Low Pay Equals Low Morale Equals…

Correctional officers should be among the best trained and best paid public employees in the State. They are working with incredibly vulnerable populations of prisoners that come with a life-time of fear, poverty, violence, betrayal, despair to name just a few of items in the baggage of most prisoners. Throw in mental illness, alcoholism and drug addictions and you have men and women in what obviously is horrific psychological pain when they arrive to prison. Why on earth would it be the policy of NMCD to treat these folks like animals? They need help.
New Mexico society needs the inmates to get help. Prison is supposed to be for rehabilitation so the prisoners may reenter society. It’s not by a long stretch in NMCD facilities. Prisoners are completely destroyed psychologically and often times physically. They are then released to the public with problems exponentially worse than when they went in to NMCD.

Correctional officers should be trained to help not harm the inmates. They should get regular and intensive education on dealing with this population. Guards should learn to expect a little cursing, disrespect and disobedience from inmates from time to time. Who wouldn’t curse from time to time in prison? Instead, they are programmed to retaliate. Retaliation comes in many forms from taking away good time, taking away privileges, solitary confinement and too often physical and psychological brutality.
This is not the way to help. It is not the way to treat human beings. It has no place in our society. It certainly has no place in a blue state like New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico can do better. NMCD must do better.

Intensive behavioral science, psychology, mental health, conflict resolution and so should be mandatory for all correctional officers. And they should be paid for the time they spend in training.

Dangerous Staffing Levels

NMCD is chronically understaffed. The guards often work 2 shifts per day. They are exhausted. They are underpaid. They are poorly trained. They are trained to believe every inmate wants to kill them. Its no wonder they are on edge and there are so many incidents that lead to lawsuits. It is also time to improve the system.

Simple Steps to Improve NMCD

There are several easy things to do to start addressing the problem. The order is inconsequential. In fact, they should all be done now:

  1. Train and pay the guards to meet the importance of their jobs.
  2. Hire enough guards that they are not forced to work excessive hours.
  3. Return to #1 and make sure the pay is sufficient that they do not need extra shifts.
  4. Begin recruiting guards with the desire to improve the lives of the prisoners and to improve society.
  5. Begin focusing on the well-being of the inmates so that they can return to society without permanent physical and psychological wounds imposed on them by NMCD.
  6. Train the guards to implement #5.
  7. Get rid of the administrators at NMCD that fight to preserve the train wreck that is NMCD.

Respect the Guards, Respect the Job

Respect the guards for what they do. Show that respect per above. Once they are respected, hopefully they will then respect themselves, their jobs, the humanity of the inmates and the importance of getting inmates back into the community healthy and rehabilitated so that they can successfully reenter society.

It Costs Too Much?

If New Mexico cannot provide this very basic function of rehabilitating prisoners then it should stop locking up so many people. New Mexico’s own reckless criminal justice policies, which are out of step with the rest of the country, create the foregoing needs and costs. If New Mexico cannot afford it, then don’t jump on every hair-brained new proposal to criminalize every kind of behavior some legislator finds offensive.

One way or another New Mexico will pay the costs. It will be through responsible reform. Or it will be for failure to reform in the form of lawsuits, settlements and judgments. One of these is intelligent and humane.

The New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) lost American Correctional Association (ACA) accreditation from 2016 to January 14, 2019. This is remarkable considering the makeup of the ACA’s Executive Committee and Board of Governors.

ACA’s Executive Committee current membership is made up entirely of correctional professionals that have spent their professional lives working in corrections. The ACA Board of Governors is no different. Viewing the candidates for the 2018 ACA Board of Governors Election, their resumes are entirely weighted with work in corrections, correctional facilities and law enforcement. Is it any wonder that the current state of the U.S. correctional system along with its prisons and jails has deteriorated over time to its current sad and abhorrent state?

In short, getting ACA accreditation is a cake-walk for all but the most flawed correctional facilities. Then comes CNMCF which lost ACA accreditation from 2016 to 2019.

How Bad Does a Prison Have to be to Lose ACA Accreditation?

One might guess it has to be very bad. It is not clear yet why CNMCF lost its accreditation for 2016 to 2019. Rest assured, Collins & Collins, P.C. is working on answers to that question. However, CNMCF was able to gain re-accreditation on January 14, 2019 following some horrifying incidents that occurred with inmates while in the custody of CNMCF.

