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Albuquerque Police Department
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Cornell

September 7, 2002
Two Fugitives still on the Loose.  It has been more than a year since the drug trafficker Vicente Manuel Tijerina has seen the inside of an American lockup.  On Friday, the former fugitive saw a federal judge in Albuquerque.  Tijerina,31, was extradited this week to New Mexico after eight months in custody at a jail in Mexico City.  U.S. Marshalls and Mexican federal judicial police recaptured Tijerina on Nov. 10, 2001, in Sonora state after he and two other inmates escaped from the Santa Fe County Detention Center on April 7, 2001.  The escape was aided by then-guard Lawrence C. Candelaria, who is now serving a 366-day prison sentence for smuggling into the jail a cell phone, hacksaw blades, a hammer and a chisel.  Candelaria worked for Houston-based Cornell Corrections Corp., which operated the jail at the time.  Authorities are still looking for Luis Ramon Lopez, 42, and Rodolfo Ruiz-Godinez, 30.  (Albuquerque Journal)

February 24, 2001
The city may sue the company that was transporting Byron Shane Chubbuck when he escaped to recover the $76,189 the police spent on recapturing him, Albuquerque City Councilor Tim Kline said Friday. The police spent $49,469 paying officers who would have otherwise been on duty elsewhere. It spent $20,956 on overtime, and another $5,764 for helicopter use during the search. Kline said the city deserves assurances from Cornell that it is examining its security procedures. "My bottom line is to ensure they take a look at security and do something about it, and this is the way you get their attention," he said. The Marshals Service said that the agency itself will transport prisoners in the future rather than contracting with a private firm. (Albuquerque Journal)

Bernalillo County Detention Center
Bernalillo, New Mexico
Cornell, Correctional Medical Services, Correctional Health Management
June 8,  2010 The New Mexico Independent
Bernalillo County officials have destroyed bid-scoring sheets used in awarding a $23 million jail health services contract, the Albuquerque Journal reported Monday. The destruction of public records may have violated the state public records law, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) director Sarah Welsh said. “(They) are certainly something the public would have an interest in seeing,” Welsh said. “It seems strange to just destroy that one part of it. The whole point of open government is so the public can review decisions that officials are making.” Correctional Healthcare Management won the $12 million a year contract to provide medical care to inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Correctional Medical Services (CMS) has held the health services contract for seven years. The County is investigating millions of dollars in suspected overpayments to CMS during that time.

April 8, 2009 KRQE
A 13-year-old lawsuit over jail conditions that has already cost Bernalillo County taxpayers millions of dollars may have to start over, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Martha Vasquez has thrown out a 2005 settlement in the case after lawyers for inmates claimed the county misled them. Prisoners sued Bernalillo County in 1995 over conditions at the jail, which at that time was located in downtown Albuquerque at 415 Roma NW. The prisoners cited inhumane conditions which included overcrowding and lack of access to health and psychiatric care. In 2005, two years after the Metropolitan Detention Center opened west of Albuquerque, the prisoners and the county negotiated a settlement. That deal required the county to meet 14 criteria including controlling overcrowding and providing better mental health and psychiatric care. The county reported it has since met 13 of those criteria leaving only psychiatric care still to work out. In a court filing the inmates' attorneys claimed they recently became aware that the county still plays a major role in the former downtown jail which it still owns. That jail now houses federal prisons through a contract with Cornell Corrections, a private company. Under that contract Cornell must provide monthly reports on jail operations to the county which include population numbers, inmate grievances and disciplinary action taken against inmates and staff. In her new ruling the judge ordered the county to provide the inmates' attorneys access to the downtown lockup. County Manager Thaddeus Lucero said the county objected at the hearing and will fight the ruling.

December 26, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Bernalillo County still doesn't have a valid contract with the private company running the Downtown jail- even though it opened 11/2 years ago. New Mexico law requires that contracts with private jail companies be approved by the state Attorney General's Office before taking effect. The office has warned Bernalillo County, in a series of letters this year and last, that it hasn't approved the contract yet and still has a few concerns. For one, state lawyers say, the contract needs to address what would happen if the county must send local inmates to the Downtown jail. Right now, that lockup handles only federal and state inmates and is operated by Houston-based Cornell Companies. County inmates are housed at a new jail on the West Mesa, where the skyrocketing population has caused overcrowded conditions. The county's intention is to create a separate agreement if it ever needs to send local inmates Downtown, but that's "not acceptable," Assistant Attorney General Zachary Shandler told the county in a letter last year. "This is the time to work out the terms of the Management Agreement," Shandler said. The state had a host of other concerns, such as making it clear in the contract that the county has "ultimate say" over the jail, not Cornell. Shandler said his last letter to the county was in February and that he hadn't received a formal response. Shandler wouldn't discuss what action the state might take if Bernalillo County never gets the contract approved. Meanwhile, the county could face legal "exposure" because of the lack of approval, he said. "The problem generally is that if something went wrong contractually with their partner or some situation occurred in the inmate population, they would not have an effective contract ... that protects the state from certain liabilities," Shandler said.

October 15, 2003
The county refused to put the jail lease out to bid. Instead, it negotiated a five-year deal after Cornell responded to a request for information.  Although Gov. Bill Richardson expressed reservations about the no-bid process, Board of Finance Director Mark Valdes said the board did not have the authority to direct Bernalillo County to put the lease out for competitive bid.  He cited changes made in state procurement law during the last legislative session.  "The board does not have the authority to not approve the lease and direct the county to do competitive bids," Valdes said.  Board members did not question the role of Cornell's hired consultants, Albuquerque attorney Edmund "Joe" Lang and former Democratic Party National Committeeman Art Trujillo.  The two originally were hired to help Cornell get the lease on the Downtown jail. Lang was to be paid $2 a day per inmate and Trujillo 25 cents a day per inmate.  They potentially stood to make more than $2 million off the deal combined.  Cornell says those agreements are no longer in effect. The company says Lang's contract is now "dramatically different" and that Trujillo is no longer working on the project.  (ABQ Journal)

October 13, 2003
A private jail operator that has been awarded a controversial no-bid contract to operate the old Bernalillo County Detention Center at one point agreed to pay two politically connected consultants big dollars to help secure the deal.  Former state Sen. Edmund "Joe" Lang and former Santa Fe Mayor and Democratic Party figure Art Trujillo had the potential to receive nearly $2.5 million combined from Cornell Companies over a five-year period— an amount that would hinge on how many inmates were housed in the jail.  Cornell says the agreements are no longer in effect.  Lang, a Corrales Democrat and former Sandoval County commissioner, stood to earn the biggest payday.  Cornell, in a memorandum of understanding dated April 15, 2002, agreed to pay Lang $2 a day per inmate for the "consulting work that you will perform in conjunction with Cornell's attempt to lease or purchase ... the Bernalillo County Jail (Downtown Jail facility)."  Cornell had a similar agreement with Trujillo, a former Bernalillo County Democratic Party chairman who at the time was conducting what turned out to be a successful campaign for his party's nomination for state Land Commissioner.  Trujillo, however, was only to be paid 25 cents a day per inmate— a potential payout of about $273,000 over five years.  Trujillo has a history of friction with County Commission Chairman Tom Rutherford. Lang and Rutherford are longtime friends and colleagues.  The memorandums to both Lang and Trujillo said payments would commence only after the "complete execution" of a valid contract between Cornell and the county. Payments would begin "after the first full quarter of a fully executed contract and be issued quarterly thereafter for the original term of the contract."  Cornell estimated the capacity of the jail at 540 inmates after renovation. The county's estimate is about 600 inmates. Assuming the jail was full, that would translate into a potential fee of $1,080 to $1,200 a day for five years with a possible five-year renewal.  Five years of operation with 600 inmates would have meant a payment in excess of $2.1 million to Lang. Those estimates are based on a jail operating at full capacity, 365 days a year.  Paul Doucette, Cornell vice president for development and public affairs, said in a telephone interview Friday that both documents are out of date.  "Neither is in effect today," he said.  Doucette said Cornell's current agreement with Lang is "dramatically different" than the one outlined in the April 2002 memorandum.  Doucette would not, however, discuss specifics.  "We consider the details of that agreement proprietary," Doucette said. "We are still in a very competitive situation on this project, as the sending of these documents to the Journal illustrates. Someone is trying to manipulate the process."  He said Lang is a "very valuable consultant who knows New Mexico very well."  Doucette said, "We are no longer working with Art Trujillo on this project."  Trujillo believes his original contract with Cornell is still valid but says he has been cut out of any negotiations between Cornell and the county.  The contracts between Cornell and the consultants have not been discussed publicly in the talks leading up to county approval of the pact with Cornell.  Cornell's contract with Bernalillo County to operate the jail still faces the hurdle of approval by the state Board of Finance, which balked at approving the pact earlier this month.  Members of the Board of Finance, which is chaired by Gov. Bill Richardson, questioned how they could be sure the county was getting the best deal, since the contract never went out to bid.  The board asked for more information and is scheduled to take up the contract again on Tuesday.  Cornell negotiated a five-year lease with the county to renovate and house inmates at the now-vacant jail. The negotiations, including talks between Lang and then-County Manager Juan Vigil, were based on Cornell's reply to a Request for Information sent to private jail contractors. Under the contract approved on a 4-1 vote by the county commission in January, Cornell would pay the county about $1 million a year the first two years of operations with a gradual increase over the next three years.  The company originally offered to pay the county $5 a day per inmate with a ceiling of $1 million a year. In addition, Cornell would spend roughly $5 million to renovate the old jail Downtown.  The county sent out the request for information in 2001. It never issued a formal request for proposals that would state what the county wanted and how the proposals would be judged.  Cornell's competitors and one county commissioner criticized that decision.  All of the county commissioners contacted by the Journal said they were unaware of the terms of the consulting contracts.  "I wouldn't know about that," Rutherford said. "I do know that he (Lang) did a lot of work on this."  Commissioner Steve Gallegos said, "Wow. I've never been a lobbyist, so I don't know what they receive. I don't know if that's high. It doesn't sound right to me."  Commissioner Michael Brasher, who has been critical of the process and was the sole vote against the lease for Cornell, questioned the arrangement.  "I think we need to have full disclosure of situations like this. The entire deal has been very curious."  Corporate spokesmen from Wackenhut Corrections Corporation and Corrections Corporation of America declined comment for this story.  Commissioner Alan Armijo said he would like to see the (Cornell-Lang) agreement.  "Without looking at it and knowing all the details, I don't know if it bothers me or not ...," he said.  Commissioner Tim Cummins said, "Sounds like he's (Lang) a partner. Whatever arrangement they do is none of my business."  Consultant agreements Doucette, Cornell's vice president for development and public affairs, confirmed that Lang currently has a contract with Cornell and that Cornell does enter into contingency agreements like the one obtained by the Journal.  "Like everything else, we factored it into our costs," Doucette said. "Our proposal to lease and remodel the jail provides an outstanding value to the county."  But he would not discuss specifics of the consultant agreements.  Lang in a telephone interview said he wouldn't comment on his contract, also saying that it was "proprietary."  Doucette confirmed that Trujillo did work for Cornell on the jail contract early in the process, although Lang said he was unaware of Trujillo's involvement in the lease.  The body of the memos from Cornell to Lang and Trujillo are almost identical except for the amount to be paid. They have the same date and are signed by the same Cornell official.  The memoranda state that they are good for six months and could be renewed.  In a telephone interview, Trujillo said his contract is still valid, but no one the Journal interviewed in county government recalled Trujillo being involved.  "I told them (Cornell) how to get this project done ... but Lang has cut me off totally," Trujillo said.  Trujillo was defeated in November by Republican Patrick Lyons in the Land Commissioner race.  Lang is registered as a legislative lobbyist for Cornell and said that work is separate from his work on the county jail lease. State law prohibits legislative lobbyists from working on a contingency fee like the one outlined in the memorandum of understanding.  "I haven't talked to any legislators on Cornell's behalf," he said.  There is no state prohibition on contingency fees for lobbying local governments on jails.  Friendship is separate Lang and Rutherford acknowledge a longtime friendship.  They attended high school together and served in the state Senate at the same time. They are both lobbyists and sometimes work for the same clients.  Both said their friendship had nothing to do with the Downtown jail lease.  Rutherford said he is also friends with the lobbyists who represent Cornell's competitors— Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut. Those two companies asked the commission to put out a request for proposals.  There is a small group of people who do lobbying, and they all know one another. I sat on the Senate committee that approved Ed Mahr (lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America) as Corrections secretary back in the 1970s. I served in the Senate and on the commission with Les Houston (lobbyist for Wackenhut Inc.) for years," Rutherford said.  "We're all friends," Lang said of his competing lobbyists.  "We (Cornell) gave the only responsive price which the county asked for in its request," Lang said. "Nobody has ever said they could beat our price."  Both men said the commissioner who pushed the jail privatization was Steve Gallegos, hoping to use the money generated by the lease to fund a psychiatric unit at the $90 million Metropolitan Detention Center on the West Side.  "This is simply a mechanism to get the psychiatric unit built at the new jail," Lang said.  That sentiment was echoed by Rutherford and Cummins, who said the building was essentially useless sitting empty.  Court and police officials have suggested using part of the facility as a Downtown holding and booking facility— an idea rejected by the county.  Gallegos said he is not a proponent of privatizing jails but believes the county had to come up with some way to build a psychiatric unit at the new jail.  "I pushed it as a public facility, and I don't believe in privately run jails," Gallegos said. "It was really out of frustration that I said let's try the private sector."  "I want that psych unit built," Gallegos said. "I know that inmates with mental health problems are abused in jail. I've had personal experience with family members with mental health problems and I know how important this unit is."  "What it really came down to was Cornell put numbers up and the others didn't," Gallegos said. "Why didn't the others? Are they serious or not?  "Later, the other guys come back and say we're playing an unfair game. But I think Cornell played it straight with us."  Gallegos said, "The problem in this state is that everyone's connected. Les Houston worked for Wackenhut. I know Ed Mahr with CCA very well. He's a friend. I've known Tom Rutherford for years and years. I don't know Joe Lang that well." How it all started  The county put out its request for information on renovating and privatizing the Downtown jail in October 2001.  At that time, commissioners expected the jail to be empty by the following summer when the new West Side jail was supposed to open. The idea was criticized by the union representing officers at the jail and seemed to die.  In January 2002, Gallegos began pushing the idea of the county running the Downtown jail as a facility to hold federal inmates. Any profits would go to building a psychiatric unit at the new jail.  Negotiations with the U.S. Marshals Service hit a stumbling block when federal officials said they could not guarantee a fixed number of inmates because that would violate federal policy. In April 2002, Cornell inked separate memorandums of understanding with Lang and Trujillo to act as consultants on securing a lease or purchase of the Downtown jail.  Talks between the county and the Marshals Service for federal funds to renovate the old jail broke down when the county failed to meet a key deadline for filing paperwork for federal renovation funds.  In the fall of 2002, the commission resurrected its discussion of a private jail operation.  The county had received general letters of interest from Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of America.  Cornell was more specific. It gave the county a quote of $5 a day per inmate, with a ceiling of $1 million a year.  In January 2003, County Attorney Tito Chavez told commissioners they could negotiate a lease with Cornell because of its response. He advised that the county was not required to put out a Request for Proposals— citing a specific state law that allows local governments to negotiate jail agreements based on a simple request for information.  At the end of November 2002, the commission authorized Vigil to negotiate with Cornell.  The decision was unanimous. Then-Commissioner Les Houston, whose term expired in December, urged the county to put out a Request for Proposals but recused himself from voting because he represented Wackenhut.  "We felt there was a time crunch which in hindsight, because of the delay in opening the new jail, wasn't valid," said Cummins, who was chairman at the time.  "But at the time there was some feeling of urgency."  In January 2003, the commission approved a lease with Cornell for the old jail. The lease was amended in June 2003, when Cornell agreed to pay for the renovations.  There have been some technical changes in the lease after it was reviewed by the Board of Finance. Board members have asked the county for figures from similar types of jail deals.  "Comparisons from jail to jail are difficult," Brasher said. "That's the argument for going out to a Request for Proposals. That's how you find out what the value of that jail Downtown really is."  Rutherford said, "The Board of Finance is doing their duty to review this carefully."  (ABQ Journal)

June 11, 2003
Bernalillo County commissioners on Tuesday approved plans for a private company to renovate the Downtown jail and house federal inmates there. The commission voted 4-1 in favor of revising its lease agreement with Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. The earlier agreement had called for the federal government to pay for renovations. Under the new proposal, Cornell would pay for the renovations, which are expected to cost $5 million. The proposal still must go before the state Board of Finance. The approval came despite objections by Corrections Corporation of America, which said the county should allow other companies to compete for the jail. "Why not open it up and get the best deal you can?" asked Frank C. Salazar, an attorney for CCA.  (ABQ Journal)

June 11, 2003
When Bernalillo County signed a contract with Cornell Cos. in January to lease the City-County Jail building, it was riding on the hope the federal government would come up with a big chunk of the nearly $4 million needed to renovate the lockup.  That hope was a dim one, said the head of the U.S. Marshal's Service in Albuquerque.  The county was counting on getting a Marshal's Service grant to repair the Downtown jail and meet a major condition of its contract with Cornell, a private corrections company, county Public Safety Director John Dantis said Thursday.  However, the county missed its chance to receive a $3 million grant when the money was made available last year, said Gordon Eden, U.S. marshal for New Mexico.  "There is no extra money now," he said. "It could be several years until the Marshal's Service will be able to provide them with money for renovations."  Each year the Marshal's Service allocates grants to government agencies to upgrade jails to meet the agency's standards. Cornell would be contracting with government agencies to house federal prisoners in the jail.  The grant appropriation has been steeply declining over the past three years, Eden said. The amount available nationwide was $35 million in fiscal year 2001, $20 million in 2002 and $5 million in 2003, he said.  Now, the county and Cornell are in negotiations to figure out who will pay for the jail repairs.  A Cornell spokesman said the Houston company is willing to pay for the renovation but declined to comment on what it expects in return.  In June 2002, the county was made aware it would not receive the $3 million Marshal's Service grant because it had missed a May deadline to turn in paperwork, Eden said.  Dantis said the county had asked for an extension before the deadline in order for the County Commission to approve grant changes made by the Marshal's Service, but it was denied.  "When the Marshal's Service deemed the county unresponsive, they allocated that money to other government agencies who needed the money," Eden said.  The county contract with Cornell in January states the county would "use its best efforts" to secure a Marshal's Service grant.  "How can you obligate federal funds you don't have?" Eden said Thursday in reference to the contract.  County officials said at that time they were planning to apply for the Marshal's Service grant again.  In April, the county asked the Marshal's Service for funding, but it is not depending on that money, Dantis said.  "We're looking at a number of options to fund the renovations," he said.
Under the contract, the county is responsible for electrical, plumbing, security and roof repairs and several other categories of renovations to the building.  The county has not looked into paying for the repairs using its own money, Dantis said, and referred inquiries to county financial officials.  County Manager Juan Vigil was out of town Thursday, a spokeswoman for the county said, and could not be reached for comment.  Under the terms of the contract, Cornell would pay $888,888 in rent during the first two years of the lease, with rent increasing to $1.2 million in the third year.  The county planned to use the revenue from the Cornell lease to add a mental health facility to the new Metropolitan Detention Center, a 2,100-bed facility on the West Side that is now in the process of being filled with inmates from the county's three jails.  Repairs to the Downtown jail cannot begin until the county moves all its inmates to the new lockup. The $86 million building became ready for occupancy two weeks ago, a year behind schedule.  Cornell spokesman David Monroe said his company needs to wait until the old jail is vacant and the renovations are complete before it can house its inmates. The company doesn't have a scheduled move-in date for inmates, he said.  "The county has taken a bit longer than we anticipated," Monroe said. "We want to do it as soon as possible but with the appropriate parameters."  Cornell already has signed contracts with government agencies to house inmates in the Albuquerque jail, Monroe said. He declined to give any details on those contracts.  Cornell's system includes about 70 detention facilities nationwide.  County Commissioner Michael Brasher said the county might have to solicit companies that want to use the Downtown jail and could get it up and running.  "If Cornell can't come up with the money," he said, "Maybe they (county officials) can find someone who can pay for the renovations."  (Albuquerque Journal)

January 15, 2003
Bernalillo County commissioners approved a proposal to rent the Downtown jail to a private corrections company Tuesday — despite a potential snag over funding for renovations.  Both the county and Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. can terminate the lease agreement if funding for the jail renovations doesn't come through.  As part of the proposal, federal inmates could end up at the Downtown jail. Commissioners directed county officials to try to work out agreements with the U.S. Marshals Service.  Commission Chairman Tom Rutherford said the lease is important because it will put the Downtown jail to "beneficial use" after inmates there are moved to the new Metropolitan Detention Center. The moving date is uncertain.  But Gorden Eden, U.S. marshal for the district of New Mexico, told the commission that federal money for the jail renovations isn't available now. He said he would work with the county to get funding but couldn't promise the money for renovations.  (ABQ Journal)

January 14, 2003
Two former city councilors set to join the County Commission today will have a chance to make a historic decision — whether to rent the Downtown jail to a private corrections company.  The proposed lease agreement would make the jail — for the first time — a privately run detention center.  As part of the proposal, the county would try to work out an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal inmates there.  There are no plans to house city and county inmates there. The Downtown jail would be vacant after local inmates are moved to a new lockup on the West Mesa.  Bernalillo County didn't seek formal bids from companies interested in the project. Instead, officials began negotiating with Cornell after issuing a request-for-information.  (ABQ Journal)

November 27, 2002
Bernalillo County commissioners on Tuesday authorized further negotiations with a private company interested in running the Downtown jail as a holding center for federal inmates.  The commission's 4-0 vote allows County Manager Juan Vigil to continue negotiating a lease agreement with Cornell Companies Inc.  The county also will try to work out an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service.  Anthony Marquez, president of the jail employees' union, spoke against bringing in a private company.  The country would have more oversight if it hired its own employees to run the Downtown jail, he said.  Private companies "are there to make a buck," Marquez said.  (ABQ journal)

October 9, 2001
Bernalillo County commissioners today are scheduled to consider taking the first step toward transforming the Downtown jail into a holding center for federal inmates.  The proposal, sponsored by Commission Chairman Steve Gallegos, would authorize the county to submit an application to the U.S. Marshals Service to launch the program and remodel the jail to meet federal standards.  Commissioner Les Houston said he is "philosophically opposed" to having Bernalillo County run a federal holding center. The county soon will be busy enough operating the 2,100-bed Metropolitan Detention Center under construction on the West Side, he said.  Houston suggests the county either lease the old jail or sell it.  "If we are going to operate a jail for profit ... then it should be operated by professionals, such as one of the national private operators," Houston said.  But Gallegos, who opposes having a private company run the holding center, said Houston should excuse himself from discussion of the application. Houston is a registered lobbyist for Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.  (Albuquerque Journal)

Camp Sierra Blanca
Ruidoso, New Mexico
CiviGenics (formerly run by AMI)

December 11, 2008 Ruidoso News
A switch to community-based programs for young offenders in New Mexico and a decision by the Camp Sierra Blanca program management company to exit the juvenile sector leave the future of the camp northeast of Ruidoso in doubt. Community Education Centers officials last month confirmed the company that operates the CSB program would not renew its contract with the state Children, Youth and Families Department, because the company planned to terminate its juvenile operations. Kevin Duckworth, CEC Mountain Region Director, said Thursday the company will end its operations on Jan. 31, by mutual agreement. The camp staff was notified and relocation opportunities were offered to other CEC facilities where possible, he said. Last month, a spokesman for CYF indicated the company would stay on until June 30, the end date of the current contract. At that time, Bob Tafoya said CYFD officials were considering options for the best and highest use of the camp, which over the past few years was updated with modular living units and a renovated cafeteria. Romaine Serna, public information officer with the CYFD, said Thursday discussions continue on the future of the camp that over several decades evolved from a minimal security work prison for adult male offenders, to adult women and then for juveniles.

