The local news and news around the state has been reporting on COVID-19 in New Mexico jails and prisons for quite some time. Much of the data provided to the press is provided by New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD). Suffice it to say that anything NMCD regarding conditions inside its facilities is probably inaccurate, misleading and even more likely plainly false.
Collins & Collins, P.C. Attempts to Improve NMCD COVID-19 Response
Collins & Collins, P.C. first addressed this issue in March upon visiting clients at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) in Los Lunas. It was apparent upon visiting CNMCF, seeing the lack of COVID protections, and observing and talking to NMCD staff that CNMCF was not taking the issue seriously. The firm also began getting many calls from inmates at other NMCD facilities. As a result, the firm sent out a Tort Claims Notice on behalf of numerous inmates to put the State, NMCD and the governor on notice of the brewing crisis and potential liability for any resultant harm related to NMCD’s deliberate indifference to the health and safety of its inmates.
Yet, NMCD’s response to COVID-19 has if anything gotten much worse. This is reflected in the mounting inmate COVID positivity rates and the mounting deaths which appear to be understated by NMCD.
Inmate Reporting Vastly Different than NMCD Reporting
While NMCD, the State of New Mexico and unfortunately our Democratic Governor have persistently insisted that everything is fine inside NMCD facilities, inmate reporting reflects the reality of the conditions, the fear of COVID among inmates and the outbreak of COVID related illness and death among inmates. NMCD and the State of New Mexico continue to downplay the problem which is reflected in a recent article on the spread of COVID to prison staff and the communities in which they reside. The 23 NMCD inmate deaths related to COVID, based upon reporting from inmates, is like most facts coming from NMCD is likely not factual at all but rather deliberate deceit of the public.
Many Medical Negligence Lawsuits Against NMCD and its Medical Contractor(s)
Collins & Collins, P.C. alone has close to 20 active lawsuits against NMCD and its medical contractor(s) gross and reckless medical neglect of inmates critical illnesses. These lawsuits involve atrociously cruel and inhumane medical neglect of NMCD inmates. Much of what these lawsuits describe could rightly be referred to as medical torture. Simply put, the cases illustrate that NMCD is at best incapable of providing adequate healthcare to inmates even in the absence of COVID-19. At worst and at the heart of the cases filed by Collins & Collins, P.C., NMCD actively, intentionally and cruelly denies inmates medical care for critical, severe and emergent medical conditions. The result has been permanent and severe harm or death to our clients.
COVID-19 has run rampant throughout NMCD facilities. Apparently, as predicted, it has also spread into the communities in which NMCD facilities reside. It is not hard to predict what the coming months will bring which is much more illness and death for inmates, and continuing deceit of the public by NMCD.
NMCD Cannot be Trusted to Tell the Truth
One advantage of having filed numerous lawsuits against the same defendant (NMCD) is that it makes it possible to gather an extraordinary amount of evidence about the defendant which would otherwise not be available in just one lawsuit. Because Collins & Collins, P.C. has been investigating NMCD medical atrocities for the past four years and has gained enormous amounts of evidence through Inspection of Public Record Act Requests (IPRA) and formal discovery (collection of evidence in a lawsuit), the true scope of NMCD’s medical atrocities has become more clear. So too has the lengths to which NMCD will go to keep inmates from filing lawsuits and to flatly falsify, conceal or destroy evidence. Deception is the standard operating practice of NMCD. Is it a surprise that this SOP would carry into its handling of COVID.
Scope of COVID-19 in NMCD Much Worse the NMCD Admits
Collins & Collins, P.C. has been getting calls since March about the utter failure of NMCD to protect inmates from COVID. The reports are consistent. There has been no real response. Worse still, the calls from inmates and their loved ones have greatly increased over the last few weeks. Inmates consistently report that staff, guards and even medical personnel are not wearing masks. The inmates report that inmates are forced to wear the same mask for many weeks. They report that they are not given proper cleaning supplies. They report that they are placed in cells with other inmates with symptoms and even those known to be positive for COVID. They report that this occurs even when they themselves are not showing symptoms and are likely COVID free prior to entering these cells and pods. They report being put in COVID pods with 50+ COVID positive inmates all the while without adequate personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, soap, clean towels, clean masks or even the most basic COVID protective measures.
Worst of all, inmates have been recently reporting increases in COVID deaths in their facilities. This includes reporting of several deaths in one pod in one facility over the last 10 days. Collins & Collins, P.C. is investigating this to verify the accuracy of the reporting. It is expected that NMCD will refuse to provide accurate information and IPRA lawsuits will be needed to gather the information. These lawsuits will take many months to litigate. All the while, inmates will continue to suffer and die unnecessarily.
NMCD COVID Response a Stain on New Mexico
The reports come in daily from prisoners and their loved ones. The inmates and their loved ones are terrified by NMCD’s lack of response and clear indifference to their health, safety and lives. Their lives are truly at risk and NMCD has continued its refusal to implement proper safeguards to protect the inmates.
‘The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’
The purportedly Blue social justice minded New Mexico is failing miserably as is the Governor. The atrocities occurring in NMCD facilities will go on unabated until the Governor or the Courts intervene. Both have refused to do anything that would stop the carnage. Instead, inmates will be left to suffer avoidable illness and death. It is truly a stain on New Mexico while NMCD goes on whistling along its merry way with little to no consequences for those responsible for the problem.
And that in a nutshell is NMCD.