Collins & Collins, P.C. alone has filed multiple lawsuits involving extreme, wanton, willful and deliberate denial of basic medical care to inmates while in the custody of CNMCF. While other firms have filed suits involving equally horrendous NMCD behavior, the focus here is on the suits filed by Collins & Collins, P.C. and co-counsel.

These cases involve 2 suicide deaths that occurred within hours of each other at CNMCF. They include another death at CNMCF resulting from an infection that due to gross negligence, incompetence and willful neglect of medical needs led to spinal sepsis, quadriplegia, coma and ultimate death. There are other cases that did not result in death but resulted in catastrophic and permanent injuries to inmates as a result of deliberate and malicious neglect of medical care.

Yet, CNMCF was able to gain re-accreditation on January 14, 2019 just 34 days after the 2 suicides and while the lawsuit was pending on the spinal sepsis case.

NMCD Misrepresents ACA Accreditation in Multiple Ways

Administrators from NMCD have misled the legislature, apparently the new Governor and the public regarding its ACA accreditation. They have stood in legislative hearings suggesting that there has been no lapse in ACA accreditation at its facilities. They have apparently done the same Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as evidenced by a recent article in the Santa Fe New Mexican. But perhaps most damaging to the State, its citizens and most of all NMCD inmates, they have suggested that ACA accreditation is some monumental accomplishment when it is really just a rubber stamp of approval given by the aforementioned correctional and law enforcement professionals inhabiting the American Correctional Association’s executive committee and board of governors.

ACA v. National Commission on Correctional Health Care

ACA v. National Commission on Correctional Health Care
Given the current situation of the medical care provided NMCD inmates particularly CNMCF for purposes of this discussion, it would seem that there is little ACA emphasis if any on constitutionally minimum levels of healthcare for NMCD inmates. This is vastly contrary to NMCD administration officials representations that the ACA has strict medical standards.

NMCD officials have in legislative hearings wrongly asserted, whether intentional or out of ignorance, that the ACA’s medical standards are more stringent than those of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). A cynic might argue that these misleading statements derive from the fact that NMCD facilities have been unable to obtain NCCHC accreditation since 2015, at the latest. In fact, NMCD has decided that it will no longer seek NCCHC accreditation. Upon the discovery of this by Collins & Collins, P.C. and pointing out that NCCHC standards are misleadingly peppered all over the NMCD website along with its policies and procedures, NMCD explained that the NCCHC mentions on their website was an oversight and that all references would be removed.

Aside from the fact that there remain NCCHC references on the NMCD site, is this a solution or the seeds for a disaster? This question is of course rhetorical only. Collins & Collins, P.C.’s cases alone illustrate the fact that indeed it has planted the seeds for disaster with tacit encouragement of the rampant medical malpractice taking place in New Mexico prisons. NMCD’s complete abrogation of its duties to provide constitutionally adequate healthcare to inmates has been slow moving decades long disaster costing the health and lives of inmates, great financial losses to New Mexico from verdicts and settlements, extraordinary and unnecessary burdens on New Mexico’s Medicaid programs, and if its that’s not enough the disgrace that it causes New Mexico.

So Again How Does CNMCF Lose ACA Accreditation?

This remains to be seen as this is not information that NMCD will freely reveal. Discovery is ongoing in the many cases filed by Collins & Collins, P.C. and co-counsel. The answers to this question will be perhaps quite illuminating into the hearts and minds of NMCD administrators.

New Mexico inmate sues medical care providers, state over massive bedsore/By Phaedra Haywood | Santa Fe New Mexican

Former New Mexico state prison inmate claims poor medical care in lawsuit/ By Rebecca Moss|Santa Fe New Mexican

Lawsuit says prison failed to care for man who killed himself/ By Sami Edge | Santa Fe New Mexican

Two inmates commit suicide within hours of each other at NM prison

 

Prison Suicide Prevention Standards, Policies and Procedures

New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) policies for the prevention of suicide presumably follow the policies and standards set forth by the American Corrections Association (ACA) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). It is not clear from at all from a review of NMCD ACA and NCCHC accreditation that this is in fact the case.