February 15, 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Five teenage boys who walked away from a juvenile jail Monday were taken into custody Tuesday morning, but questions remain about why the facility near Ruidoso has had two breakouts in two months. The teens, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were at Camp Sierra Blanca as part of their paroles and probations. They were picked up by State Police and Lincoln County Sheriff's officers about nine miles from the camp on Highway 380, near Capitan. "We're very concerned," said Deborah Martinez, spokeswoman for the Children, Youth and Families Department, which oversees the camp. "We want to understand what is going on that's causing these boys to walk away, and prevent it from happening again," she said. A spokesman for CiviGenics, the Boston company that has run the fenceless, rural facility since June, said jail security depends on the staff's vigilance and their ability to maintain relationships with the inmates. "The opportunity to run is so great," said George Vose, vice president of CiviGenics.

August 11, 2005 KVIA
The state Children, Youth and Families Department has paid 212-thousand-500 dollars to settle a dispute with a company that had run Camp Sierra Blanca. The Albuquerque Journal reports today that the money has been paid to Florida-based Associated Marine Institutes. In exchange for the payment, A-M-I has agreed to withdraw a protest it filed after it lost the contract to operate Camp Sierra Blanca. The Children, Youth and Families Department initially had refused to reveal the amount of the payment. The state earlier this summer transferred the operation of Camp Sierra Blanca to a for-profit Boston company, CiviGenics. A-M-I lost the contract to run the juvenile detention facility because of a technical error on its bid.

May 24, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Officials from Associated Marine Institutes, the Florida organization that operates a juvenile detention camp near Ruidoso, say they'll fight the state's decision to turn the center over to a new contractor. Last Friday, an attorney for AMI presented the Children, Youth and Families Department with a notice of protest over the bidding process that began in April. AMI has run Camp Sierra Blanca since its inception in 1997. The rural, farm-like camp has been praised by politicians, judges and children's advocates for its success in rehabilitating teenage boys. Officials from the Children, Youth and Families Department say they have entered into budget negotiations with CiviGenics of Boston, the only other company that made a bid to run the camp. The protest alleges that AMI's contract proposal was disqualified because budget information was put in an appendix of the proposal instead of in the body of the document— something AMI officials say they were told was acceptable.
The protest contends that CYFD restricted AMI's oral presentation during the final stage of the procurement process. CYFD also failed to select a proposal evaluation committee that met procurement standards, according to the document.

May 13, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Supporters of Camp Sierra Blanca, a juvenile detention center near Ruidoso, are questioning the state's decision to disqualify a contract bid from its operator on what they consider to be a technicality. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; state Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces; and U.S. District Judge William "Chip" Johnson say the state's decision could be a result of the conflict that arose last summer when the Children, Youth and Families Department tried to close the facility.  Some Lincoln County residents have established an "advocacy support fund" to save Camp Sierra Blanca and its current contractors, American Marine Institute, said Harvey Twite of radio station KEDU. The station is spearheading the effort. Under AMI's management, Camp Sierra Blanca has reported a 90 percent success rate in rehabilitating delinquent boys. AMI, a nonprofit company based in Florida, has managed the camp since its opening in 1997. A letter sent from CYFD to AMI officials on May 6 said the disqualification was because of AMI's failure to provide required information. Camp officials claim data from two columns was put in an appendix, which they contend CYFD approved. CYFD is currently negotiating with CiviGenics to run the camp. CiviGenics, a for-profit correctional company from Boston, was the only other firm to submit a bid.

May 11, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
After a long fight to keep a juvenile detention facility near Ruidoso open, the organization that has run the center has been informed it is out of a job. Officials from Associated Marine Institutes, Inc., which has managed Camp Sierra Blanca since its inception in 1997, say state officials didn't play fair when they awarded a new contract to CiviGenics, a for-profit correctional company from Boston. AMI officials said they are considering challenging the decision. The state's current contract with AMI, a nonprofit company based in Florida, expires June 30. In a news release Monday, CYFD said it was entering into contract negotiations with CiviGenics, the only other organization to submit a proposal. CiviGenics operates adult prisons in 14 states and juvenile facilities in four. "The process has saddened me," said state District Judge Karen Parsons, a Camp Sierra Blanca board member. "If we were being dealt with in good faith, they should have told us there was a technical problem (with the proposal). But the outcome was predictable in light of the way (CYFD) Secretary (Mary-Dale) Bolson has treated AMI." Tensions began building last summer when CYFD announced the camp would close in an effort to incarcerate fewer juveniles and rehabilitate them in their communities. An outcry from the residents of Lincoln County and supporters of the juvenile justice system prompted Gov. Bill Richardson to halt the closure.  Supporters pointed to a 90 percent success rate and heavy community support as reasons to keep the low-security facility open.

Camino Nuevo Women's Prison
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Formerly run by Corrections Corporation of America

February 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
A federal jury Thursday ordered over $3 million in damages to three former inmates raped by a prison guard at Camino Nuevo Women’s Correctional Facility in 2007. The intertwined state and federal claims, coupled with questions about who must pay the compensatory and punitive damages, however, are certain to engender more litigation – probably from both sides. Jurors heard over a week of testimony before U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson before they were charged with rendering a verdict late Wednesday. It took the jury a day to work through the 10-page verdict form with over 30 questions relating to victims Heather Spurlock, Nina Carrera and Sophia Carrasco, and two sets of defendants. They included former guard Anthony Townes, who is serving a 16-year state prison sentence for criminal sexual penetration and false imprisonment, his then-employer Corrections Corporation of America and Barbara Wagner, the warden of Camino Nuevo at the time. The court had ruled before trial that Townes was liable for violating the constitutional rights of the inmates to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. But he left it to the jury to decide if CCA and Wagner were liable for negligent supervision – the jury said yes – and whether they also had violated the inmates’ rights by discouraging inmate complaints – the jury said no. Jurors awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages each to Spurlock and Carrera, and $125,000 to Carrasco. They ordered CCA to pay $5,000 in punitive damages to Spurlock and $50,000 in punitive damages to Carrasco.

February 16, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
A federal jury on Thursday returned a verdict awarding compensatory damages of $100,000 to two victims and $125,000 to a third raped by former Corrections Corporation of America officer Anthony Townes, now serving a 16-year prison sentence for the criminal sexual penetration of four women. The jury also awarded each plaintiff in the lawsuit $1 million in punitive damages against Townes — awards are certain to face additional litigation. The jury found CCA and Barbara Wagner, the then-warden at the Camino Nuevo Women’s Correctional Facility, had not violated the constitutional rights of the women but ordered some punitive damages against them based on other conduct. The rapes occurred while the women were inmates at the facility in 2007.

February 9, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
Victims of sexual assault by a corrections officer at an Albuquerque contract prison facility for women told a jury Wednesday that they didn’t report the incidents because they didn’t think they would be believed. They also said they thought making waves would inevitably bring retaliation in the form of lost good time, recreational time or tossed prison cells. Heather Spurlock, 39, now working as a medical receptionist, and Sophia Carrasco, 47, who cleans rooms at a resort hotel, were inmates at the Corrections Corporation of America-run Camino Nuevo facility in 2007. In a situation where it was an inmate’s word against a corrections officer, they said they were confident they would come out on the losing end. Camino Nuevo, they said, was run with intense discipline, little tolerance and few rehabilitative programs, even though it was presumably a minimum-security lockup and a halfway step on their way to release from incarceration. Both said the women’s prison at Grants had been congenial and supportive, in contrast to Camino Nuevo, where they spent hours picking up rocks and demolishing “anything green” during outdoor work details and frequent periods of lockdown in their cells. The sexual assaults by Anthony Townes occurred over a six-month period to Spurlock and once in the early morning hours to Carrasco. Townes is serving an 18-year criminal sentence for his state conviction in Bernalillo County for the rapes of four female inmates, three of whom are involved in the civil lawsuit against him, CCA and its then-warden. The trial began Monday in Albuquerque before U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson.

February 8, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
A female inmate raped by a prison guard in 2007 testified Tuesday about conditions at the newly opened Camino Nuevo facility in Albuquerque where she had been moved from the women’s prison in Grants. Heather Spurlock Jackson, 39, was the first witness at the civil trial in U.S. District Court brought against the guard, Anthony Townes, now serving an 18-year prison sentence for raping her and three other women. Other defendants are the prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, and then-warden Barbara Wagner. Spurlock, Sophia Carrasco and Nina Carrera allege federal civil rights violations because they say inmate complaints were discouraged. They also contend that CCA and Wagner were negligent in hiring and in supervision of the contract facility. Spurlock described a setting that was harsher and less organized than the women’s facility in Grants where she had spent the previous five years without write-ups. She said Grants was strict but that it had programs — she had earned two associate’s degrees through a distance learning program while there — and staff who recognized the humanity of the residents. Spurlock and the other 200 or so inmates moved to Camino Nuevo hadn’t volunteered for the transfer but seemed to have been picked at random, she said. They were loaded onto buses and taken to the old Bernalillo County jail in Downtown Albuquerque because Camino Nuevo wasn’t ready. They stayed there for three months before being taken to the new facility, which still seemed unready to receive them. There were no programs, no handbook and only a minimal briefing before the women were locked down in their cells. Spurlock will testify starting today about the rape, but her attorney, Nicole Moss, said Townes “raped, stalked, threatened and terrorized” inmates at the facility and that his behavior went unchecked without anyone intervening. U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson already has determined liability for Townes. The question for the jury of eight will be the amount of damages attributable to him and whether and how much damages the company and the warden should be responsible for. Daniel P. Struck, a Phoenix lawyer defending CCA and Wagner, told the jury in his opening statement that the women had numerous opportunities to report the sexual assaults but did not, including through a tip line that went to the state Corrections Department. “It wasn’t fear (of retribution) that kept them from reporting,” he said. Spurlock, serving a 16-year term for embezzling $16,000 from a nonprofit, was involved in a voluntary relationship with Townes, he said, and there was an effort to conceal it.

October 11, 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Onetime prison guard Anthony Townes is now about two years into an 18-year state prison sentence after he admitted raping four women at Camino Nuevo Women’s Correctional Facility in 2007. The civil lawsuit filed by some of the women, however, still is months away from being resolved. Trial in the 2009 case filed by Heather Spurlock and two other former inmates at the detention facility was to have begun this month. Several postponements were requested by the defendants including Townes, former warden Barbara Wagner and the Corrections Corporation of America, the private contractor that operated the prison at the time. Camino Nuevo in 2007 was run as an adult prison and was taking overflow from the women’s prison in Grants. It is now a juvenile detention center operated by the state Children, Youth and Families Department. A primary reason for the latest trial delay was the late disclosure of two additional women who claimed sexual abuse by Townes but who are not involved in the civil lawsuit. The defense said it needed more time to interview those witnesses before trial. Attorneys for the victims said their anticipated testimony about “the traumatic, invasive and highly personal experience of sexual assault” is only made worse by having to repeatedly prepare for trial. CCA was well aware of the additional sexual assault victims, anyway, they said. U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson, who has now set a firm trial date of Feb. 6, previously ruled Townes civilly liable for the rapes. He has dismissed some claims against CCA. Among questions for the jury will be whether Townes’ assaults can be legally charged to CCA negligence or deliberate indifference in operating the facility, principally over what the victims contend was a custom of discouraging inmate complaints against staff. The women’s lawyers will try to give the jury a picture of what happened during the incidents, as well as the context in which each assault took place and how CCA responded. Plaintiffs’ expert Manuel D. Romero said in a report he believes CCA “did not provide a safe and secure living environment for (women) in the Camino Nuevo facility.” He said the fact that “such horrific crimes” could be undetected for several months shows there are “systemic failures within the facility.” He said in a report there was a “clear lack of accountability over Mr. Townes and his movement within the prison.” Plaintiffs’ attorneys may also seek to place Townes’ assaults in the broader context of underreporting of prison problems. Documents in the court file include excerpts from testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 2008 about a former CCA manager-turned-whistleblower who said the company maintained dual sets of quality assurance reports. The versions sent to government contracting agencies reportedly failed to include “zero tolerance” events including riots, escapes, unnatural deaths and sexual assaults at company-run facilities. CCA has said in court documents that it put Townes on leave and required him to surrender his badge.

November 20, 2009 KRQE
A judge sentenced a former correction officer who raped four female inmates to 18 years in prison after emotional pleas from his victims. "I knew him as a monster, a liar a man who thought because of his position he was wanted by all but could do as he pleased," one of the victims said. Anthony Townes pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and false imprisonment. The rapes occurred between January and August of 2007 at Camino Nuevo, which is a privately run lockup for female state prison inmates. Despite the guilty plea, Townes denies hit committed the crimes. He told the judge Friday that the only reason he pleaded guilty was to avoid a longer prison term. He said the women are lying. "There is no fear factor. I would never threaten anyone else's kids. I have a grandmother, mother a girlfriend, a sister and 4-year-old daughter, so therefore I would not do that to any woman because no woman deserves that," Townes said. Townes faced 36 years in prison if he was convicted by a jury.

October 12, 2007 The Review
A former Alliance man who is accused of sexually assaulting inmates at the women's prison that employed him may be facing life in prison. Bond was set at $500,000, cash only, by Bernalillo County Judge Sandra Engle for Anthony Shay Townes, 33, of Albuquerque, N.M. Townes, a member of Alliance High School's 1993 graduating class and a football standout for the Aviators during his senior year, is charged with four counts of criminal sexual penetration, a second degree felony; four counts of sexual contact, a fourth-degree felony; and four counts of kidnapping. According to Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department Detective Lorraine Montoya, Townes faces up to 33 years in prison (or life) on each second-degree felony charge. According to the affidavit submitted by investigators, Townes is accused of raping and sexually assaulting four female inmates at the Camino Nuevo Correctional Center, a private minimum security prison where he was employed between February and August. Montoya said investigators are still awaiting tests on DNA evidence that would link Townes to the attacks in this ongoing investigation. Victims testified that Townes snuck inmates out of their pods at night and out of view of security cameras to avoid detection by his supervisors.

October 11, 2007 Albuquerque Journal
Before Anthony Townes started working at Nuevo Camino in July 2006, he went through a school offered by the Corrections Corporation of America, according to the company's Web site. He was also trained on where all of the cameras were positioned. Three CCA prisons are accredited by the American Correctional Association. Camino Nuevo had yet to receive its accreditation. The prison is supposed to go through an ACA audit next month. ACA officials told the Journal on Wednesday that there are no standards regulating where cameras should be placed and how much of a prison should be monitored. CCA's spokesman Steve Owen said his company would wait to review camera placement after the sheriff's office finished its investigation. But "I don't think there is a correctional facility in the country that has every area of a prison covered by a camera," he said. "Cameras are one of many things you utilize to maintain safety and security in a facility."

October 10, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
A male prison guard is in jail on charges he raped four female inmates in the privately run Camino Nuevo women's prison in Albuquerque. Corrections Officer Anthony Shay Townes, 33, was arrested Tuesday by Bernalillo County sheriff's investigators. According to a criminal complaint: A teacher working in the women's prison in early August overheard a conversation between inmates about one of them having DNA evidence to prove some sort of relationship. With more digging, the teacher and her supervisors learned the inmate was discussing having had a sexual encounter with a corrections officer. One of the inmates told the supervisor that the corrections officer was Townes. Townes was immediately placed in a position without inmate contact, then placed on leave a day later. He is currently on unpaid leave, prison officials said. Townes is at the Metropolitan Detention Center with bail set at $500,000 cash-only. Sheriff's deputies were called to the prison on 4050 Edith Blvd. N.E., the former maximum security juvenile facility, on Aug. 14 to start an investigation into the allegations. On Aug. 18, they were called back again, this time because another inmate told supervisors that Townes had raped her earlier that week. Two more inmates also told investigators Townes had attacked them. Their similar reports to detectives include being taken to an area in the facility out of view of cameras and being assaulted by Townes. One inmate said she was attacked several times beginning in February. Another inmate reported being taken out of her cell at 2:30 a.m., an unusual time to leave her cell but ". . . when a C.O. tells you to do something, you just do it," she told detectives, according to the complaint. That woman told detectives she saw Townes sneaking other women out of their cells at night. Prison spokesman Steve Owen said Townes was hired in October 2006, shortly after the prison opened. Owen said that as the first of the allegations surfaced against Townes, he was immediately placed on leave and authorities were immediately notified.

Central New Mexico CF
Los Lunas, New Mexico
Aramark

July 31, 2012 KOB News 4
There has been a lot of bad press around correctional facilities in New Mexico over the last six weeks. But Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said it is all part of a culture change. Two employees of food vendor Aramark have been arrested over the last six weeks for smuggling contraband into prisons. Candace Holmes was arrested for smuggling drugs into a correctional facility in Las Cruces in June. Then on Sunday, Mel Baca admitted to smuggling food into the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. A fellow food vendor suspected Baca of the smuggling and reported it. Baca admitted to the crime during an interview with the prison officers, but that just started his contraband list. Officers searched Baca's lunch box and found a cell phone, something Secretary Marcantel called a "serious violation." Then officers searched his car, finding alcohol, prescription drugs and "about a 12-inch long knife," Marcantel said. The officers were not sure whether Baca planned on smuggling those into the prison, but the fact he had them in his car is a criminal violation. Baca was arrested for a fourth-degree felony of smuggling contraband into a correctional facility.

Cibola County Correctional Center
Cibola, New Mexico
CCA
28 Mar 2013 krqe.com

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Inmates at the privately run federal lockup in Cibola County have ended several hours of protesting. Several hundred prisoners refused to leave the recreation yard at the Cibola County Correction Center in Milan Wednesday. It ended peacefully around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. No one's saying what it was all about. The center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, holds prisoners awaiting trial on federal charges.


03/27/2013 kob.com

About 250 inmates at the private Cibola County Correctional Center were reportedly being "non-compliant" to guard’s orders and gathered in the prison’s recreation yard for several hours Wednesday. The Cibola County undersheriff tells KOB the inmates are "being peaceful." The unrest began at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and was continuing at least through 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Law enforcement called to set up outside the scene include New Mexico State Police, Grants Police, Milan Police and the Cibola County Sheriff’s Department, as well as guards from other prisons. The Cibola County Correctional Center is all-male, minimum-security facility with 1129 beds run by the Corrections Corporation of America. KOB has a crew on the way – stay with us for details.

ec 30, 2012 cibolabeacon.com
CIBOLA COUNTY – A three-year tax dispute was settled in less than 10 hours, according to Cibola County Commission Chairman Eddie Michael. Recently, Chairman Michael, along with an attorney for Risk Management, met with representatives from the Correction Corporations of America (CCA) in Albuquerque to settle a three-year-old property tax dispute. CCA is contracted to manage the Cibola County Corrections Center in Milan and the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The Milan men’s prison has nearly 1,500 inmates while the Grants women’s prison has slightly more than 500. Apparently, CCA was disputing the amount they have been charged in property taxes since 2010. Their property tax had gone from a taxable value of $52 million in 2009 to $78 million in 2011, Michael said to the Beacon last week. CCA was disputing their taxable value for 2010, 2011 and 2012. “In today’s economy, I don’t know how property tax can be raised so high,” Michael said in regard to the hike. He did note that in 2010, the state had mandated the county to raise property taxes 15 percent because they hadn’t raised taxes in several years. “Besides that, I don’t understand why there would be such a big increase,” Michael said. After eight hours of negotiations, Michael and CCA, in a handwritten agreement, settled on a taxable value increase of $2.4 million, from $52 million to $54.4 million, for the Milan prison, and, from just more than $26 million to $28 million for the Grants prison. “Ultimately, CCA and the county felt $54 and $28 million were fair,” Michael explained. “I asked the rest of the commissioners, in closed session on Dec. 12, for approval on the deal. On Monday, Dec. 17, they voted unanimously to support it. Following the settlement, the county will receive $2.7 million in tax revenue from CCA for years 2010, 2011 and 2012. “This will hike our cash reserves to approximately $8 million,” said Michael. “We had been working on this for two years. We finally got the chance to sit down and get the deal done, and now we move on. “It was my job to work the deal, ultimately, it is the commissioners’ decision to support it or not. Thankfully they did.” According to Michael, as of late last week, the deal was still based on the handwritten agreement. However, Michael said he expected everything to become official by the end of this week. The Beacon was unable to reach CCA officials for comment yesterday because their corporate offices are closed on weekends.

