Solitary Confinement in New Mexico

A 3 part series on solitary confinement in New Mexico, by KUNM:

Part 1 By: Marisa Demarco, Aired: Monday, April 28, 2014

In real life, human rights advocates say New Mexico needs to cut back on using solitary confinement as a punishment method—especially for people coping with mental illnesses. Prison officials agree that it should be used less often, though most take issue with the way it’s portrayed in prison dramas.
Read more here.

Part 2 By: Marisa Demarco, Aired: Monday, May 5, 2014

Jan Green isn’t sure of cell 135C’s exact dimensions at the Valencia County Detention Center. It was small.

“It was a shower stall, but I couldn’t use the shower,” she said. “It had the steel toilet and sink combination. It had a cement L-shaped bench and two drains. It had a steel door with a window that looked out into the walkway. “

She saw those objects every day all day during her months-long stints in solitary.

She slept on a mat on the floor. She remembers that it was cold in there, the lights were kept on around the clock, and she couldn’t get the water running properly. The out-of-use showerhead dripped. All the time.

“I remember being very ill,” she said. “I would pretend or whatever having a friend there for company.” read more by clicking here.

Part 3 By: Marisa Demarco, Aired: Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nataura Powdrell remembers one inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center who refused to take his meds. When the jail’s mental health staff tried to talk about it, he explained he didn’t want to become stable. Because then he’d be released from jail.

Then, he knew from experience, he would run through the 30-day supply of medication that the jail provides to exiting inmates. He would have a psychotic break. And he’d go find heroin so he could get comfortable with the voices in his head.

“It’s a catch 22 for him,” Powdrell, spokesperson for MDC, explained. “There needs to be somewhere between jail and the street that these people can get the appropriate help.”

Read more here.

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and ACLU-NM Release Report on Overuse of Solitary Confinement

October 31, 2013                 
Contact:  Gail Evans, NM Center on Law and Poverty (505) 255-2840
                  Steven Robert Allen, ACLU-NM (505) 610-4790
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and ACLU-NM Release Report on Overuse of Solitary Confinement
Up to16% of incarcerated New Mexicans are in solitary confinement. It is an overused, underreported practice in our state.
Albuquerque, NM – The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP) and the ACLU of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) have released a report,“Inside The Box: The Real Costs of Solitary Confinement in New Mexico’s Prisons and Jails,” detailing the findings of a year-long investigation of the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico’s prisons and jails. 

Their study found that solitary confinement is widely used in prisons and jails in New Mexico. While it costs more money to detain prisoners in isolation than in the general population, it does not improve public safety or reduce prison violence. Furthermore, solitary confinement as currently practiced in New Mexico infringes on fundamental rights by isolating prisoners with serious mental illness and allowing for prolonged periods of isolation. The use of this procedure in New Mexico also lacks adequate transparency at both the state and local level.
 “Holding people for months in solitary confinement is contrary to any notion of rehabilitation or re-integration,” said Gail Evans, Legal Director of the NM Center on Law and Poverty. “The evidence is clear that isolation results in cognitive deterioration, which can be irreversible, meaning that our prisons and jails are inflicting brain damage on our citizens.” 

Solitary confinement means detaining a prisoner in 23-hour-a-day lockdown in small cells, where the person is banned from most out-of-cell activities and social interaction. The investigation found that both state prisons and county jails hold hundreds people in solitary at any one time around the state. The average length of stay of solitary in the prisons is almost 3 years. In the jails, it can last for months, or even years at a time.  
New Mexico urgently needs to reform the practice of solitary confinement in its prisons and jails. The NMCLP and the ACLU-NM urge New Mexico to adopt the following reforms:
1. Increase transparency and oversight of the use of solitary confinement
2. Limit the length of solitary confinement to no more than 30 days
3. Mandate that all prisoners be provided with mental, physical and social stimulation
4. Ban the use of solitary confinement on the mentally ill
5. Ban the use of solitary confinement on children
 “The amount of information we were able to gather is dwarfed by the amount of information we still lack,” said Steven Robert Allen, Director of Public Policy at the ACLU of New Mexico. “New Mexico desperately needs to implement uniform transparency requirements to fully reveal how and why solitary confinement is being used in our prisons and jails.”


Kristin Seale
Communications & Outreach Coordinator
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
924 Park Avenue, SW
Suite C
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Man left in solitary confinement for 2 years gets $15.5 million settlement

A man who spent 22 long months in solitary confinement in a New Mexico jail, neglected to the point where he was forced to pull out his own tooth because he said he wasn’t allowed to see a dentist, will receive $15.5 million for the ordeal.