ACA and NCCHC Accreditation Very Important Until June 2016

A casual stroll through NMCD inmate health policies shows countless references to the ACA and NCCHC (NCCHC references have either been deleted are in the process of deletion which will be discussed below). However, the General Services Contract (the Contract) entered in June 2016 between NMCD and its current health care provider, the importance of the ACA and NCCHC was stressed repeatedly. That hasn’t changed.

In fact, compliance with the ACA and NCCHC is stated in the opening paragraphs as part of the “goals and requirement” of the contract:

“The goal and requirement of this Agreement is to provide comprehensive health care services, within a secure environment, within available funds, and in accordance with the standards of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), the American Correctional Association (ACA), current community standards of care, and NMCD procedures contained herein.”

Lack of ACA and NCCHC Accreditation Closely Related to Medical and Mental Health Negligence

As we noted in a previous article at least one prison, the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) was not accredited by the ACA from 2015 forward and did not obtain accreditation until the beginning of 2019. Thus, for nearly four years this facility lacked ACA accreditation. It is no coincidence that this is the same facility where two recent suicides occurred on the same day within hours of each other.

As for accreditation from the NCCHC, Collins & Collins, P.C. has submitted dozens of records requests under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) and as of March 1, 2019 not a single NMCD correctional institution has been accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) since the date of the new contract in June 2016.

In fact, it has been determined through IPRA requests that NMCD decided at some point after June 2016 to cease even seeking NCCHC accreditation. This is remarkable on many counts not the least of which are the repeated provisions of the Contract that mandate NCCHC accreditation.

The lack of respect or concern for the relatively moderate standards of medical and mental health care for inmates established by the ACA and NCCHC is most certainly related to widespread medical negligence and neglect of mental health care in NMCD facilities.

Recent Suicides in NMCD Facilities

On December 2, 2018 two inmates committed suicide in the same correctional facility—on the same day. In a previous article, we began looking at what happened in those two cases. Collins & Collins, P.C. represents the families in both cases and during the initial stages of our investigation and representation there have been multiple red flags. The first item of concern was the notification of designated points of contact in both deaths. Secondly, the fact that the facility, Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, lacked accreditation by both the American Corrections Association (ACA) and National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) raised additional concerns. A third area that caused alarm revolved around the issue of staffing—or, rather, gross understaffing.

Pervasive Mental Health Understaffing in New Mexico Prisons

According to a report from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee published on October 23, 2018 and entitled, “Program Evaluation: Corrections Department – Status of Programs to Reduce Recidivism and Oversight of Medical Services” the vacancy rate for Behavioral Health Providers at the CNMCF was 50%.

The Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF), where both of the suicides occurred, provides—or is supposed to provide—heightened levels of medical care to inmates with serious medical and mental health needs. Two glaring problems arise here. CNMCF was not ACA accredited from June 2016 until January 2019. CNMCF, along with all other NMCD facilities, has decided not to even seek NCCHC accreditation since June 2016.

It is no coincidence that the legislative finance report referenced above indicates 100% vacancy rate for mental health providers and behavioral health providers at CNMCF as of the date of the report. The problem of gross understaffing goes to the heart of NMCD’s indifference to the mental health needs of the state’s inmates. This is reflected in NMCD’s system-wide understaffing as indicated in the Legislative Report:

“The Corrections Department’s Office of the Medical Director, state employees who are responsible for overseeing the care, opportunities and education necessary for patients to improve their health…had a 25 percent vacancy rate as of October 2018. Two vacancies were for nurse auditors to oversee medical service provision. The Mental Health Bureau, responsible for providing services to inmates in state prisons, had a 40 percent total vacancy rate, of which most were behavioral and mental health therapists.”

The Costs of Neglect of Inmate Mental Health

The costs of neglecting the mental health of New Mexico prison inmates are many. First and foremost, it is inhumane and barbaric to lock away mentally ill people with no regard to their illnesses or their treatment. In addition to the inhumanity, the pervasive and gross medical understaffing is almost by definition medical malpractice. This is perhaps most pronounced in the case of solitary confinement (or segregation as those folks who trivialize the inhumanity of the practice like to call it). Fortunately, this issue has been addressed in part by recent legislation signed by Governor Lujan Grisham.