September 19, 2007 AP
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a private prison company is not entitled to a refund of taxes for operating prisons that house inmates for the state and federal governments. Corrections Corporation of America had sought a refund of state gross receipts taxes, claiming it was allowed a deduction for the leasing of its prisons under agreements with the Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The Court of Appeals concluded Tuesday there was no lease of real property. "The fact that CCA had the right to fill up any extra space with inmates from other jurisdictions coupled with the governmental entities' paying based on the number of inmates housed, makes these agreements look more like those between 'hotels, motels, rooming houses, and other facilities' and 'lodgers or occupants' than leases for real property," the court said in an opinion written by Judge Michael Bustamante. The company built and owns prisons used by the state and other governments: the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, the Cibola County Correctional Center near Milan and the Torrance County Detention Facility at Estancia. In 2002, the company filed for a refund of nearly $2.5 million for taxes from January 1999 to October 2002. A state district court in Santa Fe ruled against the company in 2005.

September 18, 2007 AP
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a private prison company isn't entitled to a refund of taxes for operating prisons that house inmates for the state and federal governments. Corrections Corporation of America had sought a refund of state gross receipts taxes. The company claimed a deduction for the leasing of its prisons under agreements with the Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The court ruled today that there was no lease of real property. In 2002, the company filed for a refund of nearly $2.5 million for taxes from January 1999 to October 2002. In its appeal, the company dropped some claims but didn't specify the amount of refund it was seeking. CCA operates a prison at Grants that houses state female inmates. It also has a prison in Torrance County and contracts with the Bureau of Prisons to hold federal inmates near Milan in Cibola County.

August 30, 2007 Cibola Beacon
The Beacon recently received several calls from residents concerned about the safety of the community because of the staff shortage in the areas prisons. All three prisons, Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, Cibola County Corrections Center (AKA Four C's) in Milan and the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility, also in Grants, are currently in need of correctional officers. Four C's in Milan is the most needful of officers. Currently, it is 38 officers short. The facility has a total of 159 CO positions, therefore it is now understaffed by 24 percent. “First, there is absolutely no risk to be concerned about,” Warden Walt Wells said on Wednesday. “We continually analyze the staff to be sure we have the adequate staff to protect our inmates, employees and the community. We'll never let it fall to the level to where there is a risk.” According to Warden Allan Cooper at the Grants women's facility, Americans Corrections Association says the ratio of inmate to corrections officer should be about 580 inmates to 76 staff, about 65 of the latter being correctional officers. “The public will never be at risk,” said Cooper. Cooper's Administrative Assistant, Lisa Riley, said they have to fill all the posts no matter what. “If it costs us lots of overtime, that doesn't matter,” Riley said. “We have our requirements that have to met by the state.”

July 4, 2006 Cibola Beacon
Cibola County Undersheriff Johnny Valdez announced Friday that marijuana was recently found at two local prisons. CCSO Deputy Mike Oelcher and Deputy Dog Ashe found a small amount of marijuana in an inmate’s bunk at the Cibola County Detention Center and behind a pay phone typically used by inmates in the common area of a pod last Tuesday. Burnt residue weighing .2 grams found in an inmate’s bunk will not result in charges, he explained. Even the district attorney did not want to press charges even though bringing drugs into a prison, regardless of amount is a third-degree felony, according to CCSO officials. No one will be charged for the marijuana found behind the pay phone either. “It’s a common area and they can’t charge any one with it,” said Undersheriff Valdez. CCSO arrested Corrections Corporation of American Women’s Correctional Facility inmate Stephanie de Santiago, 22, of Roswell, for possession of marijuana at the facility a week ago Monday. The drug was found during a routine search of the inmate after she spent time with a visitor. The marijuana tested positive with a test kit at the prison, which allows probable cause for the arrest, said CCSO spokesman Lt. Harry Hall. Lt. Hall said the street value for the marijuana is not known at this time, but the district attorney’s office will prosecute Santiago and possible charges are pending against the visitor who brought the drug into the facility.

February 29, 2004
Some families of inmates housed in the Cibola County Detention Center are upset at the fees being charged to prisoners.  There is a $10 booking fee, a $5 release fee and various fees for medical costs.  The Grants Police Department is upset about these fees as well, when they apply to city prisoners being booked at the county jail. "We're being charged a daily rate of $57 per inmate housed by the county and yet they still charge the inmates a fee as well," said Chief Marty Vigil.  Cibola County Detention Center Administrator, John Gould sees it as part of doing business. "We figure it costs about $70-$75 a day per prisoner. And it's not like we charge them $15 a day. It's a one time administrative cost whether they're in jail for one day or 300 days."  When asked if the daily cost of housing prisoners was $70, then why was the City only charged $57, Gould replied that it was to "give the City a break."  Gould said, "why should citizens who haven't committed any crimes pay for those who commit them? These people think nothing of peddling drugs near our children's schools. They are not bothered by burglarizing an honest person's home and stealing their hard earned possessions. But, when the county chooses to establish a fee for being booked in the detention center, these people call out to the honest and hardworking citizens of Cibola County, their victims, because they do not think they should be made to pay for a small portion of their incarceration. They feel that the community they victimized owes them."  Last fall, the commission voted to approve charging inmates these fees.  (Cibola Beacon)

February 12, 2003
Cibola County residents and doctors are opposing the County Commission 's efforts to sell the county hospital. Acting County Manager David Ulibarri said Tuesday the possible sale of the hospital and construction of a county jail are not linked. He said gross receipts taxes have been dedicated to pay off the jail. The county currently contracts with a private company, Corrections Corporation of America , for prisoner space, but wants to build its own jail to slice the cost, Ulibarri said. The county built the current CCA-run jail about 1994, intending to house not only the 40 inmates the county averaged then, but also to house state prisoners for a fee. However, the Johnson administration later removed state prisoners from Cibola County . CCA then came in with an offer for the jail, which it expanded to house federal prisoners, Ulibarri said. In the years since, he said, the cost of housing county prisoners with CCA has risen along with the average number of county inmates - now about 80 a month. Inmate care now runs about $1.3 million a year, Ulibarri said. The county wants to build a jail because "we can find ways to cut our own costs, we can control our own destiny," he said. (AP)

July 5, 2002
A teacher at Cibola County Corrections Center has been charged with criminal sexual penetration for allegedly having sex with an inmate in a prison office.  Ortega, who taught federal inmates at the privately run center was having sex with an inmate May 20 when the prison's chief of security walked in on the couple, court documents said.  The prison houses foreign nationals from Mexico and south America who entered the country illegally and committed nonviolent crimes.  The prison is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America.  (The Associated Press)

December 14, 2001
A government watchdog group is satisfied with an agreement by judges in Cibola County to ensure future court hearings in the county are open to the public.   Robert Johnson, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, wrote state District Judge Louis McDonald after the public was kept out of a hearing in the Cibola County Corrections Center in August. McDonald said it was never a matter of not wanting the public to attend the hearing, but rather an issue with the location of the hearing in the private prison. (AP)

August 3, 2001
An Albuquerque man charged with murder after being accused of running down a state police officer had initial court appearance Thursday out of public view behind the gates of a private prison.  Cibola County Magistrate Jackie Fisher held the initial appearance before noon for Zacharia Craig, 19, at the Cibola County Corrections Center, where such proceedings have been held over the past year because of a crowded courtroom in Grants, six miles away.  The appearances for Craig, his brother Aron Craig and other prisoners Thursday were closed.  The prison says it requires 24 hours' notice to screen visitors for security reasons.  News media who sought access learned about the hearing Thursday morning.  The procedure was questioned by Albuquerque attorney Marty Esquivel, who handles open records and open meetings issues.  "Regardless of where the courtroom activity takes place, there is traditionally a right of access to this type of criminal proceeding and it must be observed," he said.  "Preventing access to judicial proceedings in jail raises a red flag for First Amendment concerns as well as issues regarding the defendant's right to a fair trial," Esquivel said.  The magistrate court and the correctional center entered into an agreement about a year ago to hold initial appearances in the prison.  Magistrate Eliseo Alcon of Grants said the pact came about because he became worried about security at his courtroom.  Alcon said that if people want access to a particular hearing, they must notify the jail so a different place can be set up for that appearance.  First appearance are the only proceedings held at the prison, Alcon and Don Russell, executive assistant to the warden, said.  Arraignments - in which defendants enter pleas - are held in Grants, generally in district court for felonies.  (AP) 

April 25, 2001
The Cibola County Corrections Center in Milan remained under lockdown Tuesday as prison officials tried to determine the cause of an inmate protest that ended the night before with tear gas.  Preliminary interviews with inmates at the privately run prison suggested they protested over food service or the price and availability of items at the prison commissary, said Don Russell, executive assistant tot he warden.  Of the prisoner's 818 inmates, 766 are federal prisoners and the rest are in the custody of Cibola County, Russell said.  The federal inmates all are illegal immigrants who have been convicted in the United States and are subject to deportation after they serve their prison terms, he said.  Inmates at the same prison staged another nonviolent protest in December over food portions, menus and the price and selection of items at the commissary, Russell said.  Inmates at the low-level security prison in Milan receive a diet containing 3,200 calories a day, Russell said.  ( Journal Capitol Bureau)  

April 24, 2001
An inmate protest at a privately-operated prison was a result of concern about food and, for some prisoners, taxes, authorities said.  The protest, in which more than 600 inmates refused to leave the exercise yard and go inside the Cibola County Correctional Facility, lasted about 12 hours Monday.  Inmates were unhappy with food served, and with having to pay gross-receipts taxes on items purchased in the prison's commissary, state police Capt. Glenn Thomas said.  The jail, operated by Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, houses mostly federal prisoners from out of state.  (Koat/Daily News)

April 24, 2001
Prison officers interviewed inmates Tuesday a day after lobbing tear gas at them to end a 655-inmate protest in the institution's recreation yard, apparently over prison food.  "Over the next few days, we will conduct an in-depth incident debriefing and follow up to determine the cause and prevent future incidents from occurring," said Steve Owen, director of marketing for Corrections Corporation of America, which owns and operates the Cibola County Correctional Center.  Inmates spent 12 hours milling around the recreation yard after refusing to go to education classes or work assignments.  The prison on Tuesday remained under lockdown, meaning prisoners are confined to their cells.  The inmates, housed in Cibola County under a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, are criminal aliens -- people who are not U.S. citizens who have been convicted of felonies in federal courts across the nation and who are subject to deportation proceeding once their sentences end, Owen said.  A few inmates in the yard carried signs protesting racism.  However, Don Russell, a spokesperson for the prison, said Monday the protest centered on complaints about prison food and the prison commissary.  He refused to go into detail.  Owen said Tuesday he could not confirm what the protest was about.  (AP) 

April 24, 2001
The standoff is finally over -- several hours after inmates refused to leave the recreation grounds at a private prison near Grants in New Mexico Monday night.  Authorities finally got the situation under control around 9:30 P.M. local time after they were forced to throw tear gas into the recreation yard of the Cibola County Correctional Center Monday night in an effort to get the inmates back into the prison.  Over 600 inmates had been in the yard since 8:00 A.M. Monday morning.  (KOAT/Albuquerque)

April 24, 2001
Authorities fired tear gas Monday night to break up a daylong protest by about 700 inmates at a private prison.  The prisoners were to be handcuffed, checked for weapons and returned to their cells, State Police Capt. Glenn Thomas said.  That was expected to take several hours.  "All day long, they were not complying with anything," Thomas said of the inmates at the Cibola County Correctional Center. "We finally had to do something."  The inmates refused to leave the recreation yard about 8 a.m. to go to classes or work assignments, Steve Owen, director of marketing for Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, said in a statement.  (AP) 

CiviGenics Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitative Center
Fort Stanton, New Mexico
CiviGenics

August 26, 2004
Darcy Holmes said she didn’t mind being tested for drug use during a surprise facility-wide search at the CiviGenics Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitative Center at Fort Stanton Tuesday.  But she was infuriated that she and other staff were herded into a circle and kept at gunpoint for hours with offenders on probation and parole during the search.  “I feel they put our lives at risk,” said Holmes, a semi-retiree who worked the past five months for the Massachusetts-based company that is under contract with the state Corrections Department. “Someone could have taken a hostage or if a riot broke out, shooting could have started. I think they violated our safety. We were surrounded by officers from Carlsbad and Roswell with semi-automatic weapons and they held guns on us for three hours.”  Tia Bland, public information officer for the corrections department, said Wednesday that, “We believe the whole operation was handled professionally. Staff and offenders were rounded up, but weapons were not pointed at anyone. However, we needed to ensure they remained in one place while the whole facility was searched.”  The department received information about possible drug use by staff or offenders and decided a facility-wide search was needed, Bland said.  “We were pretty pleased not to find a whole lot,” she said. “They found a few minor drug paraphernalia and mushrooms that we are having tested.”  This isn’t the only incident that she says points to a disregard for staff safety, Homes said. “Our radios don’t work and when a duty officer is doing a head count, (he or she) has no way to communicate.”  Kevin Beckworth, the regional manager for CiviGenics based in Colorado, said the fort has three times the number of radios required and there is no reason they shouldn’t be an adequate number charged and ready to use at any time.  Holmes already had decided to quit her job and today is her last day at the fort.  David Lucero, another employee who has given notice, said he arrived about 4 p.m. and saw police cars and officers carrying M-16s. He said the first man handcuffed is Cuban and doesn’t understand English well.  “I don’t think they made it clear they weren’t supposed to stand,” he said.  “They handcuffed him for at least two to three hours. If he had gotten mad and something started, we couldn’t contain them. We were in there and if rounds were fired, we were in the middle.”  But Lucero said his big gripe is that after the inmates were upset by the search, he and a female employee were left to watch them overnight. That’s about 41 offenders to one guard, he said.  The staff is “run ragged,” he said and more employees are needed.  “Over the last six months, I made more than $4,000 in overtime because they can’t get enough people to work or to hire, or they don’t last.  “We’re working 12 to 16 hour shifts and we’re tired. No one get raises because we’ve burned up all the overtime because the program director didn’t hire anybody for three or four months in a row.”  The ratio of employees to offenders also is too small on trips into town, he contended.  Beckworth said two-person staffing is normal for the night shift.  “The director at any time has the authority to bring on more people if the situation requires it,” he said, noting that several employees live on-grounds for any quick emergency response.  Lucero also criticized the prison-like atmosphere at the center.  “This is a rehab center, not a prison, but it’s run like a prison,” he said. “We’re in it for the guys to get rehab.”  He said he doesn’t think that’s the same goal at the corporate level. “When I have voiced my opinion in past, they won’t listen.” Lucero said he’s worried violence may erupt at the fort someday, damaging property and possibly resulting in injury to people.  According to company information, CiviGenics, the second largest privately-held corrections operator and the largest provider of correctional treatment programs in the United States, was incorporated in 1995 and operates in 14 states with a staff of more than 1,200.  The company took over from The Amity Foundation about a year ago.  (Ruidoso News)

Curry County Jail
Curry County, New Mexico

May 12, 2009 Clovis News Journal
Most counties that hire private companies to run their jails find they have the same problems, but less control with the same accountability, a team of three experts told Curry County commissioners on Tuesday. Manny Romero with the New Mexico Association of Counties shared a “snapshot” of pros and cons with commissioners at a special meeting. Romero said it has been his experience that most counties that try privatization end up dissatisfied or have significant difficulties and retake control of their jails. Romero conducted an assessment of the Curry County Adult Detention Center in September, on the heels of the escape of eight inmates on Aug. 24. In his report, Romero cited “abysmal” structural issues, training, staffing and outdated policies and procedures as top issues plaguing the facility. When considering private or county jail management, there are security problems either way, he said, explaining profit-driven companies often shortstaff and undertrain, don’t pay their people as well as governments and may cut other corners to save money and increase profit. “There’s going to be a profit motive, that’s how they work,” he said. And there are too many factors involved to predict if money will be saved for the county. But they also have certain freedoms government doesn’t, he said. They can fire substandard employees quickly with far less due process than government can, they can make purchases without being bound by laws requiring bidding procedures, often finding better deals or buying more quickly. However, under law, jails are not a responsibility that can be delegated away from the county, explained Steve Kopelman, NMAC risk management director. “The county will always be named in the lawsuit,” he said. “You can negotiate your contract really well (but) the buck stops with the Commission anyways. ... You have to do due diligence and do your homework because there are so many pitfalls.” Currently only one New Mexico county, Lincoln, has a private company running its jail, Bruce Swingle with NMAC told commissioners. At least five other counties tried privatization, a concept that gained a lot of momentum in the 1990s, but returned to running their own jails, often because of liability claims that arose. Most often, employees of private corrections companies have prison backgrounds and bring that knowledge with them to county jails, but that creates a problem because, “what’s allowed in a prison is not always allowed in a jail. There’s a big difference between the two,” Swingle said. An example Swingle pointed to was a private company that engaged in illegal strip searches of Santa Fe County inmates. Essentially counties found that to reduce their liability exposure, they had to give up control of the facilities and give private companies authority to manage as they saw fit. “If you’re going to do it, do it. If you’re not, then stay the heck out of it,” he said. Swingle said the crux of the problem lies in the fact that, “If you get involved in it you’re going to be liable. If you stay out of it, you have no control.”

Gallup Detoxification Center
Gallup, New Mexico
Na'Nizhoozhi Center Inc.