The settlement with Dona Ana County, N.M., falls short of the $22 million that Stephen Slevin, 59, and his attorney had asked for, but is still one of the largest prisoner civil rights payouts in U.S. history.

“His mental health has been severely compromised from the time he was in that facility. That continues to be the same. No amount of money will bring back what they took away from him,” Matt Coyte, Slevin’s Albuquerque-based attorney, said on Wednesday. “But it’s nice to be able to get him some money so he can improve where he is in life and move on.”

Slevin’s story of inhumane treatment in the Dona Ana County Jail, where he was incarcerated from 2005 to 2007 — which he said included his toenails growing so long that they curled around his foot, and fungus festering on his skin because he was deprived of showers — first received publicity last January, when he was awarded the $22 million.

Dona Ana County had been appealing the verdict ever since, refusing to pay Slevin.
But the legal battle ended Tuesday with the $15.5 million settlement, a number decided on in court mediation, according to Jess Williams, Dona Ana County’s public information director.

An initial payment of $6 million is expected to be wired to Slevin by the end of this week; he will receive the rest in installments in the following days.

For Slevin — who has lung cancer and has beaten doctors’ odds for how long he would survive — the case was not about how much money he could make, his attorney said, but about getting recognition of how poorly he was treated and the scars he still has.

“He’s had lots of difficulties over the years. I don’t think he will stop having difficulties,” Coyte said. “The courage he had in the trial was magnificent.”

Slevin’s mistreatment by Dona Ana County started the moment he was arrested back in August of 2005, his attorney told NBC News.

“He was driving through New Mexico and arrested for a DWI, and he allegedly was in a stolen vehicle. Well, it was a car he had borrowed from a friend; a friend had given him a car to drive across the country,” Coyte said in an interview last January.

Slevin was depressed at the time, Coyte explained, and wanted to get out of New Mexico. Instead, he found himself in jail.

“When he gets put in the jail, they think he’s suicidal, and they put him in a padded cell for three days, but never give him any treatment.”

Nor did they give him a trial, Coyte said. Slevin said he never saw a judge during his time in confinement.
After three days in the padded cell, jail guards transferred Slevin into solitary confinement with no explanation.

“Their policy is to then just put them in solitary” if they appear to have mental health issues, Coyte told NBC News.

While in solitary confinement, a prisoner is entitled to one hour per day out of the cell, but often times, Slevin wasn’t even granted that, Coyte said.

Read the rest here.

Press Release: Detained Migrants Call for Support to Prevent Their Deportation into Hands of Cartels

By No More Deaths:
Tuesday, 14 June 2011 08:07
Detained Migrants Call for Support to Prevent Their Deportation to Mexico into Hands of Cartels to Be Kidnapped and Murdered

Human Rights Group Calls on Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to Stop all Deportations to Dangerous Locations


Contact: Hannah Hafter (651) 338-8058. Email:

Tucson, Arizona—

“PLEASE SAVE US. We, as in my fellow inmates, find ourselves in the Torrance County Detention Facility and we are scared for our lives.”

This was the first line of one of the four letters, received by No More Deaths this week, signed by a total of 21 people sentenced to detention in New Mexico for crossing the U.S./Mexico border through the Arizona desert, undocumented. All the letters express extreme fear of being kidnapped or murdered if they are deported through the border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas (on the other side of the border from New Mexico and Texas).

In these states, organized crime now has more power than the local government and migrants are regularly targeted upon arrival for extortion, violence, and forced conscription under threat of death. Over 34,500 people have been killed over the last four years in drug cartel and gang related violence, with over half the killings in 2010 taking place in Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.

No More Deaths is launching a campaign in response to these calls for support, and demands an end to all deportations through these eastern border states because of the imminent safety risks to deportees. Both ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Border Patrol are currently sending deportees through these ports. At the same time, the border ports of Agua Prieta and Naco, Sonora, Mexico have not been used for repatriation in over 8 months, even though they are known to be significantly safer for deportees. Human Rights Advocates throughout the country began calling and sending faxes to the offices of Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, and John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to call for an immediate end to deportations through the Mexican border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.

The letter’s author continues with a story: “[One of the inmates here was last deported through Texas and he was] kidnapped and held hostage along with other deportees and was always at gunpoint. Some didn’t have family or had no money to pay the ransom so this group killed them and the ones that paid escaped death but not a beating… On the other side of the border of Texas is where this takes place every day.”

With the United States deporting upwards of 1,000 people each day to Mexico, a unique and horrifying situation of exploitation has emerged: cartels feed off the constant flow of migrants, using corrupt police and government agencies intended to assist migrants to funnel recent deportees directly into their hands. According to another letter, “When one crosses the border the municipal police is just waiting and watching for deportees.

