The state of medical care for New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) inmates is horrendous at best, horrifying at times. The prison medical grievance system is supposed to protect inmates who are not getting constitutionally adequate medical care. It does no such thing. In fact, the medical grievance system itself encourages and perpetuates grossly deficient medical care that is often recklessly incompetent, far too often seemingly intentionally cruel and generally deliberately indifferent to the serious and even life-threatening illnesses.
In short, the NMCD medical grievance system is corrupt and unconstitutional.
Many Lawsuits Filed Against NMCD and Its Medical Providers
Collins & Collins, P.C. has filed numerous lawsuits against NMCD and its medical providers alleging grossly negligent, deliberately indifferent and intentionally cruel failure to provide medical care. Evidence gathered through these lawsuits indicate that not a single inmate medical grievance was found in favor of an inmate by NMCD from June 2016 to November 2019. The firm has been unable to obtain more recent data from NMCD. It is fully expected that the same level of absolute indifference to the medical neglect of NMCD inmates will be found. NMCD simply does not seem to care one way or the other whether inmates are provided constitutionally adequate healthcare.
Purpose of Abuse of Medical Grievance Process is to Deny Inmates Access to Courts
Under both federal and New Mexico law, inmates must exhaust all administrative remedies prior to filing suit in either federal or state court. This is called exhaustion of administrative remedies (exhaustion). In the context of the prison medical grievance process, this means that the inmate must fully complete the medical grievance process. This in turn means filing the right paperwork within the deadlines set by NMCD. The prison medical grievance system is a maze of confusion and obfuscation. It is intentionally so. The point is to set traps for inmates who are rarely educated to the degree necessary to follow the byzantine and often contradictory grievance procedures. If an inmate fails to file all the right paperwork within the deadlines in the form mandated by NMCD, the inmate cannot file suit in court now matter how horrible the medical neglect and consequent injuries to the inmate.
The deliberately confusing and often contradictory grievance procedure requirements are alone sufficient to hold the medical grievance system unconstitutional. However, there is far more to it than that.
Retaliation for Filing Medical Grievance Process
The abuses and obstructions of the medical grievance process are far too numerous to enumerate here. However, they have been enumerated in a lawsuit filed against NMCD by Collins & Collins, P.C. attacking the constitutionality of the medical grievance process. The list of abuses and obstruction is very lengthy though certainly not exhaustive. To view the full magnitude of NMCD abuses in the medical grievance process, view the ETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF AND TEMPORARY RESTARINING ORDER (PETITION) filed by Collins & Collins, P.C. on May 20, 2021.
NMCD inmates have reported directly to Collins & Collins, P.C. the many abuses and obstructions of the grievance process. One of the most frequently reported abuses is retaliation for filing grievances. It seems that NMCD grievance officers often also serve as disciplinary officers. This is most definitely the case at a number of facilities including Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas, New Mexico. This fact alone suggests that the medical grievance process and procedures are unconstitutional.
Retaliation for Questioning the Constitutionality of NMCD Medical Grievance Process
Collins & Collins, P.C. has significant direct experience with its own clients being retaliated for filing grievances (or for talking to Collins & Collins, P.C. generally). This is in fact what precipitated the PETITION. In fact, the high probability of retaliation for joining in the PETITION is conveyed to the inmates before allowing them to join in the lawsuit. This was done as a matter of both professional ethics and concern for inmates getting into something more than they expected. The inmates are extremely brave in joining the suit, each fully understanding the almost certain retaliation against them for doing so.
In fact, many of the inmates were retaliated against prior to the suit even being filed. Inmates lost privileges, have lost good time and at least one was placed in solitary confinement after her legal mail from Collins & Collins, P.C. was opened and read. This in turn resulted in numerous meetings involving inmates, NMCD and its prison management contractors warning inmates against contacting Collins & Collins, P.C. Surprisingly, these meetings were held in open prison pods with numerous witnesses. NMCD and its contractor have taken to individual interrogation of inmates about their relationship and conversations with Collins & Collins, P.C. The end result of one such interrogation was transfer from Western New Mexico Correctional Facility to Spring Correctional Facility which is facing closure due to its abhorrent conditions. Even more shocking the inmate was placed in solitary confinement upon arrival at Springer.
NMCD Fraud on the Courts
In every case filed by Collins & Collins, P.C., NMCD has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of the lawsuits due to alleged failure of the inmates to exhaust administrative remedies. According to NMCD it seems, no inmate ever files a proper medical grievance. The allegations are clearly fraudulent and in fact NMCD has been caught in its attempted fraud on the courts. However, this is not enough. NMCD should be stopped in its tracks to prevent it from filing these fraudulent Motions for Summary Judgment against inmates. Failure to dismantle the NMCD medical grievance system will allow NMCD to continue its frauds on the court in every inmate lawsuit. Beyond its unconstitutionality, the medical grievance system along with the legal exhaustion requirements places an enormous and unnecessary burden on the Court.
Toss NMCD Medical Grievance System Completely
The entire NMCD medical grievance system must be thrown out. It is a case of the fox guarding the hen house. The entire system is geared toward denying NMCD inmates adequate medical care and then access to the courts when disaster strikes with permanently disabling injuries or death to the inmates. NMCD simply cannot be allowed to continue to control and manage the prison medical grievance process. NMCD’s control and management of the prison medical grievance system is an ongoing affront to the New Mexico Constitution, an embarrassment to the State, and an extraordinary burden on New Mexico taxpayers.
This is in fact the goal of the PETITION filed by Collins & Collins, P.C.