December 8, 2003
A county commissioner hopes the new Gallup-McKinley County Adult Detention Center will focus more on helping more inmates change their lives rather than just making money off their incarceration.  Meanwhile, upper management of the private prison company, Management Training Center, who will soon be leaving Gallup for good, expressed their thoughts on working in Gallup and gave advice to the county jail staff. Jail administration went solely to the city and county at 5 p.m. Monday.  McKinley County Commissioner Billy Moore, who is a member of the city/county Jail Authority Board, said the city and county government will make errors in the beginning in a trial- and-error system until they fully learn what they're doing. That's to be expected, Moore said.  "We're going in with a new attitude and a fresh look. We hope we can do something positive for the jail," Moore said.  Moore has no experience at running a jail, but he said he thinks the county has been missing out on the profit MTC obviously made. "They're making a profit, or they wouldn't be there," he said of the private company.  Moore doesn't believe the private prison company's money came as much from out-of-state inmates because they were only a small percentage of the jail's overall population. But he said the board might have to look into taking on out-of-state prisoners if they start losing money. He doubts that will happen.  "They have incentives to keep people in jail," Moore said of private companies like Management Training Center. "We have incentives to get them out and get them treatment. Especially in the cases of DWIs."  (Gallup Independent)

April 3, 2002
A lawyer is suing Gallup's detoxification center, alleging it is illegally detaining people against their will and violating state laws. The lawsuit, filed by William Stripp of Ramah on behalf of Lewison Watchman, also contends the Gallup Police Department and the McKinley County Sheriff's Department put people in Na'Nizhoozhi Center Inc., known as NCI, when they should not be there. Stripp, in his filing Monday in state District Court, asked that the lawsuit be considered a class action. If approved, class action status would let those put in the center over the past few years become parties to the lawsuit and possibly get compensation if it is successful. The lawsuit wants anyone who was illegally detained to be compensated at a rate of $5,000 a day. NCI has said 18,000 individuals are picked up and placed in the center each year. Stripp said the rate was derived from the settlement of a lawsuit Watchman filed against the city last year after being placed in NCI for four days against his will. He settled the lawsuit for $20,000. "The police should be enforcing the laws against false imprisonment," Stripp said. NCI officials said they could not comment because the lawsuit is pending. The lawsuit contends NCI does not have proper certification from the state to operate as a health center and that the city and county are violating the law by allowing the center to hold people there against their will. Stripp said he plans to seek an injunction prohibiting police from taking people to the center until NCI proves to the court that it has the proper licenses and certifications. Gallup Police Chief Daniel Kneale said he visited the center last week to check its certification and found it had the proper certification to detain people who had alcohol or drug problems. The lawsuit also alleges the center habitually puts more people in a room than allowed by state law, that staff members at times threatened people placed there or "touched or applied force to plaintiffs in a rude, insolent or angry manner," and that people were put together in locked rooms with no privacy. The lawsuit also contends police officers and sheriff's deputies turned over people to NCI without adequately investigating whether the center was authorized to hold people as a licensed "health care facility." Some of those picked up don't meet the requirement of having their mental or physical functioning substantially impaired as a result of alcohol, the lawsuit alleges. (Albuquerque Journal)  

Guadalupe County Correctional Facility
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections)
Nov 2, 2013 abqjournal.com

A former prison physician accused of fondling multiple inmates during medical exams at two contract men’s prisons in New Mexico is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Mark Walden has also been suspended from the practice of medicine and has filed a notice of bankruptcy. The Justice Department’s notification to Walden that he is the target of an inquiry into the alleged violation of inmates’ civil rights is revealed in documents filed in three civil lawsuits now consolidated in U.S. District Court. Documents say Walden was notified in writing that “he is the target of a criminal investigation regarding alleged sexual abuse of male inmates at the Northeastern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton and at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa.” The prisons are privately operated by Corizon Inc. The civil lawsuits against Walden, Corizon and others were filed on behalf of about three dozen current or former inmates at the two prisons by attorneys Katie Curry, Brad Hall and Frances Crockett Carpenter. Defendants moved the case to federal court. Walden’s attorney in the civil lawsuit said she does not comment on pending litigation. But in an answer she filed on behalf of Walden in one of the civil lawsuits, he denied performing any digital rectal exams that were not medically necessary or that were inappropriate in length or methodology. He denies sexually abusing inmates at anytime or that any conduct on his part was unreasonable, cruel or harmful. Walden also contends that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations and the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. The inmates have made claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to protect any recovery they may receive in the civil litigation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Torgerson stayed the civil cases in August until the bankruptcy is resolved. Walden was entitled to an automatic stay by virtue of his bankruptcy filing. Torgerson extended the stay to other defendants, including Walden’s former employer The Geo Group Inc., now called Corizon, wardens Erasmo Bravo and Timothy Hatch, and the health services administrator. There are no details on the Justice investigation, which has apparently been underway since before the civil litigation began in March. According to a statement from Corizon, the company “is unaware of any criminal proceedings being filed at this time. We will cooperate fully with any investigations related to this matter.” The wardens, Geo and Corizon filed answers in the civil cases in which they have denied allegations of negligent hiring and supervisions, medical malpractice and civil rights violations. The inmates have asked the court to permit the litigation to go forward without revealing the names of the plaintiffs because of the potential of greater harm and victimization. But one of Walden’s attorneys in the civil suits has denied sexual abuse allegations contained in the request and opposed the request for anonymity, saying inmate lawyers are engaged in a media campaign to “impact the pending litigation.” Walden’s attorney Nicole Charlebois said in a written filing that the unnamed plaintiffs attacked Walden in the media before even serving him with the complaint. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, she said in the filing, are “manipulating the underlying litigation, tainting the public perception and tainting the potential jury pool,” and that Walden has a right to know his accusers, “especially in light of their aggressive media tactics.” Suspension: The New Mexico Medical Board suspended Walden from practice in July, after sending him notice of contemplated action and getting input from two physicians hired as experts who reviewed available records. The board ordered Walden to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation arranged by the New Mexico Monitored Treatment Program, which was to send its findings and recommendations to the board for review. The recommendations “must demonstrate to the board’s satisfaction that (Walden) is fit to safely practice medicine.” The board will then determine his further licensure status. The board hired as experts a urologist with 33 years experience, including 5˝ years participating in a prison clinic, and an emergency medicine physician described as having expertise in correctional medicine. The urologist said his review of the evidence indicated “sexual contact with a patient” by Walden on many occasions that were not legitimate medical procedures and constituted sexual abuse. The second physician found that Walden had not breached the standard of care and that his treatment of inmates was appropriate for the patient complaints documented in medical records. That doctor questioned the credibility of the inmates’ statements “because several of them indicated (Walden) had examined them without gloves, which (he) found very unlikely to have actually occurred.” Walden invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify at the medical board hearing.

Among over 40 pages of proposed factual findings:

•Walden regularly performed digital rectal examinations of inmate patients in their 20s and 30s. The Clayton prison offered exams routinely for men over age 50 and for men under 50 if they had specific complaints warranting such an exam.

•He did twice as many rectal exams each month as any other doctor at the Clayton facility, according to a prison nurse.

•A 40-year-old patient at the prison in Clayton asked a corrections officer as the inmate left the medical unit in July 2012 “if (Walden) was gay, and expressed discomfort with the examination he had received.” The officer prepared a statement based on the inmate’s statements that the doctor had turned him over and stroked his genitals. That was the only comment about any presumed sexual orientation of the doctor.

•Another patient reported on Aug. 5, 2012, that Walden had “played with” his testicles without gloves.

•A 28-year-old inmate reported that Walden called him for medical exams for three weeks straight on a Friday or Saturday, gave him a rectal exam and studied his penis.

•Another inmate filed a grievance about an Aug. 20, 2012, incident in which he said Walden asked him to drop his pants, rubbed his genitals and asked if it felt good.

•In patient statements provided by the facilities in response to a subpoena by the board, Walden diagnosed a prostate condition not confirmed by an independent analysis.

•Inmate patients are generally not referred out because of time, expense and safety issues in transporting prisoners off site.

•Only one patient at Santa Rosa filed a grievance with a nurse.

The hearing officer noted inmates “may be manipulative and will commonly do things for purposes of secondary gain,” such as getting strong pain medicine, special shoes or mattresses.

Mar 17, 2013 abqjournal.com
A New Mexico inmate claims he got an overly long and intrusive rectal exam when he went to the prison doctor for a torn meniscus in his knee. And his complaint isn’t the only one. Eighteen inmates in two separate civil lawsuits claim they were fondled or given intrusive exams – even when they weren’t needed – by Dr. Mark E. Walden, the prison physician at the time. The claims that Walden used his position to sexually abuse inmates are being made by men incarcerated at prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton. Both prisons are operated under contract with the state by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO group, a firm that operates detention and re-entry facilities in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Britain, as well as the U.S. Walden was an employee of Corizon, a private contractor that provides healthcare services at over 349 correctional facilities across the country. The company, which is based in Tennessee, has a four-year, $177.6 million contract to provide prison medical services in New Mexico at both public and privately run prisons. Katie Curry of the McGinn Law Firm in Albuquerque, attorney for one group of prisoners suing Walden, GEO Group Inc., Corizon, prison wardens Erasmo Bravo and Timothy Hatch, and health administrator Sherry Phillips, said another attorney represents another 10 or so clients with similar complaints. “That’s who has come forward, but these guys move around a lot (to other prisons),” Curry said. “I can imagine there are others who are reluctant to come forward.” The lawsuit filed by Curry alleges at least 25 known victims. The New Mexico Medical Board is investigating Walden and, on Feb. 18, issued a notice of contemplated action. No hearing has been scheduled, but it is likely to take place in April or May, a board spokeswoman said. “As a matter of standing company policy, Corizon does not comment on any litigation. However, Corizon can confirm that Dr. Walden is no longer on staff,” said Courtney Eller of DVL Public Relations & Advertising in Nashville, which handles media inquiries for Corizon. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said in an email that the company, as a matter of policy, “cannot comment on litigation related matters, but we can confirm that Mr. Bravo and Mr. Hatch are employed by GEO and Dr. Walden is not employed by GEO.” Walden, who is now working in a medical practice in Raton, did not return a call for comment. He also allegedly failed to use proper hygiene and disease prevention techniques by not using gloves when he examined inmates. Prison administrators and Corizon didn’t ensure that a third person was present to protect the integrity of the exams, according to at least one of the suits. The potential for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct toward inmates by prison employees is well-known institutional problem, the lawsuits say, and administrators have a duty to protect the inmates. Inmates often view reporting abuse as futile because of the humiliation and retaliation they risk and the prospect of losing access to medical services, the complaints say. Doctors have far greater social status than inmates, further exacerbating the imbalance, they say. GEO and Corizon should have known about the abuse through inmate reports and the perceptions of staffers such as nurses, “or kept themselves willfully blind” to it, according to Curry’s lawsuit. “Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden,” the lawsuit says. Curry said there was a written complaint about Walden by an inmate in September 2011, “and apparently nothing happens, so it’s literally like the Catholic church where they know something and transfer him someplace else.” She said lawyers know a copy of the complaint went to State Police and that GEO was made aware of it. Walden initially worked at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and was later transferred to the Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton. One of the consequences of the alleged abuse, Curry said, was that some inmates stopped going to see Walden, even though they needed medical treatment. The lawsuit says staff became suspicious after Walden was hired “based on observations including a sudden notable increase in volume of digital rectal exams being performed, unindicated digital rectal exams on young inmates (and) refusal by defendant Walden to have a third party present.” An inmate who went to Walden for urinary tract issues and had an examination that was “excessive and inappropriate” and conducted without gloves reported the incident and had a sexual assault exam performed in Santa Fe, which revealed two anal tears, according to the lawsuit. “Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden.” - McGINN LAW FIRM: A separate lawsuit filed by Frances Carpenter of Albuquerque on behalf of nine more inmates says the abuses began in 2010 and continued through July 2012 during both routine and “symptom specific” examinations. They included digital anal penetration and probing and stimulation of the genitals. One inmate who saw Walden with a request for hemorrhoid cream was told he need to be examined first, the lawsuit says, and during the exam was penetrated by the doctor’s “entire ungloved fist.” The inmate, who reported the incidents to prison officials, continues to have nightmares and anxiety related to the alleged assault. Both lawsuits, filed in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, allege negligent hiring and retention, civil rights violations, negligence and breach of contract. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Meanwhile, the medical board is expected to set a hearing this spring based on allegations that Walden, during prostate exams on some 17 inmates, “touched or attempted to touch these inmates in an inappropriate, sexual manner.” The board notice says Walden was subject to a “corrective action” for incomplete medical records that led the Union County General Hospital to terminate his privileges, and he did not report it to the board. The notice also says Walden’s professional medical liability insurance was canceled and that he gave incorrect information about it on his license renewal in 2011. Inmates say routine exams turned into horrific assaultsSee PRISON on PAGE A9from PAGE A1Prison doctor accused of sex abuse; inmates claim assaults”Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden.”<quote_attribution>McGINN LAW FIRM

April 25, 2011 The New Mexican
The two for-profit firms that run four of New Mexico's 10 prisons often struggle to keep correctional officer jobs filled, state records show. One in five such jobs at a Hobbs facility was vacant for much of the past 15 months, while the prison in Santa Rosa reported a vacancy rate of around 12.5 percent over the same period, according to the records. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two firms that operate the facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. It's a threshold that appears to have been crossed multiple times at all four prisons since January 2010. The vacancy rate at Hobbs topped the 10-percent threshold in each of the 14 months for which data was available between January 2010 and March of this year. Meanwhile, the 10-percent threshold was topped nine times over that period at Santa Rosa and six times at a Clayton facility. Like the Hobbs facility, both are run by GEO. A CCA-operated prison in Grants topped the 10 percent rate four times over the same period. Whether to penalize the out-of-state, for-profit firms is an issue that has come up before. The question surfaced last year when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties against the two firms. One powerful lawmaker said Monday the issue is still important and the Legislature shouldn't lose sight of it. "We'd like to follow up and perhaps do a performance group review on the private prison operators to see whether they are making excessive profits," Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, said of the Legislative Finance Committee. Varela, the committee chairman, said he can accept a reasonable return for the prison operators, but high vacancy rates at prisons operated by the firms raise questions about how state dollars are being spent to operate the facilities. Determining whether the companies should be penalized for high vacancy rates is an involved process, a Corrections Department spokesman said. GEO and CCA might have asked corrections officers already on the job to work overtime to address the staffing situation. If they did, the department "cannot in good faith consider that position to be vacant," spokesman Shannon McReynolds wrote in an email. But the state doesn't know whether that happened. That would require going through shift rosters at each privately operated facility, McReynolds said in a follow-up phone interview. "That will take a decision from the administration," McReynolds said, referring to new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez. "We do not have specifics on overtime. Every once in awhile we'll hear a particular facility has spent a lot on overtime." Because of sporadic record-keeping at the facilities GEO and CCA operate, the state corrections agency couldn't verify last year how often the two firms violated the vacancy-rate provision in their contracts, if at all. As a result, the agency couldn't corroborate or refute the Legislative Finance Committee's estimate of uncollected penalties. Joe Williams, then-corrections secretary, decided not to pursue penalizing the two companies, saying GEO and CCA were making a good-faith effort to keep the facilities staffed. The contracts give the corrections secretary discretion to waive the penalties. If Lupe Martinez, the new corrections secretary, decides to collect penalties, it would be only for January 2011 and onward, McReynolds said. Gov. Susana Martinez took power in January and soon afterward appointed Lupe Martinez, no relation, as her corrections secretary. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records show. GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa reported a 16.93 percent vacancy rate last July, a high point. The vacancy rate has hovered below 10 percent in five of the last seven months. Another GEO-run facility, the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton, showed a similar trend, reporting vacancy rates higher than 10 percent for six of the seven months for which data was available between January and August 2010. Data for July 2010 was missing. As in Santa Rosa, the Clayton facility's vacancy rate has dropped in recent months. The state's fourth privately operated prison, CCA-run New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, reported a vacancy rate above 10 percent four times from January 2010 to July 2010, with a 16.47 percent vacancy rate reported in July. The state corrections agency did not have data for August 2010 to March 2011.

September 10, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The state appears to have been within its rights last year to repeatedly penalize two private prison operators for letting their vacancy rates hover above a 10 percent trigger in their contracts, state records show. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against the two firms – GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) — when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. As for the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who worked for GEO before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary, told The Independent last week the state had never penalized GEO or CCA despite vacancy rates repeatedly topping the 10 percent trigger. He had the discretion to decide whether to penalize the firms or not, and he had decided against it, Williams said. The firms were doing a good job of managing the prisons, he added. Some state lawmakers are wondering why Williams never assessed the penalties. Some believe the never-assessed penalties could amount to millions of dollars. State records show that vacancies at GEO-operated Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa were above the 10 percent threshold in 11 of the13 months between July 2009 to July 2010; 10 of the 13 months at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs; and nine of the 13 months at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The vacancy rate at the GEO-run Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility eclipsed the 10 percent rate in six of the 13 months covered by the time period shown in the records, state records show. The agency on Friday reiterated Williams’ discretion in deciding whether to penalize the companies or not. “The contract clauses that deal with vacancy rates gives sole discretion to NMCD so that they may penalize the private prisons,” read an e-mail to The Independent after we had sent questions related to the vacancy rates from July 2009 to July 2010. “The penalties are not mandatory and are decided by the department,” the e-mail continued. “Secretary Williams will be presenting the reasons to why he has not penalized the vendors to the Legislative Finance Committee in an upcoming hearing. The department welcomes you to attend the committee hearing.”

June 29, 2005 The Santa Fe New Mexican
ALBUQUERQUE -- Lawyers for three prison inmates facing the death penalty in the 1999 slaying of a New Mexico correctional officer say the state hasn't provided adequate money for the defense.  The state's chief public defender said this week that the state already is spending close to $2 million on defending the inmates, which he said is more than any other criminal case in state history.  However, six private lawyers retained by the state to represent Reis Lopez, David Sanchez and Robert Young have asked a judge to let them drop out of the case.  If the judge won't agree, they want the state to pay more money for the defense or drop the death-penalty request. The charges stem from the beating and killing of Officer Ralph Garcia during a 1999 inmate uprising at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa.The state Supreme Court ruled last year that New Mexico could seek the death penalty against the three inmates. Defense lawyers had argued the death penalty shouldn't apply because the officer worked for private-prison operator Wackenhut Corrections Corp. However, the court ruled that Garcia had the status of a "peace officer" under a law that allows the death penalty for killing lawmen.

June 29, 2005 The Santa Fe New Mexican
ALBUQUERQUE -- Lawyers for three prison inmates facing the death penalty in the 1999 slaying of a New Mexico correctional officer say the state hasn't provided adequate money for the defense.  The state's chief public defender said this week that the state already is spending close to $2 million on defending the inmates, which he said is more than any other criminal case in state history.  However, six private lawyers retained by the state to represent Reis Lopez, David Sanchez and Robert Young have asked a judge to let them drop out of the case.  If the judge won't agree, they want the state to pay more money for the defense or drop the death-penalty request. The charges stem from the beating and killing of Officer Ralph Garcia during a 1999 inmate uprising at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa.The state Supreme Court ruled last year that New Mexico could seek the death penalty against the three inmates. Defense lawyers had argued the death penalty shouldn't apply because the officer worked for private-prison operator Wackenhut Corrections Corp. However, the court ruled that Garcia had the status of a "peace officer" under a law that allows the death penalty for killing lawmen.

May 3, 2005 AP
Prison guards are blaming a lack of funding for an attack that injured four correctional officers in the privately run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa. "What happened in Santa Rosa will happen in Santa Fe," said Sgt. Lee Ortega, a correctional officer at the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe, who was among about two dozen correctional officers picketing the state Capitol on Monday. Ortega, president of the northern sublocal chapter of the correctional officers union, said Corrections Secretary Joe Williams formerly worked for private prisons - an industry Ortega contends just wants to save money. Williams formerly worked for Wackenhut Corp., a private prison operator, which named him warden of the year in 2001. "The reason they would make someone warden of the year is if that warden saved money," he said. "That's what he's trying to do with the state prison. He's trying to save money, but he's making the prisons unsafe." Williams, who started his corrections career as a guard at the state penitentiary in the early 1980s, worked for Wackenhut between 1999 and 2003 as warden of the private prison at Hobbs. Four guards were injured Sunday, and one had to be hospitalized, after an inmate attacked them with a padlock inside a sock at the Santa Rosa prison. Bland said officers used tear gas to quell about 120 other inmates who got "rowdy and riled up."

The state Supreme Court has ruled prosecutors can seek the death penalty for the killing of a guard in a privately operated prison.  The state Supreme Court issued the ruling in the case of three inmates accused of killing Guadalupe County Correctional Facility guard Ralph Garcia during a 1999 uprising.  (AP, April 22, 2004)

August 21, 2003
Angela Vigil was stunned when officials at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility told her she tested positive for heroin traces on her hand at a recent visit to her son here.  "I've only even seen heroin once," said Vigil, a special education teacher at Highland High in Albuquerque who said she was humiliated by prison officials who denied her the time with her son.  Vigil wasn't alone; many visitors to the prison here have tested positive for drug traces and been denied an inmate visit since a detection machine was installed in May, Warden Mo Bravo said.  Officials say the machine— a recommendation of a panel that looked at how Wackenhut Corrections Corp. handled a deadly 1999 riot here— hasn't been without problems. But they say they've fixed it.  "There was a very big issue," Bravo said.  During the first month the machine was at the prison, about 20 of 50 visitors tested positive and were denied visits, Bravo said. The machine swipes a visitor's hand for trace amounts of drugs, measured in parts per million.  Casual contact with drug users can leave drug traces on a nonuser's body, said Ed Brown, director of Wackenhut's Western Region Office.  So many positive tests prompted officials at the prison in July to lower the allowable threshold for granting a visit, Bravo said.  With the new thresholds, which vary by drug type, roughly one to two visitors a day may be denied, Bravo said. He also said that with the machine in place, fewer inmates test positive for drug use while incarcerated.  Vigil, angered by her experience at the prison, had planned to describe her situation to lawmakers at a meeting of the Corrections Oversight and Justice Committee as it met Wednesday evening. While Vigil— who denies she had contact with heroin— said she was treated rudely, Bravo said he couldn't comment on her case. The machine, worth about $60,000, was one of several improvements the company made after an independent inquiry into the riot and its aftermath, which left officer Ralph Garcia dead and sent some inmates to a supermaximum facility in Wallens Ridge, Va.  Wackenhut president Wayne Calabrese told lawmakers the company has spent more than $3 million in Santa Rosa and Hobbs, where it operates the Lea County Correctional Facility.  The improvements include better security camera systems, enhanced fences and ceilings as well as programs to keep inmates busy and teach them skills.  The company also sought— and won— from the state Legislature this year a wage increase for its corrections officers. Entry-level officers now make $9.64 an hour instead of $9, Calabrese said.  (ABQ Journal)

June 8, 2002
The former assistant warden at a privately run prison here has pleaded guilty to two felony charges in connection with the abuse of some inmates. Raymond O'Rourke appeared before U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo on Thursday. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to a count of deprivation of rights under color of law and obstruction of justice by witness tampering. O'Rourke was accused of ordering two lieutenants to assault former inmates Tommy McManaway and David Gonzales in August 1998 at the Lincoln County Correctional Facility. He then orchestrated a cover-up of the incidents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The two guards, Judson McPeters and Thomas Doyle, have pleaded guilty to similar charges. They have not been sentenced. The prison is operated by Florida-based Wackenhut. (The Associated Press)

October 2000
An advisory letter from the state attorney general's office finds the state Corrections Department exceeded its authority by contracting with Wackenhut to give a retroactive per diem pay adjustment. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct.7, 2000)

September 1, 1999
There was a riot involving 290 inmates. A correctional officer was stabbed "numerous" times by up to 9 different inmates. The riot was in response to efforts to lock down the institution following the stabbing of an inmate.

August 12, 1999
An inmate was murdered with a laundry bag filled with rocks as he watched television.

Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Center
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Southwest Key Inc.