They pull you over with the excuse that they are going to help you… this is a lie and part of the scam. These police work for the [cartels]. They take you to an abandoned alley or house [where] at gunpoint your eyes are bandaged and your feet and hands are tied. And so begins the nightmare.”
Migrants given prison sentences for crossing the border are also routinely separated from their belongings, including identification, all their money, and lists of phone numbers of family members. The lack of resources, proof of identity, and ability to contact support highly intensifies existing dangers.

According to Hannah Hafter, No More Deaths volunteer from Tucson AZ, age 28, “No border town is completely safe, and all deportations are separating families and ripping apart communities. The U.S. government still has a responsibility to protect people from imminent violence. They are not only endangering lives—they are also financing the drug trade by handing them kidnapping victims. Janet Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security should intervene to ensure the safety of the 21 detainees who wrote us from the Torrance County Detention Facility, put an immediate end to all deportations through the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, and ensure that all deportees receive their belongings including identification and money.”

The inmates writing from Torrance County Detention Facility have release dates between June 15th & June 17th. They request to be sent through the border port in the state of Sonora as an alternative. The last letter, signed by all 21 detainees, reads, “We are not delinquents. We are working people, we have families waiting for us in Mexico, and we fear for our lives. For your attention and understanding, we thank you, and God bless you and us.”

Contact DHS Officials and ask them:


DHS Press Room: 202-272-1200
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano: 202-282-8495
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton: 202-732-3000

For those interested in getting involved visit To learn more about the urgent action visit

$2.99M deal brokered in NM strip search lawsuit

July 20, 2010
By Scott Sandlin
The Albuquerque Journal

Proposed settlement covers Santa Rosa jail, 5 others in 3 states 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lawyers in a class action lawsuit involving strip searches of pretrial detainees at six jails, including one in Santa Rosa, N.M., have announced a proposed settlement with prison operator GEO Group Inc.

A Pennsylvania law firm, Chimicles & Tikellis, negotiated a $2.99 million settlement, excluding legal fees – up to $400 for all eligible class members – after a federal judge refused to dismiss the case.

The settlement covers GEO-run correctional facilities in Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.

The settlement for the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa covers the period from Jan. 30, 2005, to Jan. 30, 2008.

Class members may be eligible if they entered the GEO-operated facility after being charged with minor crimes that did not involve drugs, weapons or violence, if they have no past criminal history or charges, and did not behave in a way at intake that would give officers grounds for such a search.

The lawsuit alleging constitutional violations was filed in 2006 against GEO, a Florida corporation, over strip searches allegedly conducted regardless of whether there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the person had weapons or contraband. The class representatives included a woman in a pretrial diversion program for a DUI arrest who was taken to a room with other female weekend inmates and strip-searched in front of the inmates, and a man who mistakenly failed to appear for a scheduled court date resulting from a domestic dispute and was strip-searched.

The settlement does not include individuals who were convicted at the time that they were admitted to the facility.

The GEO settlement is one of a half-dozen class actions against county jails in New Mexico based on a blanket policy to strip-search individuals.

A 2006 class action complaint was filed against Management and Training Corp., which managed the Santa Fe County jail, on behalf of an estimated 13,000 inmates. Similar lawsuits were filed against Cornell Companies, for individuals detained at the Doña Ana County jail, and the Valencia County jail.

Bob Rothstein, whose Santa Fe-based firm filed five of the strip-search lawsuits, said thousands of individuals were paid claims in the settlement of the cases.

He said a memo surfaced after the first one was filed in Santa Fe. It was from the New Mexico Association of Counties, warning counties to review their strip-search policies to prevent the kind of litigation Santa Fe was then facing.

“They didn’t,” he said.

Link To Complete Article HERE

Battling Over Jail Contracts

By 2010 Jeff Proctor
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Carlos Villanueva was brought from the Bernalillo County Public Works Department to the Metropolitan Detention Center in 2009 and was assigned to review big-ticket contracts for medical, food and laundry services at the massive lockup. 

His findings, which the county disputes: millions of dollars of overcharges in the form of discrepancies between amounts on invoices and how much the county paid.

I know where the money went,” he said in an interview with the Journal. “I just don’t know why.”

Villanueva said he reported his findings to top county officials in a series of meetings in October 2009, and says all three — County Manager Thaddeus Lucero, Deputy County Manager for Public Safety John Dantis and MDC director Ron Torres — promised to look into it. 

The county later hired outside firms to audit the two contracts Villanueva had reviewed. The chairwoman of the county’s Internal Audit Committee confirmed that one of the audits had found discrepancies; the other is not yet completed.