Second, and related to the first, the purpose of criminal punishment in New Mexico is suppose to be rehabilitative. In New Mexico, imprisonment is anything but rehabilitative. The problem is particularly pronounced among mentally ill inmates. Many inmates are in prison chiefly because of their mental illnesses. Rather than address this reality, New Mexico prisons amplify the mental illness through the gross medical neglect of mentally ill inmates.

Lets say finally, but there are many other costs which would require a treatise to address, there is the costs to taxpayers. What is the costs of taking a mentally ill person and making the illness exponentially worse? What is the costs to the inmate? What is the costs to the families? What is the costs to the communities to which inmates almost invariably return? What are the costs to New Mexico taxpayers to address these folks in emergency rooms, future arrests, future incarcerations and future treatment to repair the harm done to them while in prison.

The answers to these questions are fairly apparent and if they do not move the prisons to reform, there is the costs of lawsuits the payouts on any one of which could entirely cover the costs of the understaffing. Yet the cycle continues.

In most personal injury matters, it is typically wise to conduct as much informal discovery as possible prior to filing suit. Informal discovery includes the collection of such things as police reports, witness statements, photos of the scene and so on. Formal discovery is what occurs once litigation is commenced (i.e. a lawsuit is filed). In trucking accident cases, informal discovery will have significant limits since the information needed outside the aforementioned informal discovery will be entirely under the possession and control of the defendant trucking company. Trucking companies behave much differently than the typical auto accident defendant. Bottom line is that they do not provide evidence without court action.

File Suit and Ask Questions Later

The advice that a trucking accident victim should file suit and ask questions later runs counter to the typical practice at Collins & Collins, P.C. which is to gather as much evidence as possible to evaluate a case to make sure that it is warranted prior to filing suit. Deviation from this practice in the case of trucking accidents is necessary and proper for a couple of reasons. First, the victim in a trucking accident will have no access to critical evidence. Second, New Mexico is a comparative negligence state. This means that the trucking company may be sued even if the driver and the company were only partially at fault. In trucking cases, the injuries if the victim survives at all, are generally catastrophic and permanent. Consequently, even after apportioning fault between the trucking company/driver, and the victim, compensation for injuries or death will still most likely justify the policy limits on any insurance policy carried by the trucking company.

Preservation Letter and Notice of Spoliation

In dealing with trucking companies, it is safe if not critical to assume that they will hide, destroy or “lose” evidence. To protect the victim, a letter demanding preservation of evidence upon penalty of spoliation should be sent out immediately after the accident. Immediately means immediately, not weeks later. This letter will put the trucking company on notice that they must preserve (save, store, protect…) all evidence and documents related to the accident. Failure to do so will result in spoliation sanctions by the court. Spoliation sanctions are very powerful in cases like this. In New Mexico, where evidence is lost or destroyed, all evidentiary matters related to that evidence will be found in favor of the victim. In other words, if the trucking company loses a document such as engine diagnostic data, it will be presumed that the lost document was very bad for the trucking company. The jury will be told this at trial.

Seek Legal Guidance

There are some cases where it is possible to effectively represent yourself in a case. These are typically limited to very simple, clear and small accidents such as auto accidents and, slip and fall accidents. Trucking accidents are not the type of case even the ablest, smartest, most studious folks would want to take on by themselves.

Trucking companies will not treat you fairly with or without an attorney. This is the case even when the driver would if he or she could. The difference is that an experienced attorney can force them to behave and force them to treat the victim or the surviving loved ones fairly.

Collins & Collins, P.C. may be contacted online or at 505.242.5958.

The title might seem to suggest a conspiracy theory is coming. It’s not, although active imaginations could come up many plausible conspiracies at the border. This article is not that. Instead, this article is about legal claims/lawsuits for civil conspiracy against those perpetrating the human rights abuses at the border.

Immunity of Government Actors to Civil Conspiracy Claims

It might be best to first address who cannot be sued for civil conspiracy. The New Mexico Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act provide very broad immunity for the actions of governmental agencies and employees. Both the New Mexico Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act provide for waivers of sovereign immunity in some situations.