June 7, 2003
The state will not leave the Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Center under private management, despite pleas of local youth advocates, a high-ranking official said. The Children, Youth and Families Department last month announced that it would resume public management of the 48-bed juvenile jail when the contract of Florida-based Associated Marine Institutes expires June 30. That decision upset several area state legislators and youth advocates, who argue that CYFD hasn't shown it can do a better job providing rehabilitative and educational services to incarcerated youth than AMI. (ABQ Journal)

December 18, 2002
The Children, Youth and Families Department on Tuesday ended its contract with Southwest Key Programs Inc. to manage the troubled state juvenile rehabilitation center west of the city.  Starting on Monday, management of the 48-bed facility will be turned over to a new private contractor, Florida-based Associated Marine Institute, or AMI, which currently operates another state juvenile detention center, Camp Sierra Blanca, near Lincoln.  CYFD spokesman Romaine Serna said the groundwork for the decision to end Southwest Key's contract with the state was laid by a series of complaints raised by southern New Mexico legislators over the past year.  Those concerns — including a lack of vocational training and recreational programs, a high rate of inmates prescribed psychotropic drugs, gang activity in the facility, staff misconduct and a high rate of staff turnover — were investigated by the Legislative Finance Committee and resulted in a corrective action play for Southwest Key in September.  Then late on Dec. 4, two teens, who were not bedded down for the night, attacked and beat a 25-year-old guard at the facility. The guard suffered skull fractures and other injuries, and the pair of teens smashed windows in a failed escape attempt.  "It (the incident) brought the whole operation into question, and at that point we decided it was in everyone's best interest to end that contractual relationship," Serna said.  (ABQ Journal)

December 14, 2002
The contract with a private company that operates the Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Center for the state here could soon be terminated, a state senator said.  The 48-bed jail is operated by Southwest Key Program Inc., a Texas-based nonprofit company, under a $2.4 million annual contract with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.  "It's my understanding that the state is in the process of terminating the contract," state Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said Thursday.  Rawson said the state is considering terminating the contract as a result of an investigation and the failure of Southwest Key to meet deadlines that had been set by state officials.  (ABQ Journal)

December 13, 2002
A private contractor that operates the Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Center for the state has laid off 13 employees.  The action follows last week's destructive rampage by two inmates who were accused of beating a caregiver and smashing windows in an attempt to escape.  The 48-bed jail is operated by Southwest Key Program Inc., a Texas-based nonprofit company, under a $2.4 million annual contract with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.  State officials and lawmakers held hearings earlier this year in response to complaints about conditions at the facility ranging from inmate and staff assaults to drug abuse.  (ABQ Journal)

September 26, 2002
Legislators greeted with skepticism a report on problems at the state's juvenile rehabilitation facility in Las Cruces. Deborah Hartz, secretary of the Children, Youth and Families Department, told lawmakers that the agency's investigation found that many of the complaints concerning the juvenile lockup had been exaggerated, were already corrected or were in the process of being fixed. "Most of the allegations were found not to be true," Hartz said. "Is the facility perfect? No." Lawmakers asked for an investigation after receiving a litany of complaints ranging from drug trafficking to staff members being involved in gang activity. The center is managed by a Texas firm under a contract to CYFD. "I'm still concerned that it was strictly an inhouse investigation," Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said after Hartz made her report. "At $139-a-day per resident, I'm concerned that they're not getting what they need and society is not getting what it needs," Papen said. Parts of the facility are still under construction. Exercise areas, for example, are limited. Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said, "I think we need to note the difference between the allegations and the findings. Sometimes, the truth is in between them." Rawson said he thought progress was being made and hoped it would continue.  Hartz attributed complaints to "general start up problems" at the year-old lockup. The investigation found that illegal drug use was not rampant, according to Hartz, and, in the two confirmed cases, the drugs were traced back to inmate families and not staff members. The report also found that problems with safety and education issues were being addressed. Hartz said the investigation was conducted by top officials at the agency and went beyond what the committee requested. Hartz acknowledged that one resident was improperly restrained earlier this year. "The staff members involved were fired and the case was referred to the State Police," Hartz said. A more recent allegation of sexual contact between a staff member and juvenile resident is under investigation. Hartz said the incident was properly handled by center officials. The rehabilitation center, which houses 48 juvenile offenders, is managed by Southwest Key Inc., a Texas nonprofit organization, under a $2.4 million contract. (ABQ journal)  

September 26, 2002
Legislators greeted with skepticism a report on problems at the state's juvenile rehabilitation facility in Las Cruces. Deborah Hartz, secretary of the Children, Youth and Families Department, told lawmakers that the agency's investigation found that many of the complaints concerning the juvenile lockup had been exaggerated, were already corrected or were in the process of being fixed. "Most of the allegations were found not to be true," Hartz said. "Is the facility perfect? No." Lawmakers asked for an investigation after receiving a litany of complaints ranging from drug trafficking to staff members being involved in gang activity. The center is managed by a Texas firm under a contract to CYFD. "I'm still concerned that it was strictly an inhouse investigation," Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said after Hartz made her report. "At $139-a-day per resident, I'm concerned that they're not getting what they need and society is not getting what it needs," Papen said. Parts of the facility are still under construction. Exercise areas, for example, are limited. Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said, "I think we need to note the difference between the allegations and the findings. Sometimes, the truth is in between them." Rawson said he thought progress was being made and hoped it would continue.  Hartz attributed complaints to "general start up problems" at the year-old lockup. The investigation found that illegal drug use was not rampant, according to Hartz, and, in the two confirmed cases, the drugs were traced back to inmate families and not staff members. The report also found that problems with safety and education issues were being addressed. Hartz said the investigation was conducted by top officials at the agency and went beyond what the committee requested. Hartz acknowledged that one resident was improperly restrained earlier this year. "The staff members involved were fired and the case was referred to the State Police," Hartz said. A more recent allegation of sexual contact between a staff member and juvenile resident is under investigation. Hartz said the incident was properly handled by center officials. The rehabilitation center, which houses 48 juvenile offenders, is managed by Southwest Key Inc., a Texas nonprofit organization, under a $2.4 million contract. (ABQ journal)  

Lea County Correctional Facility
Hobbs, New Mexico
GEO Group (formerly know as Wackenhut Corrections), Correctional Medical Services (formerly run by Wexford)

State gets tougher on private prisons - Operators face fine as leniency disappears under Martinez administration: March 1, 2012, Trip Jennings, The New Mexican: Damning expose on how former DOC Secretary and former Wackenhut warden cost state millions of dollars in un-collected fines against for-profits.

June 13, 2012 The New Mexican
The state Corrections Department could save millions by spending more on community corrections programs and tweaking some private prison contracts, the Legislative Finance Committee says. A recent evaluation of the department, by the committee and the Pew Center on the States, uncovered problems with contract management, parole planning and programs aimed at keeping prisoners from returning. A recent committee newsletter said, "The department could save $2 million a year by amending its contract with the private company that runs the Hobbs prison, the review says. Even though staffing level requirements were cut in March, the state is paying the operator the same amount." The Hobbs prison is operated by the Florida-based Geo Group, which also runs other prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton.

March 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The companies that operate private prisons where New Mexico state inmates serve their time have racked up nearly $1.6 million in penalties for understaffing and other contract violations since the Martinez administration started cracking down last year. Nearly all of that was attributable to problems at The GEO Group Inc.’s prison in Hobbs, although the company’s Clayton prison was recently added to the penalty list. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the women’s prison in Grants, also has been fined during the past couple of months, mostly for having inmates in the prison after their release dates. Reversing the practice of the previous administration, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez decided to pursue the penalties the state is entitled to impose for contract violations. “In today’s struggling economy, the people of New Mexico deserve to know the Corrections Department is running in a fiscally responsible manner,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said this week in a statement. The department recently revived its Office of Inspector General to keep tabs on contract compliance. Such fines are discretionary, and former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration gave private prisons a pass, irking lawmakers who estimated that upwards of $18 million could have been collected. Richardson’s corrections chief, Joe Williams – who claimed that estimate was inflated – said that prisons already were paying substantial overtime costs, that understaffing was largely due to factors beyond their control, and that the facilities were safe and secure. Williams worked at Hobbs for GEO’s predecessor company before Richardson hired him, and he returned to GEO’s corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of Richardson’s tenure. After negotiations with the Martinez administration, GEO in January paid a $1.1 million fine for violations at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs for the period from January through October of 2011. GEO also agreed to put another $200,000 into recruitment over the subsequent year. GEO continued to be penalized: $158,529 for November, $139,621 for December, $78,710 for January and $84,753 for February, according to documents provided by the department. The February assessment isn’t final yet, because the company has until late this month to respond to it. The fines largely were due to vacancies in the ranks of correctional officers and in noncustodial positions such as teachers, counselors and treatment providers. Corrections officials have said it’s difficult for the men’s medium security lockup at Hobbs to recruit and keep corrections officers because it’s competing with the oil industry. An assessment of $2,570 for understaffing in January was proposed for GEO’s Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, but the problem had been corrected by the time the department sent a letter to the prison on Feb. 10, and no penalty was assessed. In early March, however, the department notified the Clayton prison that it would be fined $5,373 for February, for vacancies in mandatory posts and for two inmates imprisoned beyond their release date. That penalty is pending. GEO did not respond to requests from the Journal for comment. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, was fined $11,779 for January, and $9,974 for February – still pending – for an academic instructor vacancy and for inmates held beyond their release dates. Inspector General Shannon McReynolds said that occurs when the required parole plans aren’t developed in a timely way.

November 14, 2011 Santa Fe New Mexican
A Florida company will pay New Mexico $1.1 million in penalties for not adequately staffing a private prison it operates in Hobbs, a state official said. GEO Group, which manages three of New Mexico's four private prisons, agreed to pay the settlement last week following a meeting between the corrections agency and the company's top management, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said Monday. "They've agreed on it," Marcantel said of GEO. "It's a very fair way of doing it. They are not completely happy. It needed to be done." Officials at GEO could not be reached for comment Monday night. GEO will pay the $1.1 million over several months, the corrections secretary said. In addition, GEO has agreed to spend $200,000 over the next calendar year to recruit new correctional officers for the Hobbs facility. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, the two firms that operate the private facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. The settlement represents the first time in years — possibly ever — that New Mexico has penalized the out-of-state, for-profit companies for not adequately staffing the facilities they operate. The issue has come up in the past, but state officials said New Mexico had never levied penalties for understaffing issues. The question surfaced in 2010 when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties by not assessing penalties against the two firms for inadequate prison staffing levels. The $1.1 million covers understaffing by GEO at the Hobbs facility for only this year and was reached after the state corrections agency and GEO spent most of the summer disputing each other's methodology for computing how much GEO should be penalized, state documents show. Marcantel said he could not retroactively penalize the companies for previous years, but could only go back to the first day of Gov. Susana Martinez's tenure, Jan. 1. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data — between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March 2011 — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records showed. Going forward, the state will check monthly to ensure the four privately operated prisons are adequately staffed, Marcantel said. "Our new approach, it's not going to be waiting," Marcantel said. "That doesn't motivate" the companies to keep staffing levels where they need to be, he added. GEO, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., recently reported $1.2 billion in earnings and $58.8 million in profit through the first nine months of this year, according to a Nov. 2 release by the company.

October 24, 2011 Odessa American
A 52-year-old New Mexico man died Saturday morning following a fight with another inmate in a prison in Lea County, N.M. A New Mexico Department of Public Safety news release stated that at about noon Friday, Lea County Correctional Facility inmate Chris Phillips was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital from the Hobbs, N.M., prison following an altercation with another inmate. Phillips was pronounced deceased at 3:14 a.m. Saturday. The circumstances surrounding the death of Chris Phillips were under investigation by Lea County Correctional Facility Officials with the Hobbs Police Department serving as the lead criminal investigating agency. In accordance with departmental policy and standard operational procedure, the New Mexico Department of Corrections has also initiated a Critical Incident Review of the matter.

April 25, 2011 The New Mexican
The two for-profit firms that run four of New Mexico's 10 prisons often struggle to keep correctional officer jobs filled, state records show. One in five such jobs at a Hobbs facility was vacant for much of the past 15 months, while the prison in Santa Rosa reported a vacancy rate of around 12.5 percent over the same period, according to the records. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two firms that operate the facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. It's a threshold that appears to have been crossed multiple times at all four prisons since January 2010. The vacancy rate at Hobbs topped the 10-percent threshold in each of the 14 months for which data was available between January 2010 and March of this year. Meanwhile, the 10-percent threshold was topped nine times over that period at Santa Rosa and six times at a Clayton facility. Like the Hobbs facility, both are run by GEO. A CCA-operated prison in Grants topped the 10 percent rate four times over the same period. Whether to penalize the out-of-state, for-profit firms is an issue that has come up before. The question surfaced last year when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties against the two firms. One powerful lawmaker said Monday the issue is still important and the Legislature shouldn't lose sight of it. "We'd like to follow up and perhaps do a performance group review on the private prison operators to see whether they are making excessive profits," Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, said of the Legislative Finance Committee. Varela, the committee chairman, said he can accept a reasonable return for the prison operators, but high vacancy rates at prisons operated by the firms raise questions about how state dollars are being spent to operate the facilities. Determining whether the companies should be penalized for high vacancy rates is an involved process, a Corrections Department spokesman said. GEO and CCA might have asked corrections officers already on the job to work overtime to address the staffing situation. If they did, the department "cannot in good faith consider that position to be vacant," spokesman Shannon McReynolds wrote in an email. But the state doesn't know whether that happened. That would require going through shift rosters at each privately operated facility, McReynolds said in a follow-up phone interview. "That will take a decision from the administration," McReynolds said, referring to new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez. "We do not have specifics on overtime. Every once in awhile we'll hear a particular facility has spent a lot on overtime." Because of sporadic record-keeping at the facilities GEO and CCA operate, the state corrections agency couldn't verify last year how often the two firms violated the vacancy-rate provision in their contracts, if at all. As a result, the agency couldn't corroborate or refute the Legislative Finance Committee's estimate of uncollected penalties. Joe Williams, then-corrections secretary, decided not to pursue penalizing the two companies, saying GEO and CCA were making a good-faith effort to keep the facilities staffed. The contracts give the corrections secretary discretion to waive the penalties. If Lupe Martinez, the new corrections secretary, decides to collect penalties, it would be only for January 2011 and onward, McReynolds said. Gov. Susana Martinez took power in January and soon afterward appointed Lupe Martinez, no relation, as her corrections secretary. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records show. GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa reported a 16.93 percent vacancy rate last July, a high point. The vacancy rate has hovered below 10 percent in five of the last seven months. Another GEO-run facility, the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton, showed a similar trend, reporting vacancy rates higher than 10 percent for six of the seven months for which data was available between January and August 2010. Data for July 2010 was missing. As in Santa Rosa, the Clayton facility's vacancy rate has dropped in recent months. The state's fourth privately operated prison, CCA-run New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, reported a vacancy rate above 10 percent four times from January 2010 to July 2010, with a 16.47 percent vacancy rate reported in July. The state corrections agency did not have data for August 2010 to March 2011.

February 23, 2011 Odessa American
Three men were arrested Wednesday in connection to the Jan. 3 beating death of 31-year-old Lea County Correctional Facility inmate Paul Lasner. Martin Knief, 30; Lorenzo Mora, 30; and Christopher Morrisette, 31, were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and intimidation of a witness, a news release stated. Bond was set at $1 million for each defendant, the release stated. The investigation is ongoing, the release stated. Lasner was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery in 1998 after a drive-by shooting with a shotgun in Clovis, N.M., left one dead and two injured in 1997.

January 4, 2011 Clovis News Journal
A 30-year-old Clovis man serving a life sentence in prison for a 1997 murder was killed Monday at a Hobbs facility. Paul Lasner was transported from the Lea County Correctional Facility to Lea Regional Hospital, where police said he was pronounced dead. Hobbs police and medical personnel were called to the facility for a report of a battery around 1:30 p.m. Monday, according to Mike Stone with the Hobbs Police Department. Medical responders attempted to resuscitate Lasner at the prison and continued efforts during transport to the hospital, Stone said. Lasner was the only person with reported injuries in the incident, he said. The death is being investigated as a homicide, police said. Stone said as of Tuesday afternoon there had been no arrests in connection with the case and would not say if police have any suspects. He also would not disclose the nature of Lasner’s injuries. Stone said while Lasner’s death is the first in at least a year, there have been other homicides at the facility in recent years.

January 3, 2011 AP
There's been a death at private prison in Hobbs and police say they're investigating the case as a homicide. Police officers responded to the Lea County Correctional Facility about 1:30 p.m. Monday in reference to an assault. They say the victim was transported to Lea Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. There's no immediate word on whether the victim is an inmate or a prison guard.

September 10, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The state appears to have been within its rights last year to repeatedly penalize two private prison operators for letting their vacancy rates hover above a 10 percent trigger in their contracts, state records show. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against the two firms – GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) — when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. As for the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who worked for GEO before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary, told The Independent last week the state had never penalized GEO or CCA despite vacancy rates repeatedly topping the 10 percent trigger. He had the discretion to decide whether to penalize the firms or not, and he had decided against it, Williams said. The firms were doing a good job of managing the prisons, he added. Some state lawmakers are wondering why Williams never assessed the penalties. Some believe the never-assessed penalties could amount to millions of dollars. State records show that vacancies at GEO-operated Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa were above the 10 percent threshold in 11 of the13 months between July 2009 to July 2010; 10 of the 13 months at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs; and nine of the 13 months at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The vacancy rate at the GEO-run Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility eclipsed the 10 percent rate in six of the 13 months covered by the time period shown in the records, state records show. The agency on Friday reiterated Williams’ discretion in deciding whether to penalize the companies or not. “The contract clauses that deal with vacancy rates gives sole discretion to NMCD so that they may penalize the private prisons,” read an e-mail to The Independent after we had sent questions related to the vacancy rates from July 2009 to July 2010. “The penalties are not mandatory and are decided by the department,” the e-mail continued. “Secretary Williams will be presenting the reasons to why he has not penalized the vendors to the Legislative Finance Committee in an upcoming hearing. The department welcomes you to attend the committee hearing.”

September 7, 2010 New Mexico Independent
Think Progress, the blog of the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund, has picked up on NMI’s story about New Mexico Corrections Secretary Joe Williams not penalizing two private prison operators despite repeated contract obligations. But Think Progress added a bit of information we forgot to mention: that Williams worked for GEO, one of the two firms that wasn’t penalized, prior to becoming the state’s corrections secretary. Williams has not been secret about the affiliation. He talks freely on the corrections department’s website about the years he spent with GEO as warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility, which the firm operates, before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary. Here’s an excerpt from Williams biography on the agency’s website. In 1999, four years before becoming secretary of corrections, Joe accepted one of the more difficult challenges of his career. The Geo Group, Inc. (formerly known as Wackenhut) hired Joe as the warden for the Lea County Correctional Facility, and charged him with turning around the troubled prison in Hobbs, New Mexico. The facility eventually became a flagship prison. Agreeing to serve as its warden proved to be the right move, both professionally and personally. In fact, Joe liked the city of Hobbs so much, he named his beloved basset hound Sir Hobbs. The question now is whether Williams’ affiliation will be an issue among state lawmakers who are wondering why the corrections secretary decided against penalizing the two private prison operators — GEO and Corrections Corp. of America — possibly costing the state millions of dollars.

September 26, 2007 Santa Fe Reporter
Over the last year, whistle-blowers have come forward, auditors have released findings, legislative committees have convened. All concluded that Wexford Health Sources Inc., the private company that secured an exclusive contract in 2004 to provide health care to New Mexico inmates, cut corners at the cost of prisoners’ well being. Last year, SFR published an award-winning 15-part series focusing on health care professionals’ allegations about the care in the prisons [www.sfreporter.com; “The Wexford files.” ] Although Wexford’s contract expired on June 30, 2007, inmates are now filing handwritten civil suits leveled at Wexford, the State of New Mexico and its private-prison contractor, the GEO Group. Richard Vespender, an inmate in GEO Group’s Lea County Correctional Facility, filed suit in the First Judicial District on July 3, 2007, alleging that Wexford denied him treatment for a back injury he suffered in 2001 when he slipped on a wet floor at another prison facility. Vespender, who is representing himself, says doctors had identified two herniated discs in his lower back that required surgery, but Wexford would only pay for temporary pain-killers. On Aug, 15, former Western New Mexico Correctional Facility inmate Johnny Gallegos filed suit claiming that, in the summer of 2005, Wexford employees ignored his serious urinary condition. The suit alleges that Gallegos was treated for constipation, despite regular bowel movements and, after more than a week of complaints, was finally taken to the hospital after the prison’s warden discovered him waiting in line at the medical clinic with his shorts covered in blood. While the plaintiffs have yet to respond to Gallegos’ complaint, GEO Group and the New Mexico Department of Corrections have denied culpability in Vespender’s case, and claim, in their legal response, that they are “without sufficient knowledge or information” to either admit or deny 32 of Vespender’s allegations. Most conspicuously, the plaintiffs claim they don’t know enough about Vespender’s 2006 visits to Dr. Don Apodaca, who at the time was Wexford’s medical director at the Lea County prison. Apodaca resigned in November 2006 and previously told SFR: “It came to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the medical and legal position I was in. There were individuals who needed health care who weren’t getting it.” Although NMDOC and GEO now deny sufficient knowledge of both Apodaca’s diagnosis and that of the specialists at an Albuquerque health clinic, both were cited in an April 4, 2007 memo from NMDOC denying Vespender’s final administrative appeal, which was included in Vespender’s case file. Tia Bland, spokesperson for NMDOC, says this is a moot point: As of July 1, St. Louis, Mo.-based Correctional Medical Services began handling prison health care. “If there are inmates who felt that they were not receiving proper treatment when Wexford was there, there is a process for them to let us know about that, for them to let the current vendor know about that and we certainly will address whatever their concern is now,” she says. Solomon Brown, Gallegos’ attorney, says he’s interviewed dozens of upset New Mexico inmates, and a new vendor may not be enough. “In my estimations, there’s nothing but dissatisfaction among the inmates,” Brown says. “The governor needs to appoint a group to formally look at it, or an ombudsman to go and talk to these inmates like I do and meet with them.”