Villanueva said auditors met with him Friday to discuss his findings on the medical services contract.

If Villanueva was hoping for a commendation from the county for his report, he didn’t get it.

Less than two weeks after his meetings with county brass, he was demoted to the mailroom — where he kept his $52,000 salary despite having what he says were “no discernible duties” — and his access was pulled from most county computer systems.

He was told he would report directly to Torres, who sent him the e-mail advising him of his reassignment. On April 16, Villanueva says, he was fired. 

Among the claims pointed out in Villanueva’s reviews:

• A discrepancy showed the county paid CMS $2,906,544 more than was listed on the invoices from Sept. 23, 2008, to Aug. 19, 2009.
• A $94,793 difference in the monthly charges CMS should have been paid under the contract and was actually being paid starting in August 2009. 

• County taxpayers were being charged 6.88 percent tax on consumables for inmates at the jail instead of the state-mandated rate of 6.875 percent. “No one is allowed to change the tax rate by rounding up,” Villanueva wrote in his review. Moreover, he claimed the jail was charging inmates a further tax on consumables, contrary to state law. The overcharge paid to Canteen was about $1.3 million. 

Read Full Article

County Makes Another Jail Problem Go Away

Albuquerque Journal Editorial
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How nice former jail guard Roslyn Juanico won’t have incarceration clogging up her summer schedule or an ankle bracelet snagging her strappy sandals.
Meanwhile, Avery Hadley will spend his summer with permanent brain damage, the victim of a brutal jailhouse beating videotaped on Juanico’s watch, in Juanico’s pod, at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Pat Davis, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, says the office discovered the most Juanico could be charged with was a misdemeanor of compounding a crime/failing to act. State District Court Judge Charlie Brown signed off on her no jail/no supervised probation plea deal. Juanico’s attorney, Mark Fine, says Hadley and Juanico are both “victims of mismanagement at MDC.”

Amid the too-common refrain of “everyone did everything they could,” county taxpayers are left wondering why someone like Juanico wasn’t handed any jail time, or an ankle bracelet, or a deal that precludes her ever being a jail guard again. That’s despite the fact authorities have said the prisoner who almost beat Hadley to death was Juanico’s “enforcer.”

And taxpayers are left wondering if an inmate-to-guard ratio of 64-plus to 1 is worth a life irrevocably damaged or the cost of dealing with lawsuits.

There’s also the guard having sex with an inmate, having his baby and having him move in upon release; another beaten and hospitalized inmate; a guard-on-inmate rape case; and a videotape of guards slamming shackled inmates to the floor.

Back in June, on the heels of the Hadley beating, the County Commission asked for a list of names of possible investigators to look into problems at the jail.

Almost a year later, it’s status quo at MDC, where one guard is left in charge of up to 96 prisoners with just a video monitor for backup when things go wrong.
Experience shows things all too often go very wrong at MDC. Taxpayers might never know if adjusting training, staffing or supervision would have prevented Hadley being kicked in the head 20 times or the other inexcusable events at the $90 million lockup.

But they deserve answers before another person ends up in the hospital or worse courtesy of MDC, another case winds up in court, and lawyers, prosecutors and judges repeat a chorus of “everyone did everything they could.”

Attorney Needed for class action lawsuit against NMDOC

Iam looking for an attorney who would be intrested in helping with a class action lawsuit against the New Mexico Department of Corrections.
here is the details:
We have several ( over 15) inmates as well as family members that have been effected by the DOC moving validated gang members to solitary based on that status alone with no evidence of wrong doing on the inmates part, or factual evidence that the inmates lif is in danger. When these inmates, who had worked their way down to Gen pop, and therefore more priviledges for themselves and for their famiies to be a bigger part of their lives, and forced into the supermax facility in Santa Fe, this cause great strain on their being as well as the families.
I went from  my husband being able to call me everyday, and three visits a week, to ten calls a month a once visit a week. He was moved to a level in Jan based on bogus CI information that his life was in danger. We have filed a habeas withthe state court regarding this matter, and stating that placing an inmate in solitary based on gang membership alone violates his due process.
There are many more families hee in NM going through the same thing Toby and I are. I beleive the DOC should be held accountable for human rights violations that they are handing out very rapidly. If anyone can help, please contact me by email.
PS, here is case law regarding this very issue. Koch Vs. Lewis, 96 F. Supp. 2d 949 (D. Ariz., 2000)

Wexford, Mississippi, and Women’s Health Care in Prison

(originally posted at the Prison Abolitionist 1/26/10 as “Jamie Scott, Prisoner Abuse, Self-defense.”)
Things are not looking any better for Jamie, folks. I’ve been working all morning on this and still have more links to embed for you, but here’s a start. Please read and think and act today.