A waiver of immunity allows lawsuits to be filed against the governmental entity and/or employee(s). These include medical malpractice claims, which is the focus of the prison litigation of Collins & Collins, P.C. The waivers of immunity also extend to civil rights claims including violation of cruel and unusual punishment, and due process violations under the 4th, 8th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. It its worth noting that medical malpractice in prisons will often overlap with cruel and unusual punishment, and due process violations.

Having said all that, civil conspiracy is not among the waivers of immunity. The good news, if there is any good news that can be drawn from what’s happening at the border, is that private entities and their employees do not have immunity against civil conspiracy claims. In New Mexico, a finding of civil conspiracy results in joint and several liability for the parties to the conspiracy. So although the U.S., New Mexico and county governments cannot be sued for civil conspiracy, the private actors/private contractors can be. In turn, the private actors/contractors are fully responsible under joint and several liability for all harm resulting from the conspiracy, including the harm perpetrated by governmental parties to the conspiracy.

Joint and Several Liability for Civil Conspiracy

In cases where civil conspiracy claims are filed against a private contractor and a governmental entity, the private contractor will invariably argue that because conspiracy requires the coordinated actions of at least two parties, the private party is off the hook. In doing so, the private entity would be confusing the elements of civil conspiracy with the liability for civil conspiracy. The private entity would be correct if there was only one party engaged in the unlawful behavior since conspiracy requires at least two actors. The private entity would be wrong in thinking that because the other bad actor in the conspiracy somehow escapes liability that it too should escape liability.

This is neither true under civil conspiracy nor under criminal conspiracy. By way of example, lets say some Americans conspired with some Russians to sway an election through illegal foreign contributions to or for the benefit of a campaign. This would constitute a criminal conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. Now let’s say the Russians cannot be prosecuted because they were out of reach of American legal authorities. Can the American co-conspirators be prosecuted for the conspiracy even though the Russians cannot Of course they can.

This happens all the time in criminal prosecutions such as drug trafficking, murder, bank robbery and countless other criminal conspiracies. Just because one of the conspirators escapes liability does not mean any of the others will. If only one gets caught, then that one is responsible for the entire criminal conspiracy and any harm that results, even if it was not part of the plan. For instance, in the bank robbery example, if someone is killed, then the guy who rented the van with knowledge that it would be used in the bank robbery is fully responsible for the murder as well as the robbery. That is true even if the co-conspirator who is caught played only a minor role in the larger scheme.

Civil Conspiracy Between Government and Private Prison Contractors

Civil conspiracy works the same way in the case of a conspiracy between a governmental entity or its agents, and private contractors such as private prison contractors. Just because the government entity and its agents are immune from civil conspiracy claims in a lawsuit does not mean the private contractors escape liability. And yes, as with the criminal conspiracy outlined above, the private prison contractor(s) is liable for all harm done as a result of the conspiracy.

Thus, any lawsuit for the atrocities at the border including gross, deliberate and cruel medical negligence should include civil conspiracy claims thereon against the private contractors. There is no need to even name the government entity involved. The lawsuit must simply allege a conspiracy between two or more parties to commit the wrongdoing. In other words, a civil conspiracy claim for medical negligence may be brought against the private actor by alleging a conspiracy with the government actor without the necessity of suing the government actor for the civil conspiracy.

Punchline = Sue the Private Contractors for Atrocities Against Immigrant Detainees

The purpose of this article has been to inform immigrant detainees and their loved ones of possible avenues to address the horrendously inhumane treatment that they have received and continue to receive in detention. The reason this is necessary in New Mexico is because the State of New Mexico and a number of its counties have in their wisdom decided to get in on the action and the money surrounding the exploitation of immigrants for monetary gain.

Both the State of New Mexico, through the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and a few New Mexico counties are now involved in the conspiracy to commit human and civil rights violations against immigrants through the deliberate denial of necessary and adequate medical care. With whom do they conspire? It’s the list of usual suspects in the private corrections arena from private prison operational contractors to private prison medical providers.

Immigrants will not be able to sue the State and counties for civil conspiracy due to the lack of waivers of immunity for civil conspiracy. However, they will be able to sue the private contractors for the conspiracies and be fully compensated for the harm they suffer by the private contractors.

Deadlines can be short in these cases so it is important to contact an attorney right away. Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at 505.242.5958.