September 13, 2007 AP
Some Lea County inmates set fires and broke toilets and windows after being told they would be allowed only one sausage at dinner. Jail officials said the inmates began yelling and banging on their doors in what they described in a news release as a "temper tantrum." Officers from the Lea County Sheriff's and Hobbs Police departments were called in to restore control, and the jail was locked down after Tuesday night's incident. Some 33 prisoners were involved, Warden Jann Gartman said. The remaining 300-plus prisoners at the jail accepted the meal without incident, authorities said. The damage to the jail was light, with some smoke damage and broken toilets and windows, the warden said.

February 7, 2007 The Santa Fe Reporter
At the behest of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), two correctional health experts have launched an extensive audit of the medical care in New Mexico’s state prisons. SFR has learned that Dr. Steve Spencer and Dr. B Jaye Anno were hired late last month by the LFC to evaluate the level of medicine provided to state inmates. Their work is part of a larger audit the Legislature is conducting of the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD), slated for conclusion this spring. “We needed medical expertise in our audit, because up until now we haven’t had any,” Manu Patel, the LFC’s deputy director for audits, says. “This way, it’s not just us second-guessing the Corrections Department. We can actually get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t.” Patel says the contract with Spencer and Anno is worth approximately $21,000. The health care component to the Corrections audit follows a six-month investigation by SFR into Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers medical care to state inmates [Cover story, Aug. 9, 2006: “Hard Cell?”]. The investigation led to a request for the audit by the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee last October [Outtakes, Oct. 25, 2006: “Medical Test”]. SFR’s series also compelled Gov. Bill Richardson to terminate the state’s contract with Wexford in December, a process that will likely take until June, when the prison medical contract is up for renewal [Outtakes, Dec. 13, 2006: “Wexford Under Fire”]. Regardless of Wexford’s fate, the LFC is pressing ahead with the audit. “We are looking at this serving a long-term benefit to the Corrections Department, so that we can all better evaluate the medical program in the prisons and its services,” Patel says. Spencer, a former medical director of NMCD, and Anno, who co-founded the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, started work on Feb. 5, when they traveled to Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. “We’re going to look at a number of things when we travel to the sights,” Spencer says. “We’ll look at the adequacy of staffing, the appropriateness of care, the timeliness and use of off-site specialists. We’ll review inmate deaths and whether Corrections is adequately monitoring the contractor.” Moreover, the medical audit will involve a review of the contract between Wexford and the Corrections Department, as well as sifting through tuberculosis, HIV and other medical testing data. Various medical personnel will also be interviewed throughout the process, Spencer says. Inadequate tuberculosis testing, chronic staffing shortages and a systemic failure to send inmates off-site have been among the concerns raised to SFR by former and current Wexford employees [Outtakes, Oct. 18, 2006: “Corrections Concerns”]. In an e-mail, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman said, in part, that Wexford plans to cooperate with the audit and is confident its outcome will be positive. She also said Wexford is cooperating with NMCD for a smooth transition. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland tells SFR that Corrections is still working on a request for proposal, set to go out in March, that will kick off the agency’s search for a new medical provider. “We’re providing [the auditors] with whatever they need, and whatever the results are, we’ll use that information to our advantage in working with the next vendor,” Bland says. Bland reiterates NMCD’s contention that Wexford violated the terms of its contract with the state because of staffing problems. She says Corrections is still analyzing whether Wexford broke other contractual stipulations. During the mid-1990s, Spencer and Anno were hired by the Wyoming Department of Corrections to conduct medical audits of its prisons. Wexford, which administered health care for the Wyoming DOC, eventually became embroiled in a US Justice Department investigation regarding prison health care in that state and lost its contract. Recalls Anno: “There were a number of problems with Wexford’s operation in Wyoming.”

November 28, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
In the latest setback for Wexford Health Sources, a former employee has slapped the prison health care company with a civil lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. The suit, filed Oct. 25 in US District Court in Albuquerque, alleges that former health services administrator Don Douglas was fired by Wexford last October because he is black. Moreover, the suit alleges that sick and injured inmates at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, where Douglas worked, received poor treatment and that the facility lacked critical medical staff. Wexford, which administers health care in New Mexico’s prisons, has been the subject of a four-month SFR investigation [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. As a result, the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee held a hearing last month, and the Legislative Finance Committee is slated to audit Wexford and the New Mexico Corrections Department [Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead”]. The allegations in Douglas’ lawsuit echo many of the concerns from employees who have talked to SFR. Specifically, it charges that even though Douglas alerted a Wexford corporate administrator about medical and staffing problems, the company did not respond. Instead, according to the lawsuit, Douglas’ job was audited and he was found negligent, despite no prior problems and a record of exemplary job evaluations. On Oct. 10, 2005, Douglas was fired and replaced by a white woman, the lawsuit says. “Wexford did not provide critical health care in a timely manner, and I called attention to that,” Douglas tells SFR. “Inmates have a civil right as incarcerated American citizens to be afforded adequate health care. But that service is not being provided, and Wexford is neglecting inmates.” Douglas began working at Wexford in July 2004, but also worked for its predecessor, Addus. Shortly after his firing, Douglas filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A June 5 letter from the EEOC’s Albuquerque office says the agency found reasonable cause to believe Douglas “was terminated because of his race.” When queried by SFR, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman wrote in a Nov. 27 e-mail that Wexford is withholding comment until the forthcoming audit is complete and referred to 14 prior successful audits of Wexford. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland also would not comment on the lawsuit and noted that NMCD does not oversee Wexford personnel matters. Says Deshonda Charles Tackett, Douglas’ lawyer: “This is an important case. Mr. Douglas should not have to suffer racial discrimination in an effort to provide inmates with proper health care.”

November 22, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The medical director of a state prison in Hobbs has stepped down from his post less than a month after a legislative committee requested an audit of the corrections health care in the state. Dr. Don Apodaca, medical director of Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF), turned in his resignation on Nov. 6 due to concerns that inmates there are not receiving sufficient access to health care. According to Apodaca, sick inmates are routinely denied off-site visits to medical specialists and sometimes have to wait months to receive critical prescription drugs. Apodaca blames the policies of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that contracts with the state to provide medicine in New Mexico’s prisons, for these alleged problems. Wexford has been the subject of a four-month SFR investigation, during which a growing number of former and current employees have contended that Wexford is more concerned with saving money than providing adequate health care, and that inmates suffer as a result. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved an audit that will assess Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also evaluate the quality of health care rendered to inmates [Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead”]. LCCF’s medical director since January 2006, Apodaca is one of the highest-ranking ex-Wexford employees to come forward thus far. His allegations of Wexford’s denials of off-site care and the delays in obtaining prescription drugs echo those raised by other former and current employees during the course of reporting for this series [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Specifically, Apodaca says he personally evaluated inmates who needed off-site, specialty care, but that Wexford consistently denied his referrals. Apodaca cites the cases of an inmate who needed an MRI, another inmate who suffered from a hernia and a third inmate who had a cartilage tear in his knee as instances in which inmates were denied off-site care for significant periods of time against his recommendations. When inmates are actually cleared for off-site care in Albuquerque, they are transported in full shackles without access to a bathroom for the six- to seven-hour trip, Apodaca says. “Inmates told me they aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up soiling themselves,” he says. “The trip is so bad they end up refusing to go even when we get the off-site visits approved.” When it comes to prescription drugs, there also are significant delays, Apodaca says. Inmates sometimes wait weeks or even months for medicine used for heart and blood pressure conditions, even though Apodaca says he would write orders for those medicines repeatedly. “Wexford was not providing timely treatment and diagnoses of inmates,” he says. “There were tragic cases where patients slipped through the cracks, were not seen for inordinately long times and suffered serious or fatal consequences.” Apodaca says he began documenting the medical problems at the facility in March. After detailing in writing the cases of 40 to 50 patients whom he felt had not received proper clinical care, Apodaca says he alerted Dr. Phillip Breen, Wexford’s regional medical director, and Cliff Phillips, Wexford’s regional health services administrator, through memos, e-mails and phone calls. In addition, Apodaca says he alerted Wexford’s corporate office in Pittsburgh. Neither Breen nor Phillips returned phone messages left by SFR. Apodaca says he also informed Devendra Singh, NMCD’s quality assurance manager for health services. According to Apodaca, Singh assured him that he would require Wexford to look into the matter, but Apodaca says he never heard a final response. “Wexford was simply not receptive to any of the information I was sending them, and I became exasperated,” he says. “It came to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the medical and legal position I was in. There were individuals who needed health care who weren’t getting it.” Singh referred all questions to NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland; Bland responded to SFR in a Nov. 20 e-mail: “If Don Apodaca has information involving specific incidents, we will be happy to look into the situation. Otherwise, we will wait for the LFC’s audit results, review them and take it from there.” Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman would not comment specifically on Apodaca’s allegations. In a Nov. 20 e-mail to SFR, she wrote that Wexford will cooperate with the Legislature’s audit and is confident the outcome will be similar to the 14 independent audits performed since May 2005 by national correctional organizations. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing to provide high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. Members of the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which requested the forthcoming audit, toured LCCF on Oct. 19 and were told by both Wexford and NMCD officials that there were no health care problems at the facility. On the same tour, however, committee members heard firsthand accounts from inmates who complained they couldn’t get treatment when they became sick [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. That visit, along with Apodaca’s accounts, calls into question Wexford’s and NMCD’s accounts, State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, says. “We were told on our tour that nothing was wrong. And now to hear that there is a claim that Wexford and the Corrections Department might have known about this makes it seem like this information was knowingly covered up,” McSorley, co-chairman of the committee, says. “We can’t trust what’s being told to us. The situation may require independent oversight far beyond what we have. This should be the biggest story in the state right now.”

November 8, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The New Mexico State Legislature is one step closer to an audit of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers health care in New Mexico’s prisons. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved the audit, which will evaluate Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also assess the quality of health care administered to inmates. The request for a review of Wexford originated with the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which voted unanimously on Oct. 20 to recommend the audit after a hearing on prison health care in Hobbs [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. A subsequent Oct. 30 letter sent to the LFC by committee co-chairmen Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dońa Ana, and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, refers to “serious complaints raised by present and former employees” of Wexford. The letter cites this newspaper’s reportage of the situation and notes that on a recent tour of Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, “committee members heard numerous concerns from inmates about medical problems not being addressed.” It also refers to confidential statements Wexford employees provided to the committee that were then turned over to the LFC. The decision to examine Wexford and NMCD comes on the coattails of months of reports that state inmates are suffering behind bars due to inadequate medical services, documented in an ongoing, investigative series by SFR. Over the past three months, former and current employees have alleged staffing shortages as well as problems with the dispensation of prescription drugs and the amount of time sick inmates are forced to wait before receiving urgent care [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. The timing, Manu Patel, the LFC’s deputy director for audits, says, is ideal, because the LFC already planned to initiate a comprehensive audit of NMCD, the first in recent history. Regarding the medical component of the audit, Patel says: “We will be looking at how cost-effective Wexford has been. Also, we will be looking at the quality of care, how long inmates have to wait to receive care and what [Wexford’s] services are like.” Patel says the LFC plans to contract with medical professionals to help evaluate inmates’ care. As per a request from the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, current Wexford employees will be given a chance to participate in the audit anonymously. The audit’s specifics require final approval from the LFC in December; the committee will likely take up to six months to generate a report, according to Patel. In a Nov. 6 e-mail to SFR, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman cites 14 successful, independent audits performed of Wexford in New Mexico since May 2005. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland echoes Gedman: “We welcome the audit and plan on cooperating any way we can,” she says. Meanwhile, former employees continue to come forward. Kathryn Hamilton, an ex-NMCD mental health counselor, says she worked alongside Wexford staff at the Pen for two months, shortly after the company took the reins in New Mexico in July 2004. Hamilton alleges that mentally ill inmates were cut off psychotropic medicine for cheaper, less effective drugs and that inmates waited too long to have prescriptions renewed and suffered severe behavioral withdrawals as a result. Hamilton, who had worked at the Pen since April 2002, says she encountered the same sorts of problems under Addus, Wexford’s predecessor, but quit shortly after Wexford’s takeover because the situation wasn’t improving. “They would stop meds, give inmates the wrong meds or refuse to purchase meds that were not on their formulary, even if they were prescribed by a doctor,” Hamilton says. “I felt angry, sometimes helpless, although I always tried to speak with administrators to help the inmates.” Hamilton married a state inmate by proxy last month, after continuing a correspondence with him following her tenure at the Pen. Hamilton says she did not serve as a counselor to the inmate, Anthony Hamilton, but met him after helping conduct a series of mental health evaluations. Hamilton has been a licensed master social worker under her maiden name since 2000 (according to the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners). She emphasizes that her relationship with her husband did not begin until after she left the Corrections Department. According to Hamilton, her husband, still incarcerated at the Pen for aggravated assault, recently contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a serious staph infection. In a previous story, four current Wexford employees specifically mentioned MRSA as a concern to SFR because they allege Wexford does not supply proper protective equipment for staff treating infectious diseases like MRSA [Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns”]. Wexford Vice President Gedman did not address Hamilton’s claims when queried by SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Bland also says she can’t comment on Hamilton’s allegations because she had not spoken with Hamilton’s supervisor at the time of her employment. Says Hamilton: “I initially called the newspaper as the concerned wife of an inmate, not as a former therapist. With all the stories the Reporter has done, I wanted to come forward with what I had seen at the Pen.”

July 22, 2003
The state Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a prison inmate's first-degree murder conviction for the death of a fellow prisoner at the Lea County Correctional Facility.  The high court rejected Paul Payne's arguments on appeal that his constitutional rights were violated and there was not enough evidence to support his convictions.
Payne was convicted in the June 17, 1999, death of Richard Garcia at the private prison in Hobbs, operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corp.  Garcia was in an isolation cell when a guard opened the door to it, allowing Payne and another inmate - who were working as porters outside their cells - to enter. Garcia was stabbed more than 40 times.  (AP)

May 4, 2003
A Lea County Detention Center inmate who stood guard outside a cell while another inmate was killed was convicted of murder Thursday.  A court translator informed Juan Mendez that he was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  Mendez is one of six inmates charged in the Jan. 13, 1999, stabbing death of Robert Ortega.  Authorities said Ortega was stabbed more than 70 times.
July 22, 2003
The state Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a prison inmate's first-degree murder conviction for the death of a fellow prisoner at the Lea County Correctional Facility.  The high court rejected Paul Payne's arguments on appeal that his constitutional rights were violated and there was not enough evidence to support his convictions.
Payne was convicted in the June 17, 1999, death of Richard Garcia at the private prison in Hobbs, operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corp.  Garcia was in an isolation cell when a guard opened the door to it, allowing Payne and another inmate - who were working as porters outside their cells - to enter. Garcia was stabbed more than 40 times.  (AP)

May 4, 2003
A Lea County Detention Center inmate who stood guard outside a cell while another inmate was killed was convicted of murder Thursday.  A court translator informed Juan Mendez that he was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  Mendez is one of six inmates charged in the Jan. 13, 1999, stabbing death of Robert Ortega.  Authorities said Ortega was stabbed more than 70 times.

November 18, 2002
Richardson announced Thursday that Santa Fe lawyer Mark Donatelli and Joe Williams, warden of the private prison in Hobbs, will co-chair Richardson's Corrections Transition Team, charged with identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and "major threats" to the department. Williams was a former warden of the state medium-security prison in Los Lunas until the late 1990s, when he was hired by the Florida-based Wackenhut Corp., which operates a 1,200-bed private prison in Hobbs. During his campaign, Richardson frequently said he did not want to spend money to build new prison cells, often adding variations of the sound bite, "I want to invest in people, not prisons." Richardson never took a stand on whether the state should continue using private companies to operate prisons - though he said more than once that he had toured Wackenhut's Hobbs facility and was favorably impressed. Donatelli said that one of the first things the state needs to do is re-evaluate the effectiveness of private prisons. "There's no credible evidence that private prisons save money," he said. "The budget keeps going up." (Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 13, 2002
A Hobbs prison guard who helped beat up two handcuffed inmates on the orders of an associate warden was sentenced Tuesday to four years probation.  While Senior U.S. District Judge John Edwards Conway did not sentence ex-lieutenant Thomas Doyle McCoy to prison, as suggested by one of the inmates, he did take up a suggestion that McCoy make a videotape to help dissuade other law officers from using excessive force.  McCoy pleaded guilty in March to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice.  He admitted that he and fellow lieutenant Judson McPeters beat inmates Tommy McMannaway and David Gonzales during separate incidents in 1998.  Conway said McCoy had to be as "stupid as they come."  "I can't understand why when an assistant warden asks you to beat up somebody, why you don't say, "That's not my job," Conway told McCoy.  McPeters pleaded guilty in February to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice and is to be sentenced today in Las Cruces.  He has said he participated in the beatings.  The government recommended McPeters and McCoy get probation because they cooperated with an FBI-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp.  McCoy and McPeters said they were ordered to beat up prisoners by then-associate warden Raymond O'Rourke and told to cover up the incident.  O'Rourke pleaded guilty in June to one count of deprivation of an inmate's civil rights and obstruction of justice.  He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $25,000.  Former prison guard Gary Butler was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in prison and fined $7,500 for helping beat up inmate Eric Duran in 1998 and covering it up.  Wackenhut, meanwhile has settled lawsuits brought by Duran and McMannaway.  Lawyer Mark Donatelli, who pushed for an investigation of the prison and represented McMannaway and Duran, said the settlements are confidential.  (Journal Staff)

November 11, 2002
Bernalillo County officials have launched talks with private companies about the possibility of them operating the Downtown jail to house federal or state inmates. Bernalillo County has built a new 2,100-bed Metropolitan Detention Center on the West Mesa. The main Downtown jail will be vacated after inmates are moved to the new lockup, probably later this month and in December. During a city-county Government Commission meeting Tuesday, jail employees union President Anthony Marquez spoke against turning the Downtown jail over to a private company. "Let's not try to make a buck off of it," he said. (Desertnews.com)

July 18, 2002
An inmate accused of acting as a lookout while another prisoner was killed has been charged with murder. Juan Mendez, a former inmate at the private Lea County Correctional Facility, was arraigned Tuesday on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence. Bond was set at $250,000. Mendez, 33, is the fifth person indicted in connection with the Jan. 13, 1999 stabbing death of Robert Ortega, who was attacked in his cell at the Hobbs prison, owned and operated by Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. (The Associated Press State and Local Wire)

June 21, 2002
A prison inmate has been sentenced to life plus nine years for the murder of a fellow prisoner who was stabbed to death in his cell - the victim of 50 wounds. Paul Payne, 28, was sentenced after being convicted Monday of murdering Richard Garcia in June 1999 at the privately run Lea County Correctional Facility. According to trial testimony, the killers left Garcia's cell yelling "white power!" and raising their fists. A guard was removed from his job after an inquiry determined he had allowed Payne and co-defendant John Price into Garcia's cell, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Honigmann said. The Lea County facility is operated by Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. (The Associated Press State and Local Wire)

April 12, 2002
Two ex-guards from a privately run Hobbs prison were convicted Friday of civil rights violations in the 1998 beating of an inmate and of conspiring with a third guard to cover it up. Lt. Matias Serrata, Lt. William Fuller and Kendall Lipscomb of Wackenhut Corrections Corp. were all found guilty of obstructing justice with the cover-up and of conspiring to obstruct justice. Serrata and Fuller also were convicted of violating the civil rights of inmate Eric Duran, who was kicked several times in the head. A fourth guard, Gary Butler, who had pleaded guilty earlier to civil rights and conspiracy charges, testified that he had hit himself in the face at the suggestion of Fuller, then went to Hobbs police with a story that the inmate had attacked him. "Those who we trust to enforce the law have one of the most difficult and important of all jobs," U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said in a statement released Friday. "When anyone in such a position violates the rights of others, they not only injure the individual but they also injure the vast majority of law enforcement officers who perform their duties with honor." Serrata had said the incident happened within 30 or 40 seconds while a riot was going on in an adjoining dining area. The Lea County Correctional Facility, which holds up to 1,200 inmates, is run Wackenhut. (AP)