Mississippi‘s prison health care services are privatized. Here’s a little info about the company that contracts with Mississippi to provide their prisoner health care, Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (that’s the link to their rap sheet with the guys at Private Corrections Working Group; there are more news links at the bottom about New Mexico’s investigation. Just Google Wexford if you want their propaganda). 
That’s who’s doing the day to day care. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is no doubt in on it, of course – they monitor the contract, and I’m sure they set the limits for what they’ll pay them for – which bring this back to the Governor’s office and the legislature, really. Dealing with the people at the level of the prison administration – even the medical administrator – seems to be a waste of time.  
Now, I’m no lawyer – I’ve been going to school for nearly 2 decades and still haven’t been able to finish my BS in Justice Studies, so keep that in mind. But I’ve been reading up on some of this stuff that’s been coming to my attention lately, and I think I should at least pass what I do know – or think I know – along. We’re not going to get better care for anyone unless the state knows we’re well-armed and that Jamie’s complaints can’t get tossed out right off the bat for her failing to “exhaust administrative remedies” (thank Bob Dole and Bill Clinton for championing the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which is routinely used to deny relief or protection to victims of institutional abuse in correctional settings on technicalities. Signed in 1996, it gutted federal protection of prisoner rights and legal recourse. We need to tear that thing up and start over.)
The Mississippi Department of Corrections, of course, knows full well that Jamie needs to be grieving every single thing in writing, if she isn’t already – or there will never be recourse if they continue to harm her. They probably won’t be advising her to take that route; here’s their administrative remedy policy. She then needs to get copies of that documentation out of the prison on a regular basis, because prisons are notorious for searching litigants’ cells and destroying whatever possible evidence they may have against them (I’m sure Mississippi is already covering themselves on this one). As far as I know, no prison employees have ever been prosecuted for destroying evidence (which usually includes prisoner as well as state property) that might be used against their institution – though you know what would happen to any of us if we tried to destroy evidence the state had against us in a civil or criminal case…
I wonder how much of this has to do with the “duly convicted” being constitutionally designated as slaves of the state? The 13th Amendment really did leave us with some problems.
Don’t ask how someone as sick as she is should be expected to know all the hoops she has to get through to get help, and then leap through each one. I don’t think the law takes that into account. Or the fact that some states – like Arizona – go to extremes to make it hard for prisoners to access the resources necessary to represent themselves or even just assert their civil rights. You have to know the law and grievance procedures from the start, because the steps involved have time frames for filing and responding to grievances (I guess that’s to protect the right of the state and their employees to a timely settlement of such issues – though we never seem to get timely settlements). Judges seem to love to tell prisoners that ignorance is no excuse.
As far as I can tell there’s no assurance that you’ll be protected from retaliation if you do pursue grievances – there will likely be retaliation of some kind. But this is how prisoners – women prisoners, in particular – have managed to change the conditions of their incarceration – they grieve everything and take it to court.
It should not just be Jamie grieving her care – all the other women who have suffered harm as a result of the same shoddy standards need to grieve too. En masse – but make sure it’s the best of the best cases you put forward if you’re showing a pattern of civil rights violations (that’s necessary to prove a Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act violation. Personally, I think the potential claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to be explored more. By an attorney, not me.)
If/when it gets to court, the first thing that the judges will look at is whether or not the prisoner (not the prison) followed proper procedures to seek relief before getting there. It just isn’t fair to the poor prison administrators if prisoners they’ve harmed don’t have to overcome extraordinary hurdles to even get their case heard in the courts. For some women that’s meant filing a grievance about sexual harassment by guards while the officers their complaint is about continue to have access and exert influence over their lives through the course of the “investigation.” It’s very easy to hurt a prisoner and get away with it. Women are set up to be assaulted by other inmates just as readily as men are.
In many cases the prisoner is also threatened with being prosecuted for filing frivolous complaints or false charges if their perpetrator ends up being cleared of everything. I don’t know how often most DAs take that approach with women who aren’t imprisoned who report that they’ve been victimized, or if that tactic is just reserved for prisoners who accuse the people with the authority of state violence and the keys to their chains of being the criminals.
In any case, there’s a tremendous disincentive for prisoners to report rape, assault, or other abuse or neglect. They will not necessarily be protected from their assailants once they make their accusation, and there are so few people in the system whose primary interest or responsibility is prisoner welfare – everyone works for the state, to serve the interests of the state. It is in the best interests of the state to cover up the more atrocious examples of corruption and abuse, as well as to minimize public shock over the dehumanizing nature of standard operating procedures for prisons. But it is in the best interests of the people (that’s us) to know what’s going on in those places – throughout the criminal justice system, really – and to be empowered to change it.
There are some good links in this article about Wexford’s adventures in New Mexico prisons, where they eventually lost the contract to do business and got sued. Similar stories seem to follow them around the country. Scott family and friends might want to see what more you can find out about this company’s history in Mississippi. Are there any lawsuits by prisoners pending there? You’ll need to dig deeper than Google – dig into the state’s court websites. How long have they been around? Check out what folks in the Mississippi Prison Talk community have to say about the health services. Are there patterns of neglect surfacing there? What about grievances that have been filed at the prison or throughout the system?
I’ll put more thoughts on strategy for the Scott Sisters’ family and friends into a separate private message. In general, though, the more supporting documentation you have that is accessible and organized now, the more likely it will be we can get an investigative journalist in and help you get legal assistance as this unfolds. First the fight to save her life, and the lives of other Mississippi prisoners – this is injustice regardless of what Jamie’s convictions or sentence may be, though it’s clearly all about how little a lifer is worth to the rest of us.

