Update: New Mexico Corrections Department Retaliates for Medical Grievance System Lawsuit

Since filing the PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF AND TEMPORARY RESTARINING ORDER (PETITION)challenging the constitutionality of the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) grievance system on May 20, 2021, NMCD has responded as has come to be expected. NMCD has retaliated against the inmates named as Plaintiffs in the suit.

Unwarranted Transfers to Other Facilities

Since the filing of the lawsuit, several inmates have been moved from Western New Mexico Correctional Facility (WNMCF) in Grants, NM to Springer Correctional Facility (SCC) in Springer, NM. Both WNMCF and SCC are women’s facilities. These transfers may well become problematic for NMCD in at least a couple of ways.

The first and most glaring problem with the transfers to Springer Correctional Facility is in the fact that SCC is in the process of being shut down due to the unconstitutional confinement conditions including fairly regular sexual assault by NMCD personnel on the female inmates.

Second, there is not rational justification for the transfers. The chronology of the transfers alone suggest retaliation. However, there is more. Several inmates at WNMCF began to suffer retaliation even before the lawsuit was filed. This result was the product of NMCD personnel opening legal mail from their attorneys related to the preparation of the lawsuit including legal representation agreements. There will be more about this below.

Solitary Confinement

At least one inmate transferred from WNMCF to SCC was reportedly placed in solitary confinement for 5 days upon arrival at the Springer facility. Solitary confinement is considered torture by the United Nations.  New Mexico Corrections Department has longed used solitary as a weapon against inmates and staff reduction tool due to the chronically and dangerously understaffed NMCD facilities. In fact, the routine and inappropriate use of solitary by NMCD led to changes in the law. NMCD largely ignores the law as it does civil rights laws. NMCD likes to use quaint euphemisms for solitary confinement and literally refuses to use the term solitary confinement. But solitary confinement is solitary confinement no matter what label NMCD chooses to give it. https://www.collinsattorneys.com/solitary-confinement-by-any-name-is-solitary-confinement/ In keeping with NMCD habits and propensities, the solitary confinement of the inmate transferred to SCC will likely be cynically labeled something other than what it was.

Retaliatory Interference with Attorney Client Communications

As referenced above, interference with attorney client communications and the attorney client relationship has soared since beginning the process of filing the PETITION. NMCD began opening legal mail from Collins & Collins, P.C. early in the process. Inmates began complaining of this long before it had been determined that a lawsuit would be filed. The tampering and interception of legal mail began while the issues were being investigated. In fact, the tampering with legal mail was among the last straws leading to the lawsuit. Ironically, if this is the right word, Collins & Collins, P.C. began warning inmates that they would probably be retaliated against for participating in the lawsuit or even speaking with the firm. NMCD did not disappoint. On cue, NMCD did just that and the retaliation has not stopped. It has intensified.

Intensified retaliation against the inmates named in the lawsuit includes:

1. It has been reported that several inmates have suffered inexplicable reductions in good time delaying their release dates.
2. Inmates have reported interference with canteen privileges.
3. Inmates have reported interference with visitation.
4. Inmates report shakedown of their cells with property seized and destroyed.
5. Inmates report that legal documents have been seized and destroyed.
6. Inmates report medical and other grievances being seized and destroyed.
7. Inmates have reported legal mail being opened by NMCD employees.
8. Inmates have reported sending legal mail which was never delivered to Counsel.
9. Inmates have reported being inexplicably transferred to other facilities.
10. Worst of all, inmates have reported suffering solitary confinement.

July 1, 2021 Cannot Come Soon Enough

The New Mexico Civil Rights Act takes effect on July 1, 2021, about 18 hours from the writing of this post.  As NMCD well knows, interference with the attorney client violation is a violation of the 1st Amendment.  July 1 cannot come soon enough.

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