March 31, 2002
The same day Hobbs prison inmate Eric Duran was rushed to a hospital emergency room after losing consciousness, then-guard Gary Butler walked into a Hobbs police station with bruises to his face and filed a report accusing the prisoner of battering him. Nearly two years later, Butler admitted that he punched himself in the face to try to justify an altercation with Duran, who was kicked unconscious. Butler, 28, also told federal authorities that he and other guards tried to cover up Duran's beating, concocting a story that Duran hit himself on the floor, a wall and a windowsill while being restrained. On Tuesday, a two-week trial begins in Roswell for former prison lieutenants William Fuller, 37, and Matias Serrata Jr., 29, and former officer Kendall Lipscomb, 25, who face federal charges in connection with the Dec. 21, 1998, incident with Duran. Butler is expected to testify against them. Some unnamed guards who witnessed the incident also are expected to testify for the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights, court records say. Butler pleaded guilty in August 2001 to one count each of deprivation of rights under color of law and conspiracy to commit a felony. As part of a plea deal, Butler agreed to cooperate and truthfully tell investigators about the incident. With his deal, Butler became one of a handful of guards who admitted heavy-handedness at the Lea County Correctional Facility, which holds up to 1,200 state inmates under contract with Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. The Duran incident is one of three reported inmate beatings in 1998 that left guards facing criminal charges. They were investigated by state and local police as well as the FBI. "Gary Butler has agreed with everything that Eric has said," Donatelli said. "Eric's account was corroborated by numerous staff there. It's not just the word of an inmate seeking damages from Wackenhut. It's also the word of people who worked for Wackenhut." The Justice Department lawyers said Duran's assault followed an incident when Duran refused to sit at his assigned seat in the prison dining hall and was involved in an argument with Lipscomb and another guard. Duran was taken to "P-15 hallway," where he "verbally disrespected" Fuller, the brief said. The brief said Fuller yelled at Duran to face a wall, put his hands on the wall and made unspecified threats. According to the brief: Duran was ordered to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but only gave one hand because he was afraid of being beaten. He asked that the guards videotape the incident, but the guards refused. Duran finally gave both hands to be handcuffed, and when he did, Fuller and Butler allegedly slammed him to the floor. The brief said Duran didn't resist. "As Duran lay face down on the floor, surrounded by officers and handcuffed behind his back, Lt. Fuller stood up, stepped to Duran's upper body and delivered a forceful kick to the inmate's head," the trial brief said. Butler also allegedly kicked Duran in the head. "Fuller and Butler alternated kicking Duran, as the inmate's head 'flopped' back and forth from one side to the other," the trial brief said. (Albuquerque Journal)  

March 13, 2002
Another former guard at the privately run prison in Hobbs has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the 1998 beatings of two inmates and subsequent cover-ups. Former lieutenant Thomas Doyle McCoy entered guilty pleas Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count. The charges were filed by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division following an investigation of the Lea County Correctional Facility by the FBI. As part of a plea bargain, McCoy admitted he participated in the beatings of inmates David Gonzales and Tommy McManaway, who were assaulted separately in August 1998. The beatings, court records say, were ordered by former high-ranking officials at the prison, which is run by Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Prison warden Joe Williams has said the administration changed hands in 1999, that none of the people involved in the incidents works there any longer and that his guards treat inmates with respect. Attorney Mark Donatelli, who represents McManaway in a suit against the prison, said "we appreciate the willingness of Mr. McCoy to accept responsibility for his actions. "More importantly, we believe the investigation and prosecution by the Justice Department will send a message to other corrections officers that will help prevent other inmates from being victimized like Tommy was." McCoy's plea follows that of former lieutenant Judson McPeters, who pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to two counts of obstruction of justice which stemmed from the beatings of Gonzales and McManaway. According to McCoy's plea agreement, McCoy and McPeters slammed Gonzales to the ground, where an officer handcuffed him. McCoy "then kicked the restrained inmate and twisted his ankle until it popped, while other officers also assaulted the inmate, although there was no legitimate penological reason for the use of force," the plea agreement said. The plea deal also said McCoy kicked McManaway in the testicles while the inmate was lying face down, fully restrained, on the shower room floor. Another lieutenant kicked McManaway in the side. The document said guards and supervisors got together to concoct false stories. For instance, they said the inmates lunged at or tried to strike guards, requiring the use of force. The reports minimized the guards' use of force. (Albuquerque Journal)

February 25, 2002
The head of the privately run prison in Hobbs said the acts of a few former guards or officials accused of battering inmates in 1998 do not reflect the philosophy of the lockup. Joe Williams, warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility, said last week that he and his staff have worked hard to "turn this place around." Williams and many of his staff are former corrections officers or wardens of lockups run by the state Department of Corrections. The Hobbs prison is run by Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. and houses up to 1,200 inmates under a contract with the state. Williams made the remarks the day after a former lieutenant at the prison admitted in court in Albuquerque that he and other prison guards participated in the August 1998 beatings of two inmates and subsequent cover-ups at the request of a former associate warden. The guard pleaded guilty to two federal counts of obstruction of justice. A lawyer who fights for inmate rights said after Wednesday's hearing that a similar incident at the prison in December 1998 — in which four former guards allegedly beat an inmate and covered it up — shows a pattern of abuse there at the time. The FBI investigated the incidents and charges were filed by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, which alleges that inmates were falsely blamed at both times by the guards for instigating incidents that required use of force. The use of force was excessive and unjustified, according to the Justice Department. The four ex-guards are to go on trial in April on charges including conspiracy and violation of civil rights. (ABQ Journal)

February 21, 2002
A former corrections officer at the privately run prison in Hobbs has confirmed that he and other guards beat inmates and tried to cover up the incidents at the request of an assistant warden in 1998. As part of a plea deal, Judson McPeters of Hobbs, a former lieutenant at the Lea County Correctional Facility, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two federal charges of obstruction of justice — one week after the Department of Justice formally charged him. The charges stem from an investigation of the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. prison — which houses up to 1,200 state inmates under contract with New Mexico — by the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. McPeters, 35, faces a maximum of five years in prison on each count. With the plea deal, he avoided charges of violating civil rights, which carry stiffer penalties, his lawyer said. Prosecutors would not say Wednesday whether more prison guards or officials would be charged. Four former guards at the Hobbs prison are to go on trial in April on federal charges alleging that they beat and kicked inmate Eric Duran in December 1998 and covered it up. McPeters — in court — named an assistant warden who allegedly ordered him and other guards to beat inmates. A prosecutor said the two cases are not related and involve different people. But Mark Donatelli, an attorney who represents Duran and one of the inmates reportedly beaten by McPeters, Tommy McManaway, said the two cases show a pattern of abuse, at least in the late 1990s. Duran and McManaway have pending federal lawsuits against officials or guards with the state, Lea County and Wackenhut. Donatelli said he believed the two investigations represent the first criminal prosecutions under federal civil rights law in state history. "This was not an isolated incident," said Donatelli, a longtime inmates' advocate. "It's part of the same pattern of physical abuse of prisoners that was taking place for months at the facility." In court documents, Justice Department trial lawyers Bobbi Bernstein and Alli Jernow alleged that McPeters was part of a conspiracy. Bernstein read an account in court, which McPeters admitted was true, that said the beatings occurred Aug. 11, 1998, and Aug. 13, 1998. The cover-up attempts went on through Aug. 31, 1998, according to the account. Bernstein said Gonzalez and McManaway were beaten at separate times, including while they were handcuffed. They were kicked about the body and McManaway was kicked "two times in the testicles" by another guard, according to the account. Bernstein said a supervisor who ordered Gonzalez's beating was present while the inmate was being struck. She did not name the supervisor, but she said in the account that McPeters, other guards and supervisors later met to concoct false stories to give if they were ever questioned. "It raises some serious questions about the policy that (Wackenhut) apparently, at least in the past, participated in, condoned or encouraged — unlawful activities," lawyer Crutchfield said. "I mean, you shouldn't have this type of stuff going on with an organization of that size." (ABQ Journal)

December 18, 2001
An inmate at a private prison at Hobbs is alleging his civil rights were violated when he was repeatedly kicked in the head three years ago in a beating that resulted in the indictments of four former guards.  The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Santa Fe against Wackenhut Corp., which runs the Lea County Correctional Facility; Wackenhut officials; Lea County; and the state correctional officers, including Corrections Secretary Rob Perry.  The lawsuit alleges Wackenhut officials engaged in widespread violations of prisoners' civil rights and that Perry and other state corrections officials were aware of beatings and other uses of excess force, but took no meaningful steps to stop them.  A federal indictment in May accused the four former guards of beating and kicking inmate Eric Duran while he was shackled on the floor, then trying to cover it up.  Former guard Gary Butler of Hobbs and former prison Lt. William Fuller of Floresville, Texas, were accused of kicking Duran repeatedly in the head Dec. 21, 1998.  Former Lt. Matias Serrata Jr. of Beeville, Texas, was accused of doing nothing to stop the attack, while former guard Kendall Lipscomb was accused of false testimony.  Butler also was accused of beating himself up so he could falsely blame Duran and justify the attack, the U.S. attorney's office said when the indictments were released.  (AP)

August 3, 2001
An inmate charged with first-degree murder in the death of another prisoner at the private Lea County Correctional Center pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as a jury was being impaneled for his trial.  Last month, Ortega's family sued prison officials over his death. The civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in Albuquerque alleged state prison officials and Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the Florida-based company that operates the Lea County prison, knowingly created dangerous conditions that led to Ortega's death.  (AP)

July 17, 2001
The wife and three children of an inmate who was stabbed to death inside a private prison in Hobbs more than two years ago are suing prison officials over his killing.  Carla Ortega claims in a federal civil rights lawsuit that state prison officials and Wackenhut Corrections Corp., a Florida-based company that owns and operates the Lea County Correctional Facility, knowingly created dangerous conditions that led to the death of her husband, Robert Ortega.  Robert Ortega, 38, was stabbed to death inside his cell with a home-made knife on Jan. 13, 1999 two days after he was transferred from the Torrance County Detention Facility to the Hobbs prison, according to the lawsuit.  The suit further alleges that state and Wackenhut prison officials knew Ortega's life was threatened by members of a prison gang, but they failed to protect him.  Also last month, the family of another inmate, Richard Garcia, filed a similar lawsuit against Wackenhut and other state prison officials.  Garcia, 47, was in an isolation cell June 17, 1999, when a guard opened the door to his cell in administrative segregation, allegedly allowing two inmates to enter and stab him 50 times in the back, chest, head, face and arms, officials said at the time.  (Albuquerque Journal)

June 19, 2001
The family of an Albuquerque man who was killed two years ago inside a privately run prison in southern New Mexico has filed a lawsuit against state officials and the company in charge of the lockup.  Richard Garcia's relatives claim prison officials knowingly created dangerous conditions that led to his death.  Garcia, 47, was in an isolation cell in June 1999 when a guard opened the door, allegedly allowing two inmates to enter and stab Garcia 50 times.  Inmates Paul Payne, 27, and John Price, 29, were charged with capital murder in Garcia's death.  (AP)

May 21, 2001
The defendants may be former guards, but the latest case of private-prison atrocity should put the whole notion of mercenary corrections in the dock.  Four guys in the hire of Wackenhut Corrections Corp. face federal indictments in the beating and kicking of a Hobbs inmate.  For good measure, they're also charged with trying to cover up their brutality.  What neither corrections secretary, Rob Perry nor Senator Manny Aragon (two of the masterminds behind New Mexico's foray into prisons for profit) would admit is this: Even if Wackenhut and other prison companies weren't committing dangerous, sometimes deadly, errors, they make their money squeezing a profit margin out of warehoused human beings.  By their very nature, private prisons create a demand for convicts.  That demand can skew criminal-justice proceedings -- against defendants, who, under the American system are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.  Handing off prison-running responsibility to the for-profit sector has had predictable results.  The governor, his corrections secretary and the New Mexico Legislature must it back.  ( The Santa Fe New Mexican)

May 19, 2001
A Bernalillo man who works in state prisons is suing  Wackenhut Corrections Corp. over injuries he suffered during a 1999 riot at the private prison in Hobbs.  Lawrence Jaramillio, 32, works for the state Correction Department and was a member of the Penitentiary of New Mexico Security Threat Group Unit in 1999.  Jaramillo was sent to the Lea County Correctional Facility in April 1999 for a routine investigation of groups or gangs within the prison.  Jaramillo is more like a police detective rather than a jail guard.  "At the time of his work visit on April 6, 1999, (Jaramillo) and other Penitentiary of New Mexico personnel were assaulted and battered by rioting inmates...," the lawsuit says in part.  The lawsuit alleges the riot was caused by Wackenhut's negligence.  (ABQ Journal)

May 18, 2001
Four former employees of Wackenhut Corrections Corp. have been charged with crimes in connection with a Dec. 21, 1998, incident at a privately run prison in Hobbs.  Two have been charged with using excessive force against an inmate and then covering up the incident, according to indictments returned Thursday by a federal grand jury here.  The charges stem from the incident at the 1,200-bed Lea County Correctional Facility, run by Wackenhut, in which a guard and a supervisory lieutenant allegedly assaulted inmate Eric Duran and kicked the inmate repeatedly in the head.  Later, the corrections officers and two other employees met in a conference room and allegedly agreed on a common cover story that the inmate struck one of the guards twice in the face with his fist and tried to bite the guard.  Then, according to an allegedly fabricated story, a struggle with the guards followed and Duran fell and hit the back of his head on a window sill.  (Albuquerque Journal)

April 18, 2001
A Native American is protesting a new corrections policy that does not allow ceremonies, sweat lodges or smoking.  A 36-year-old state-penitentiary inmate has been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks to protest prison policies he believes deprive American Indians of religious liberties.  Corrections Department spokesperson Gerges Scott said both the sweat-lodge ban and the no-smoking policy are justified in the North Facility because the inmates there are all "disruptive or difficult to manage."  COPA board member Tilda Sosaya said Tuesday Chavez has been classified as a Discipline problem because of his role as a "jailhouse lawyer."  Scott denied this.  "I believe the reason that he is (at the North) is that he was involved in a disturbance by Native American inmates in April 1999 at the Hobbs facility."  About 150 inmates participated in the April 6, 1999, riot at the Hobbs facility, which is operated by the private Wackenhut Corp.  The uprising was led by Native American inmates who claimed their religious rights weren't being honored.  Their complaints included the fact that the prison was charging sweat-lodge participants for firewood used in the ceremony.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

February 17, 2001
Nine American Indian prisoners are claiming illegal interference with their religious practices in a lawsuit filed against New Mexico corrections officials. Some of the inmates, admit being involved in an April 1999 melee that followed similar complaints over religious freedom at the privately run Lea County Correctional facility in Hobbs. The prisoners, who were allege racial discrimination, are asking for a jury trail and punitive damages in excess of $400 million to prevent corrections officials from practicing similar alleged constitutional violations. The men allege that after they formed a self-help group in the Hobbs prison in 1998, Warden Joseph Williams began to dismantle the programs and activities they had established. They were allowed to participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, but problems followed, "including outright refusal to provide firewood," the lawsuit states. The inmates claim they were forced to use chemically treated wood with toxins that could cause serious medical problems. The men allege in the lawsuits that their religious ceremonies were interrupted or stopped on several occasions, and some of their religious instruments, such as a ceremonial drum and eagle and other feathers, were confiscated. the inmates' complaints fell on deaf ears, according to the lawsuit. "Each defendant either ignored the complaints or denied the requested relief so that the abuses and racial harassment continued unabated," it states. On April 5, 1999, one of their sacred religious drums was confiscated, and inmates claim it was desecrated. "This action was furtherance in a long list of abuses and racially discriminatory actions by defendant Wackenhut," the lawsuit states. The next day, a disturbance broke out in the dinning hall and spread to a corridor. Corrections officials said the riot appeared to have been started by several Indian inmates upset over religious freedom issues. (Journal Northern Bureau)

December 14, 2000
It's going to cost New Mexico taxpayers more to house inmates at the privately run prison in Lea County. Perry told the Legislative Finance Committee that the new contract with Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corp. calls for an increase from $49.88 a day to $53 a day - 5.7 percent. The additional cost to the state would be about $1.2 million per year. It would be Wackenhut's second boost in per diem in a year. In March, some legislators blasted Perry for previous increase 5 percent per diem for Wackenhut at both its prisons (Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 14, 2000)

October 2000
An advisory letter from the state attorney general's office finds the state Corrections Department exceeded its authority by contracting with Wackenhut to give a retroactive per diem pay adjustment. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct.7, 2000)

June 18, 1999
An inmate was found stabbed to death in his cell. Two rival gang members were suspected of the crime. This is the third fatal stabbing at the facility.

April 6, 1999
A group of 150 inmates rioted at this facility, producing minor injuries to 13 staff members. The incident started in the dining hall, but it spread to other pars of the facility. At issue, in part, were religious demands of Native American inmates

January 13, 1999
Inmate death An inmate was found stabbed to death at the prison. WCC said the stabbing appeared to be gang related. This is the eighth stabbing and second stabbing death since the prison opened 6 months prior to this event.

Lincoln County Detention Center
Carrizozo, New Mexico
Emerald Corrections (formerly run by Cornell Corporation, formerly Correctional Systems Inc)
July 28, 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Managers of the Lincoln County Detention Center in Carrizozo have fired an employee who was injured in a July 12 attack by a prisoner, the Ruidoso News reported. Walter Beall, the jail's chief security officer, was given his notice of termination last Friday, the News said. "I didn't get a copy of the termination," Beall told the News on Monday. "I was so stunned when they called me in and I saw the word 'termination' across the top of the paper, that I don't remember much about the details of it." Beall told the News that he remembered reading on his termination notice that his firing had to do with having a violent and dangerous inmate unsecured, endangering staff and violating policy, but jail Warden Marcello Villegas would not comment. Emerald Companies, which runs the private jail, had not commented as of the News' press time, but have already listed Beall's position of chief of security on its website as being open. Beall's attacker, J. Tyrone Riordan, had just returned to the jail after his removal from a competency hearing at the district courthouse, which was to determine whether Riordan was competent to defend himself in his trial for the 2006 murder of Johnathan Lopez, the News said. Riordan became angry and began yelling at the judge, using foul language and after ignoring the judge's warnings about his behavior, was removed from the courtroom and returned to the jail, the paper reported. After Riordan scuffled with several jail personnel, Beall was taken to the Lincoln County Medical Center for treatment of a broken nose and multiple bruises and contusions and was released the same day, according to the News. Beall said that he had been assisting Riordan since last September with his case research, documenting as much as 20 hours in a given week, allowing him access to his computer to view CDs of discovery material, the News said. Beall also said that during those sessions he would remove Riordan's cuffs so he could use the phone and work on his files, but would sit next to him to prohibit any unauthorized access to the Internet, the paper reported. "I wrote the policy for the Echo Unit (for high-risk inmates) where Riordan was being housed at the time and I never violated that policy," Beall said. Beall said that had Riordan been in handcuffs, it would not have kept the inmate from assaulting him, the News said. "It would have given him leverage to choke me with the cuffs," said Beall. "What I did with Riordan was what we had been doing with him for the past year in assisting him with his pro se cases, prior to and after the new warden's arrival."

December 23, 2008 Ruidoso Sun
A Lincoln County man has been convicted for his part in a jail riot that occurred at the Lincoln County Detention Center on Jan. 13, 2008. Jose Prieto, 25 was convicted Friday of assault on a jail, conspiracy and criminal damage to property exceeding $1,000. Eighteen prisoners in the Carrizozo facility's "Delta Pod" were charged with offenses after the riot. The pod had housed 28 prisoners ranging from accused murderers to petty misdemeanor probation violations. Since the riots, Emerald Correctional Management Company has assumed jail management from Cornell Corrections Company, and this type of prisoner housing has been under study.

June 19, 2008 Ruidoso News
Before Lincoln County commissioners filed over to the county detention center in Carrizozo for a semi-annual tour and lunch, an official with Emerald Correctional Management Inc. briefed them on changes since the company took over May 4. Al Patino, vice president for governmental affairs for Emerald, said security was "first and foremost" among plenty of changes. Emerald took over from Cornell Companies, the firm that absorbed Correctional System Inc., which managed the jail since it opened in April 2001. But complaints about staffing shortages, the filing of several lawsuits and an in-mate disturbance in January created dissatisfaction. Cornell officials in February announced they intended to execute a 90-day notice to terminate the contract with the county that was to run until August 2009. Emerald was the only company to respond to a request for proposals. Patino said they found equipment in disrepair and other items needing maintenance. They also painted. But major changes were tied to security, he said. "We found a lot of procedural issues, such as classification of inmates," Patino said. "We determined why each inmate was there and his previous history to decide on the proper housing." A warden from one of their Texas prisons helped identify problems, he said. For the one juvenile in the jail, they worked with the district attorney, then requested and received in writing a court order from the judge for him to stay until sentenced. Commission Chairman Tom Battin asked if the company expected to detain juveniles on a regular basis and Patino said no, this 16-year-old is being sentenced as an adult and is a special case. Patino thanked County Manager Tom Stewart, who was instrumental in allowing the company to address issues immediately, he said.

April 17, 2008 Ruidoso News
A one year contract with four renewal options was approved Tuesday by Lincoln County commissioners with a new firm to manage the county detention center in Carrizozo. Emerald Correctional Management LLC, founded in 1996 with headquarters in Louisiana, was represented by Al Patińo, director of special projects, and Clay Lee, chief executive officer. They were in the county seat of Carrizozo Monday beginning the transition of detention center employees from Cornell Industries to Emerald. In February, Cornell officials notified the county they intended to terminate the company's contract with the county "for convenience," with an effective date of May 4. The contract was to run through August 2009. The county took aggressive action for the procurement of a new operator and consideration of careful planning for an orderly transition, said County Manager Tom Stewart. Emerald was the only responsive submission to a request for proposals advertised by the county with a March 28 deadline for submission. After a closed executive session during a special commission meeting Friday to consider the proposal from Emerald officials, commissioners awarded the RFP to the company, subject to negotiation of a successful contract. Following the recommendation of Stewart, and with a few minor changes proposed by County Attorney Alan Morel from the initial submission, the contract was approved Tuesday in a unanimous vote by commissioners. "The firm has begun steps to transition current employees to the new company to meet the May 4 deadline for assuming operations," Stewart told commissioners. Hitting the deadline without a management company could have resulted in the jail being closed temporarily while Stewart attempted to organize a county-run operation. The changes specified in the approval included: County prisoners are given first priority to be housed in the center. A flat fee is charged to the county by Emerald, whether the prisoner is county or federal. The fee is $51.75 per day per prisoner. More definition of who will provide transport personnel and under what circumstances. The county provides the vehicles in all cases. Pre-adjudication, Emerald will furnish the driver/guard. After adjudication, the County Sheriff's Department will handle the job. Sheriff Rick Virden detailed some other situations where his department would be responsible, which included someone who commits an offense inside the county and is arrested outside New Mexico. No psychological evaluation is required for employees. Patińo said in Texas, no correctional officers are required to be evaluated. Insurance coverage was increased from $1 million to $3 million for occurrences and limits of liability. A provision for a performance bond was eliminated. In subsequent option years, the rates will not be increased by Emerald more than a 2.5 cap on the Consumer Price Index. Stewart said he was extremely encouraged by the contract and the attitude of company executives. "The company is forward-looking and they are discussing options for the future," he said. The center holds 144 prisoners. He based his operating calculations on 130 inmates, Stewart said, adding, the more beds that can be leased to federal law enforcement agencies, the better the financial break for the county. He anticipates a $388,000 increase and an annual operating budget of $2,760,538, "but that covers more officers and a facility up-to-par with standards by the American Corrections Association," Stewart said. Revenues generated by bed rentals and other sources will offset about $1,360,000, leaving the cost to the county at $1.4 million. Stewart said the company's reputation is good and Lee just returned from an operation they run in Israel. Morel said a quality assurance plan will be brought back to the commission later that will cover employee training requirements.