The justification for this kind of rationing is the same slippery slope that made it okay to conduct medical experiments on African Americans, on prisoners, insane asylum patients, soldiers, and the mentally impaired for so long: their lives just aren’t worth the lives of the members of the “public” (still considered to be white upper-middle-class America -many of whom, of course, are repeat offenders of some crime that have just never been caught).Guess a lot of experimentation is still done on  prisoners.

Well, as a member of the American public (albeit the poorer class), I have to say that I don’t care much for Nazi science and “medicine” being practiced in America in my name, against my people, over my strenuous objections. Nor do I think will many other people, if this is brought up in the context of a conversation about the history of southern prisons, prisoners and the crimes of the medical profession in America.
Especially when it comes to black women. Scholars who have studied women’s resistance to slavery should also be shining some light on women resisting their criminalization and the conditions of incarceration or the terms of their punishment – women resisting violence.
That’s what Oprah should really be most interested in herself, if anyone can get her ear: her PR people are probably just thinking in terms of human interest stories and ratings, but Oprah herself would pick up on the broader ramifications of the Scott family’s fight – the ways in which racism today is so cloaked and insidious, and the depth of the injustice still done to so many as a result. The racism is systemic and multi-faceted (intersecting with gender, class, sexual identity/orientation, etc.) – we need to elevate it to the proper level right away, because most of the prison administrators (and probably most guards in the department) are people of color themselves who have been well-indoctrinated to support the state line and positioned to act as examples of how non-racist the state is. 
Jamie’s life has been determined by the state to not be worth certain medical and environmental interventions that would be standard if we were basing prisoner health care on community standards (for the poor, of course). But we don’t use community standards for them anymore – we base prisoner health care on what is “constitutionally mandated” – which is about as bare bones as you can get. Prison doctors basically have to commit at the very least negligent homicide or intentionally mutilate you in the course of what constitutes more than just gross malpractice to prove that you didn’t get a constitutionally-mandated level of medical care. And the damage done to you as a result of the neglect or abuse has to be permanent (or lasting, as of the time of the case).
That’s what’s so wrong with prison health care across the country – the laws have been changed at some point to lower standards because too many prisoners were winning lawsuits, prisons were having to clean up their acts and cut back on the rape and violence, and the states were facing hefty federal fines. Prisoners weren’t being “frivolous” with lawsuits any more so than non-prisoners – they were defending themselves against state violence and dehumanization, and finally getting justice done.
And most of us out here since the 80’s with a voice and a vote who should have known better let most of it get undone again because we weren’t paying attention.
We need to pay attention, now. And we’ll have to get these laws changed again – which means hitting candidates now with questions specifically about the Prison Litigation Reform Act (good ACLU fact sheet for prisoners), the Prison Abuse Remedies Act, and – in Arizona – what we need to put into Marcia’s Law to protect our people from abuse and rip out the prison systems revolving door and meat-grinding machinery. That means a lot of folks here need to study-up. We need to be more literate than the Department of Corrections on our stuff – and have the empirical evidence in hand.
Can you imagine if it was that hard to prove negligence or malpractice in the community? If people could just so casually be left to die – all the while begging for help – because our medical providers have to determine whether or not our lives should be saved based on some formula applied to our crimes of our youth or addictions and the nature of our punishments, there would be a health care consumer revolt. Help me pin this down folks – do some research out there. This is what’s happening in every state I’m coming across: dealing with just about any health care issue for prisoners the standard of care to research is “constitutionally-mandated”.
I’ll have more on this issue, because the same minimum standards of care for prisoners and mandate that one exhausts all administrative measures before seeking relief in the courts is a huge problem for prisoners in Arizona, of course. In the meantime, here’s who we could end up with providing our prisoner health car too (the people who do Mississippi and once did New Mexico….), if they bid on our ADC medical care contract, too (everyone knows that our prison health care services are supposed to be privatized this year, too, right?).
By the way, in doing all this research I came across an interesting article on the last Medical Director for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. At some point along the way this woman would have made decisions to ration prisoner health care – maybe even signed off on cutting Jamie’s life short by excluding certain treatments from the prisoner “benefits” plan. I wonder if the fact she embezzled nearly $100,000 from the department has anything to do with the fact that they can’t “afford” to give Jamie – a woman accused of stealing $11 over 15 years ago – her medically-recommended diet even as her kidneys are failing. That woman is likely to get house arrest for her crimes. She’s arguing that prison would be cruel and unusual for her because she was in a position of authority over inmates.
It’s not a good thing for an abolitionist to say – I’m far from perfect, folks – but it sounds to me like a prison term for the former medical director of that place might actually, for once, bring a measure of justice to the institutions’ victims. I have to admit, I do want some of these people to pay more than restitution – I want a chunk ripped out of their lives, too. I want them to know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their abuse…which is precisely the kind of mentality that landed us where we are today, with mass incarceration, and increasing numbers of young people being thrown away for life. I guess if the violent retaliation Americans call criminal justice isn’t changed by us, who will it be changed by? Do we really want to leave this multi-headed hydra as our generation’s legacy?
I don’t think so. At some point here, in the course of protecting our people and dismembering this beast, we need to figure out what we’ll do with the perpetrators of state violence if we ever get our hands on them. We need to make them examples of restorative justice, not more retribution. When we seek justice, we need to avoid dehumanizing and brutalizing others as they do, and instead use every opportunity to help people and communities heal and be kinder in the future. As for the ones with no conscience – the sociopaths and CEOs who would rape the world for their own greed or grisly pleasure – I’m still not sure what to do with them, but they don’t get an embrace and another chance to offend from me. We need to protect people from them – beginning with protecting our prisoners.
Here’s the latest bad news on Jamie and the State of Mississippi. Please do stop and drop Gladys a note, too, and let her know what you’re doing to help. It will mean a lot.

Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.

Subject: Urgent Update – Jamie Scott ~ By Sis Marpessa ~ ACTION IS NEEDED!

Jamie Scott is presently locked down in a cell in the infirmary on a hospital bed on the men’s side of the prison.  She has had some of the toxins removed from her body through a temporary catheter, but she is still seriously ill and should be hospitalized! The prison has known that Jamie was sick for some time, yet her condition was allowed to manifest and deteriorate to this level and we do not trust them to provide her with sufficient medical care at all, their track record with Jamie is horrendous!

Jamie Scott was a healthy young woman in 1993 when she was snatched away from her family for no good reason and locked down in tortuous conditions for 15 yrs, now her condition is life-threatening, must this horrific injustice now become a death sentence?!

Gladys Scott is extremely upset by all of this, as you can well imagine.  As reported earlier, she has offered one of her own kidneys for Jamie and was told that as a state prisoner she doesn’t qualify.  With each passing day she is becoming more and more alarmed and could really use some cards/ letters from supporters:

Gladys Scott #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Please continue to contact the governor’s office, we cannot rest or believe that our efforts are in vain.  Call into talk radio, enter info on as many blogs, Ning groups, etc., as possible, we need to really make a very loud NOISE in order to be heard! We need all of your ideas and talents, thank you all!



(same numbers/contacts as in previous posts)

The Wexford Files

from the Santa Fe Reporter

By: 01/16/2008

Our ongoing investigation into prison health care in New Mexico.

Outtakes, March 21: “Let There Be Light
Outtakes, Feb. 7: “Audit ABCs
Outtakes, Jan. 10: “Under Correction
Top 10 Stories of 2006, Dec. 20: “Prison Break
Outtakes, Dec. 13: “Wexford Under Fire
Outtakes, Nov. 29: “Backlash
Outtakes, Nov. 22: “Unhealthy Diagnosis
Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead
Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test
Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns
Outtakes, Oct. 4: “Medical Waste
Outtakes, Sept. 13: “Checkup
Outtakes, Aug. 30: “Inmate Care Critics
Outtakes, Aug. 23: “Unhealthy Proposal
Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?


