Collins & Collins, P.C. has been heavily focused on prison and jail medical neglect and abuse since 2017. The firm has filed over 60 lawsuits against New Mexico jails, prisons, and their medical contractors. A few of these included claims against the food vendors. Over this time, Parrish Collins has spoken casually with many correctional officers and other staff. The vast majority were professional, polite, courteous, and caring. He has found that, with few exceptions, it is not the officers or staff who harm the prisoners. Instead, it is the administration at both the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and the management-level employees at the medical contractors.

Correctional Officer Whistleblowers

Recently, Collins & Collins, P.C. began hearing from correctional officers who were extremely concerned about the management and operation of NMCD facilities. As Parrish learned from our many cases, these individuals are just people working in a very challenging environment with excessive work demands, overly long hours, and inadequate training. Speaking with these correctional officers, Parrish discovered that their working conditions were even worse than he’d anticipated. Grossly incompetent management and operation of the facilities by those in charge have placed correctional officers at enormous risk. This, in turn, jeopardizes everyone in the building and the surrounding communities. This includes correctional officers, medical personnel, contractors, volunteers, neighbors, and, close to Parrish’s heart, inmates.

These courageous officers have tried for years to reform the management and operations from the inside. They’ve reported numerous hazards to management that jeopardize their safety and that of the inmates. Their concerns were often ignored, and sometimes they faced retaliation. This indifference persisted even in the face of an ever-increasing number of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-officer assaults—events that management is well aware of and often conceals from the public. The officers have endured immense stress from these excessive, unnecessary dangers created by management, including severe PTSD.

PTSD is real and poses significant dangers, especially in a correctional setting. In fact, correctional workers have a higher rate of suicide than veterans in general and a rate comparable to that of combat veterans. This is exacerbated by the risks they face on the job due to the grossly incompetent, and arguably corrupt, NMCD administrators and management.

Fortunately, four of these brave correctional officers have stepped forward, aiming to protect not only themselves but everyone in and around NMCD facilities. To that end, a lawsuit was filed on September 8, 2023. This lawsuit seeks justice not only for the four correctional officer plaintiffs but also to improve NMCD prison conditions for all.

Medical Personnel Whistleblowers

Along with the correctional officer whistleblowers have come whistleblowers that work for or have worked for the medical contractors. Their reporting is consistent with everything Parrish has beleived to be true since beginning his work on prison medical abuse and neglect. As with the correctional officers, reporting from medical workers is far worse than what even Parrish (a true skeptic of anything related to medical care in prisons and jails) had believed to be true.

The reporting is appalling. Medical personnel including doctors are put in impossible situations due to gross understaffing and lack of any meaningful training. The reporting suggests that their are nurses that are alone covering multiple units and pods by themselves meaning they must handle sick call, emergencies, medpass (distribution of medication) and even janitorial duties. This includes nurses working alone in all male units and pods.

Corectional officers and medical personnel alike are extremely concerned about the dangers to the health and lives of inmates. The inmates are not receiving proper medical care due to an inability to make referrals for even critical outpatient care. Even when the referrals are approved by the medical contractors management, it is often impossible to transfer them to outside medical providers due to the aforementioned gross understaffing of security personnel, including not surpisingly transport security.

It is not a disaster waiting to happen, it is a disaster happening now. The NMCD administration has done nothing. It exercises no authority or oversight over its medical contractors. Instead, when lawsuits are filed, they defend the indefensible medical abuse and neglect of NMCD contractors. Its quite astonishing for many reaosns, not the least of which is the costs of its indifference to taxpayers.

Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Sick, malnourished inmates kept in their cells 23 to 24 hours a day are a danger to medical and security personnel. Overworked, horribly stressed security personnel are a danger to inmates.

The medical disaster is ongoing. It could get much worse. The precursors to the 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot (the most violent prison riot in U.S. history) and the 1972 Attica Prison Riot (second in violence only to the New Mexico riot) are all present now in NMCD facilities. Yet, the NMCD administration is doing nothing. In fact, they are doing much worse than nothing. They are seeking to reduce mandatory staffing levels in already grossly understaffed facilities. They doctor the staffing numbers to appear compliant. They conceal true statistics on assaults in the prisons, even those occurring to correctional officers and medical personnel. They have made gross misrepresntations to the American Corrections ASsociation auditors. And they have made equally appaling misrepresentations to the legislature.

Raise Your Voice

If you are correctional officer, medical worker, food worker or other non-manaerial staff in a New Mexico prison or jail and you have witnessed such recklessness by your bosses, give us a call. Parrish, Collins & Collins, P.C. and all the attorneys working at co-counsel firms on prison reform believe that the system must be changed for the benefit of everyone in and aroudn prisions and jails. The quickest route to success is to address the issues from the inside out. After all, correctional officers and medical personnel will be heard where inmates will simply be ignored and hidden from view.

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