A recent article in U.S. News & World Report cited a recently released study by the non-partisan, Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Institute which noted that New Mexico had the highest rate of inmates in county jails in the nation. Using the latest available data from Federal sources (2013) the per capita rate stood at 340.8 per 100,000 residents. The State of Georgia fell in second place with 317.3 per 100,000 in county jail facilities.
As has been widely documented over the course of decades, rates of incarceration for racial minorities have been highly disproportionate along all points of the justice continuum. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics in the nation, at over 48% of the total population. For justice reform advocates states with high minority populations are important to watch due to the unfair and disparate impacts upon people of color. In addition to New Mexico’s large Hispanic population, the State also has one of the highest populations of Native Americans. Both populations have been severely impacted by over-arrest and over-incarceration over the course of the last 40 years.
It is not uncommon for a person to be arrested on a misdemeanor charge and then spend weeks or even months awaiting a trial date due to the financial inability to post bail. In the course of long waits for justice in a local jail many inmates may suffer poor or negligent medical treatment.
Some Examples of What Might Occur to People in Local Jails
There have been a great number of high-profile cases in New Mexico involving men and women who received sub-standard, negligible or no medical care while incarcerated in county correctional facilities in recent years. In a number of instances grievous personal injury and even death were the result.
What might be some examples of the types of such cases that have happened recently in the State of New Mexico in County Detention facilities?
- Lack of proper medical screenings during in-processing: leading to deprivation of necessary medications or medical care. A number of high profile cases, for example, involved people under-going chronic withdraw symptoms from alcohol or drugs without proper attention which led to death.
- Improper evaluation and assessment at time of booking failed to take into account mental state which led to suicide in jail.
- Failure to diagnosis and treat an illness or a condition while in jail which can—and has—lead to serious injury or death.
- Sexual Assault or abuse during incarceration in a county detention facility.
- Physical injury by guards or other inmates which goes untreated and may end up with severe or catastrophic results.
As many cases have illustrated, it can be very difficult for inmates to communicate what is happening to them to those who might be able to assist them. Quite often, family members or friends might be the ones to initiate communication on behalf of inmates with attorneys who might be able to intervene effectively. It is also important to understand that what is needed is an attorney experienced enough in the practice areas of civil rights, personal injury and medical malpractice who may serve as an effective outside advocate.