ACLU Challenges Inhumane Treatment at New Mexico’s Supermax (2002)

Monday, October 21, 2002

ALBUQUERQUE– Today, cooperating attorneys working for the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of six prisoners in the New Mexico Department of Corrections regarding the State’s “Supermax” prison facilities.  The case is a proposed class action on behalf of all prisoners held in “Special Control Facilities” operated at the Santa Fe and Las Cruces state prisons.

The defendants are the New Mexico Department of Corrections, the wardens of the prisons at which the Special Control Facilities are operating, other corrections officials and former Corrections Secretary Rob Perry.  The suit alleges that the Special Control Facilities are just the latest in a series of unconstitutional initiatives initiated during the past few years by the Corrections Department.

The Supermax system is rife with inhumane conditions.  For example, when prisoners enter the system they are automatically confined to their cells all but six hours each week.  The confinement is not a result of a prisoner’s misbehavior but, instead, part of the Supermax’s psychological “education” program that prohibits family visitation, prison work assignments, education services, personal reading matter, radio and television and limits the inmate to possessing three letters, three photographs and using no more than five sheets of writing paper per week.
Prisoners are only released out of their cells five times per week for an hour in an indoor “exercise cell” and ten minute showers five times per week.

All this is part of the prison’s so called “Cognitive Restructuring” program.  The lawsuit alleges that the New Mexico program is unique in America because it combines the highly restrictive features of a “Supermax” prison with this program of behavioral change.  Prison authorities state that cognitive restructuring is designed to change or “correct” the thinking of inmates through the provision of lessons provided to the prisoners, followed by tests to determine whether the prisoner has learned the lesson.  Over a period of at least a year, the prisoners can move from being locked into their cells twenty-three hours a day through a number of “steps” and “levels” of gradually improving living conditions and opportunities to leave the cell. The program is not administered by psychiatrists, psychologists or any other mental health professional, rather it is administered by teachers employed by the prisons.  The suit alleges that this cognitive restructuring is a form of “mind control” which violates prisoners’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and thought.

The lawsuit points out that the Department of Corrections was notified that there is considerable literature regarding the harmful psychological effects of this type of isolation in a prison.  Dr. Craig Haney, a psychologist in California, and Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist on the faculty at Harvard, have published a number of articles on the subject.  As the literature suggested, the need for mental health treatment at the Supermax has risen.  Despite the new designation of the pods as mental health facilities, the inmates within those units are still reportedly subjected to the same rules and the same conditions as those applied to non-disabled inmates.

Most of the plaintiffs had been diagnosed by the Department of Corrections as having mental disabilities before their placement into the facilities.
These inmates allege that their mental problems have been exacerbated by their placements in the program. Other inmates who were not previously diagnosed with disabilities allege that they are at risk of developing mental problems as a result of their isolation and the conditions in “Supermax.”  The suit also alleges that in 1999, corrections officials were notified in the Duran consent decree case, that the isolation imposed in the “Supermax” causes people to become mentally ill.

At the center of the lawsuit is a legal challenge to the prisoners’ classification into the Special Control Facilities; the lack of any process for appealing placement there; the denial of rehabilitative, educational, religious and social programs; the arbitrary loss of good time credits, which effectively lengthens prisoners’ incarceration; denial of family visitation; as well as the psychological harms they are suffering, without adequate psychological treatment, as a result of their placements.

When an inmate attempts to improve his conditions by writing an essay and his teacher simply does not judge the essay as adequate, the inmate can be subjected to even worse circumstances.

The issue comes down to the prison’s definition of “punishment”.  If the prison authorities assert that the prisoner broke a rule of the Cognitive Restructuring Program or is alleged to have violated an “Adjustment Control,” or is alleged to have violated a provision of a “Behavior Control Program Contract”, then he loses every object within his cell which could occupy his mind and every other activity outside his cell including losing: all reading material, writing material, library books, religious items, recreation, visiting, telephone use, religious access, and legal access.  But because the prison system has not issued an actual misconduct report, there is no right of appeal. In other words, as long as the prison does not define the loss of these basic living conditions as a form of punishment, then the system need not offer any hearing or appeal system to the prisoner.  As it stands, there is virtually no system, no hearing officer, no court, and no prison official to whom the prisoner can turn to for help.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the First and Eighth Amendments, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires the government to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.

The prisoners are represented by the ACLU of New Mexico Co-Legal Director Phil Davis, and ACLU-NM Cooperating Attorneys Larry Kronen, Edwin Macy, Peter Cubra and Mark Donatelli, who were counsel in the Duran consent decree case.

Press Conference scheduled for Tuesday, October 22, 2002 at 1:30 p.m. at the Law Office of Phil Davis, 814 Marquette NW, Albuquerque, NM  87102.

See also: UPI: New Mexico prison system under fire