January 25, 2008 Ruidoso News
An investigation by a Lincoln County Grand Jury of the county detention center launched before a riot incident Jan. 13 already is bearing positive results, said 12th Judicial District Attorney Scot Key. He explained that during the normal course of reviewing several cases that involved the jail, including an aggravated assault and escape, grand jury members requested an investigation of the situation at the jail in the county seat of Carrizozo. "They wanted a better idea of what was happening," Key said Thursday. "They completed the review and sent a report to District Judge Karen Parsons." When a riot subsequently erupted at the jail this month, "That kind of situation kind of highlighted what the grand jury was concerned about. "As a result of two or three things and my on-going concern about the jail, about staffing and (personnel) training and other issues, we asked the county commission to start looking into it prior to the uprising, which highlighted the need for commissioners to review their contract with Cornell Companies. I felt our office had to intervene." But Key said he's seen positive results. "We've gotten involved. Cornell and the county have had many discussions and I think the lines of communication have opened," Key said. "We've studied the issues and problems, and have a positive plan of action for the future. "Last week, our office began training all jail staff and Cornell agreed to strategic planning to provide more training to hire more and more qualified people from a larger geographic area. Very positive things are going to happen with Cornell, the county and the jail, and we look forward to really good service being provided to the citizens of the county." Key met with commissioners Tuesday in a closed executive session. One of the incidents sparking the investigation into the jail's operation by Cornell under contract with the county was an escape last October by an inmate, who held a guard captive at knifepoint. County Manager Tom Stewart said he could not discuss specifics, but commented that, "The county is in beneficial discussions with the district attorney regarding a variety of jail issues in general."

January 14, 2008 Ruidoso News
Twenty-eight prisoners in the Delta pod at the Lincoln County Detention Center in Carrizozo were at the center of a riot reported at approximately 7 p.m. Sunday. As per policy, Cornell Companies, which manages the detention center, immediately contacted local law enforcement to provide rapid perimeter containment on the outside of the main fence. Responding to the scene were the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, New Mexico State Police and the Carrizozo Police Department. Lincoln County EMS and the Carrizozo Volunteer Fire Department were also at the scene while a situation assessment was made. Within an hour, the situation was reported as "contained" with no serious injuries to inmates, officers or prison personnel. Reportedly, tear gas was used to bring the riot under control, and emergency technicians were called to administer aid as a result of the gas. Severe damage to the Delta pod was reported, including the destruction of surveillance cameras, broken glass and bathroom fixtures torn from the wall. Investigators later reported that approximately six of the 28 prisoners were actually involved in the riot and further interviews would be conducted to determine the cause of the violence. A number of the prisoners involved have been transferred to other facilities. Last October, a prisoner escaped the Lincoln County Detention Center when he held a guard at knifepoint. The escapee was captured later that day after he was sighted and reported by a county resident. In March 2002, a "mini" riot at the detention center ensued when inmates protested the snack policy in the commissary, causing $3,000 in damage to windows, mattresses and plumbing. The riot was blamed mostly on federal prisoners transferred to the facility.

January 14, 2008 AP
Tear gas was used to quell an hour-long melee instigated by about one-half dozen prisoners in a pod at the Lincoln County Detention Center. The disturbance began about 6:30 p.m. Sunday and was subdued by guards and Lincoln County sheriff's officers, said Charles Seigel of San Diego, a spokesman for Cornell Companies, which runs the jail. Investigators were trying to determine what triggered the uprising, he said. A few prisoners were treated for minor injuries, Seigel said. None of the guards or sheriff's officers were injured, he said. A small group of prisoners tried to take over the dorm-style pod that holds 28 inmates, and four to six prisoners were continuously involved in the uprising, Seigel said. "There was some damage to plumbing and toilets, things like that," he said. A surveillance camera also was damaged, Seigel said. The jail has five pods that hold a maximum of 32 prisoners each.

October 11, 2007 Ruidoso News
A prisoner who made an armed escape from the Lincoln County Detention Center a few minutes after midnight Thursday morning was arrested in White Oaks Thursday afternoon. Fred Berry, 36, was taken into custody by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and a knife measuring between eight and nine inches was confiscated. In his escape, Berry held prison guard Raymond LaFave with a knife at his neck and demanded to be released from the prisoner pod and the detention center. According to the probable cause statement filed in Ruidoso Magistrate Court, Berry also threatened Lieutenant Randy Lucero with the knife. Reportedly, Berry told the guards, "If you don't let me out, we're dying here tonight." Charles Seigel, a public information officer for Cornell Companies, the detention center's manager, confirmed that it is against company policy for the prisoner to be released from the jail. "I can't speak to the particular situation," he said by phone, "but it is definitely not our policy for the doors to have been opened." Cornell's local commander Roger Jeffers was unavailable for comment at press time. In the BOLO (Be On the Look Out) that was issued immediately after the escape, Berry was described as a white male with blue eyes, 6 feet tall and 230 pounds with long brown hair (in a ponytail when last seen) Berry added several charges to his list of crimes when he cut the tires on two vehicles as he departed the detention center. Then he forced LaFave to drive him to the nearby Allsup's at the intersection of Highways 380 and 54, where, at knife-point, he robbed the store of cigarettes and a lighter before disappearing on foot into the night.

March 12, 2002 A weekend without candy bars sparked a mini-riot at the Lincoln County Detention Center that lasted less than a half-hour. Prisoners in one of the jail's dormitory units tried to light their mattresses on fire, plugged up their toilets and threw things at guards who tried to settle them down, according to Lincoln County Manager Tom Stewart. The reason for the uprising: A woman who sells the prisoners chips, candy and other snacks did not show up over the weekend. "They didn't get their candy bars," Stewart said. "They didn't get their snacks." The jail in Carrizozo, which is less than two years old and is managed by Correctional Systems Inc., was in the process of switching from a local vendor for inmate snacks to a larger out-of-state company, Stewart said. He said the local vendor, who comes to the jail and takes orders for snacks and then returns to deliver them, stopped coming. That left inmates with no alternatives to jail food, and that made them mad, he said. (ABQ Journal)

Los Palomas Apartments
Associated Securities Industries

November 19, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A Santa Fe woman is suing a local security company because it hired a guard with a criminal record who wound up attacking her while he was on duty at Los Palomas Apartments in January, according to the lawsuit.  Former Associated Securities Industries security guard Anthony Sena, 23, of Camino Torcido Loop, pleaded no contest earlier this year to a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, to wit, a baton; and a count of attempted kidnapping, for attacking the woman, Edis Sorta. According to the civil suit filed Monday in Santa Fe District Court by attorney Thomas Clark, Sena "was incompetent to perform the work required as a security guard for the Defendant ASI (Associated Securities Industries), because ... Sena was predisposed to violence and a person with prior convictions for felony offenses."  When asked to elaborate, Clark said Sena has convictions from out of state for cocaine possession, marijuana possession and illegal firearm possession.  "We believe he has a felony criminal history that would preclude him from being able to carry a firearm," Clark said in a phone interview Thursday.

McKinley County Detention Center/Adult Facility
Gallup, New Mexico
Management and Training Corporation  (formerly run by Correctional Services Corporation)

January 5, 2007 Gallup Independent
It took the jury less than two hours with lunch included to find Brian Orr not guilty of using his power at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center to sexually abuse three female prisoners in 2003. The issue in the trial centered around the fact that jurors had to decide who was telling the truth the three female prisoners from Wyoming or Orr, who worked at the facility at the time. The three women told the jury of having girlfriend-boyfriend relations with Orr, getting gifts and being abused. One woman told of being handcuffed nude in his office while he took photos of her on his digital camera. The problem was that was all the jury had to go by the words of the three women. There was no corroborating evidence and Steve Seeger, Orr's defense attorney, stressed in his closing arguments the background of the three women and the reasons why they were in jail in the first place. Pointing out their crimes, which ranged from forgery and passing bad checks to distribution of methampthemines, he asked the jury "would you buy a vehicle" from them? In the end, the jury apparently decided not to believe anyone and issued a statement after the verdict about "the poor quality of the investigation" and their belief that it wasn't done "in a professional and competent manner."

January 3, 2007 Gallup Independent
Testimony began Tuesday in the Brian Orr case. Orr faces three counts of criminal penetration stemming from accusations made by three Wyoming women, who were incarcerated in the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in 2003 and 2004. Two of the three accusers testified Tuesday, claiming that they had a boyfriend-girlfriend type of relationship with Orr while they were incarcerated. Orr at the time was a captain at the jail. One of the women claimed that on one occasion as she was being moved from one area of the jail to another Orr put a hand down her pants and inserted his finger inside her. The other woman claimed Orr did the same thing to her once when she was in his office. Both women claimed that Orr made promises to each of them about a future after they got out of jail, brought them gifts and gave them favorable treatment. Orr, who was terminated from his position after the charges were made, was also sued in civil court by the three women. Also named in the suit were McKinley County and Management Training Center, the private company that ran the jail at the time. A settlement was eventually made in the civil suit and McKinley County officials said that no county money was involved. MTC and its insurance company agreed to pay the settlement, the terms of which were kept confidential, although one of the accusers at the trial said she received $55,000 as her share of the settlement. This civil suit is expected to play a major role in the criminal case with Steve Seeger, Orr's defense attorney, asking the accusers how the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of the female inmates, got involved in the case in the first place. Both women testified that the ACLU contacted them and not the other way around. This led Mike Calligan, chief deputy prosecutor for the McKinley County's District Attorney's Office, to ask permission to call to the stand Wednesday one of the ACLU attorneys to explain how the organization got involved in the case.

January 28, 2006 Gallup Independent
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police arrested fugitive and former McKinley County Adult Detention Center supervisor Bryan Orr this week in connection with the sexual assault of two female inmates. Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Calligan on Friday confirmed Orr's arrest in the Las Vegas area. Orr was wanted in McKinley County on charges of criminal sexual contact with an inmate. The charges stem from his tenure as a lieutenant at the detention center. He resigned from his position with the facility in 2005 and failed to appear for his arraignment on the criminal charges in August. Sheila Black, 28, and Christine Herden, 23, had been jailed at the detention center in Gallup in 2003 because there was no room for them at the Wyoming Women's Center in Lusk. The women claim Orr sexually assaulted and took nude pictures of them during their stay at the facility. Orr is also a target of a federal lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union that cites "cruel and unusual punishment" on his behalf. The McKinley County Board of Commissioners and former managing agent, Management and Training Corporation, were also named in the suit for failure to properly supervise and train Orr.

January 24, 2006 Casper Star-Tribune
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against a New Mexico detention officer, alleging he sexually assaulted two female inmates from Wyoming at a Gallup, N.M., jail and photographed them in the nude. At the time of the alleged incidents in 2003, the inmates were housed in New Mexico because of overcrowding at Wyoming's only female correctional institution, the Wyoming Women's Center in Lusk. The lawsuit claims sexual abuse and cruel and unusual punishment by Detention Officer Brian Orr of the McKinley County (N.M.) Detention Center. The complaint was filed on behalf of inmates Sheila Black and Christine Herden. The ACLU alleges that Orr repeatedly sexually assaulted the two women and photographed them in the nude, causing physical injury and severe psychological and emotional distress. The complaint also alleges that the jail's acting warden, Gilbert Lewis, the McKinley County commissioners and the Centerville, Utah, company that managed the jail, Management and Training Corp., were negligent for failing to properly train and supervise Orr.

September 4, 2003
McKinley County is terminating its contract with the Utah-based company that has been operating the county jail, a facility plagued by problems.  Four inmates escaped from the jail, run by Management & Training Corp., on July 4, after being left unsupervised in a recreation yard.  All four were later captured or surrendered, but investigators said the escapees had a three-hour head start because guards at the jail did not miss them until a head count later that day.  MTC also operates the Santa Fe County jail and that facility too has had problems. Warden Cody Graham, who formerly headed the Santa Fe County jail, was fired a week after the escape. In Santa Fe, a nine-member state audit team found the jail needed to improve inmate classification, grievance procedures, discipline, records and inmate programs.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

July 11, 2003
The McKinley County jail's warden and the lone corrections officer who was left in charge of 80 inmates during a Fourth of July jailbreak have been fired. Management & Training Corporation, which manages the McKinley County Adult Detention Center on a contract, took the action after a series of security failures on the Independence Day holiday allowed four inmates, including three suspected in killings, to escape. (ABQ Journal)

July 9, 2003
An investigation into the Fourth of July jailbreak at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in Gallup has concluded that mistakes in all areas of security allowed two accused killers and two other inmates to escape. Inadequate staffing because of the Independence Day holiday also led to a failure to take a head count, which gave the escaped inmates a three-hour head start, the investigation found. Manuel Vasquez, previously charged with child abuse resulting in death, was arrested several hours after the break when he sought treatment for cuts and a fractured ankle at a Gallup hospital. Robert Kiro, awaiting trial for killing a Gallup police officer in a raid on Kiro's trailer home in 2001, was arrested in Chambers, Ariz., several hours later. Two of the four escaped prisoners remained free Tuesday. Velasquez, Kiro, another accused killer and a fourth inmate being held for shooting at a house, escaped when they were left unsupervised with about a dozen other inmates for an hour in the jail's recreation area. "The facility was understaffed for one thing," said Dee Dee Gonzales, a McKinley County Sheriffs Department investigator who was charged with looking into the escape. "They let people off for the holiday." Jails count on three things to keep inmates within their walls: supervision, security cameras and fences.  The investigation found failures in all three areas. Gonzales said her report will be sent to McKinley County officials and to the Management and Training Corp., which runs the jail on a contract. Warden Cody Graham did not return telephone calls Tuesday. Gonzales said one corrections officer was on duty Tuesday in a four-pod unit that held about 80 prisoners. A second officer would usually be on duty but had been given the day off because of the holiday, Gonzales said. Additionally, a security camera failed to cover a spot in the recreation area where the inmates escaped from. And two sections of fence were not joined, allowing the escapees to reach the parking lot. Kiro and the other inmates were let into the recreation area about 9 a.m. Friday and left there while the officer on duty returned to the other inmates, Gonzales said. Some of the inmates apparently hoisted Kiro and the others onto their shoulders and allowed them to climb toward a wire mesh cover. The mesh is in sections and the sections were not attached, which allowed the inmates to pull two pieces apart and squeeze through, Gonzales said. Once on the roof, they crawled over razor wire by draping it with bed sheets and climbed down to a lower roof and then onto the ground. Police believe they were met by a car and drove away from the jail about 9:30 a.m. They were not discovered missing until about 2 p.m. because the officer did not do head counts, Gonzales said. Gonzales said disciplinary action would be up to the warden or Management and Training Corp. officials.  (ABQ Journal)

July 7, 2003
Two of four inmates who escaped the McKinley County jail Friday remained at large Saturday evening, as an internal investigation continued into how the escape was allowed to occur. Robert Kiro, 34, was taken into custody without resistance at 10:15 p.m. Friday at the Chieftain Motel in Chambers, Ariz., 13 hours after the Gallup jailbreak, Gallup police Capt. Bobby Silva said. Kiro was charged with killing a Gallup policeman two years ago. "Gallup will immediately begin the proceedings to bring (Kiro) back," Silva said. Others who police said escaped Friday morning were Eric Leyba, 18, accused of beating a Gallup man to death in March 2002; Alejandro Balderama, 23, charged with shooting at a dwelling; and Manuel Vasquez, 32, who suffered a fractured right heel and an arm laceration in his jump to freedom. The escapees jumped three floors from the jail's roof-top recreation area during an exercise period, which began at 9 a.m. Vasquez hitched a ride to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries. Hospital officials dissatisfied with his explanation summoned police who then learned of the escape, McKinley County Deputy Sheriff Ron Williams said. That was more than three hours after the jailbreak, he said. Vasquez was arrested at the hospital Friday afternoon. Leyba and Balderama remained at large Saturday. Williams said the delay in reporting the escape left police and sheriff's officers "totally disgusted, and it's disheartening." Warden Cody Graham, who runs the facility for Management Training Corp., a private jail operator contracted by McKinley County, said, "What happened (Friday) is unfortunate. We are looking into it, and whatever corrective measures need to be taken will be taken. Whatever security enhancements we need to do we will do." Graham said that at any one time, 30 to 40 inmates can be placed into the recreation area, and they can stay in there for up to an hour. They are counted when they are placed there and they are supposed to be counted as they come back in, he said. Asked if that recount occurred, he said, "we're still trying to find that out." The recreation area should have been monitored, Graham said. "They were not on that day physically supervised by guards, but there are two cameras up there that are supposed to be monitored," he said. (ABQ Journal)

July 7, 2003 
Law enforcement officials are investigating why an escape from a privately run county jail went unreported until one of the four fugitives, injured jumping from the jail roof, showed up at a hospital a few hours later.  Two of the inmates, including one charged with murder, were still on the run this morning.  "We in law enforcement are totally disgusted, and it's disheartening," said McKinley County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Williams.  The four escaped by leaping three floors from the jail's rooftop exercise enclosure during an exercise period that began about 9 a.m. Friday, authorities said.  Law enforcement officials found out about the escape more than three hours later when one of the inmates, Manuel Vasquez, 32, hitched a ride to a hospital, where doctors became suspicious of his explanation for his fractured heel and cut arm and called police, Williams said.  Another inmate was captured late Friday. Robert Kiro, 34, who scheduled to face trial Aug. 11 in connection with the killing of a Gallup police officer, was arrested at a motel in Chambers, Ariz., Gallup police Capt. Bobby Silva said.  "There obviously was human error," said jail warden Cody Graham, who runs the facility for Management Training Corp., a private jail operator under contract with McKinley County.  "I need to determine what exactly did not take place when it comes to our procedures," he said.  Graham said inmates Eric Leyba, 18, and Alejandro Balderama, 23, were still missing this morning. Leyba is charged with beating a Gallup man to death in 2002. Balderama was being held on charges of shooting at a dwelling.  Gallup is about 120 miles northwest of Albuquerque.  (AP)

May 1, 2003
A man who was let go as warden in Santa Fe County returned Wednesday a warden for the McKinley County Adult Detention Center.  Cody Graham had been warden in Gallup when Ogden, Utah-based Management and Training Corp. took over the operation of the jail in January 2001.  He was transferred to Santa Fe later that year.  Both the McKinley County jail and the Santa Fe County jail are run by MTC.  Santa Fe County officials told the company about inmates' complaints of being denied toilet paper, clothing and medical care.  An advisory committee on the jail said MTC did not provide enough case managers, had a high turnover in staff and needed to improve medical staffing.  (AP)

May 19, 2002
The McKinley County jail was locked down Sunday after disgruntled inmates set a mattress on fire, jail officers reported. Eleven inmates locked themselves in a section of the jail where the fire started, but the incident was quickly quelled, said Sandy Aragon, director of communications at the Gallup-McKinley County 911 center. The inmates came out and the fire was extinguished, Aragon said. The jail is run by a private company, Management Training Corp. (Albuquerque Journal)

November 26, 1999
On Friday, November 26, five inmates escaped from the county jail operated by Correctional Services Corp. This brings the total to nine the number of inmates who have escaped from the prison in the last three months. CSC’s vice president blamed the escapes on the facility claiming it is structurally unsound. The inmates climbed through a skylight. CSC recently lost the contract to run this prison. (Albuquerque Journal, 11/26/99)

September, 1999
Four inmates escaped from the private jail in New Mexico operated by Correctional Services Corp. The sheriff’s office was not notified of the escape until an hour and 15 minutes has passed. They crawled through an air vent. Two were jailed on parole violation and burglary charges. The other two escapees were in jail awaiting trial on murder, aggravated battery and kidnapping charges. (Albuquerque Journal, 9/6-8/99)

New Mexico Department of Corrections
Aramark, CCA, GEO Group, Wexford
State gets tougher on private prisons - Operators face fine as leniency disappears under Martinez administration: March 1, 2012, Trip Jennings, The New Mexican: Damning expose on how former DOC Secretary and former Wackenhut warden cost state millions of dollars in un-collected fines against for-profits.
Dec 13, 2013 Albuquerque Journal News

Nine jurors voted for death, and three voted for life. That means convicted murderer John Charles McCluskey will receive a life sentence without possibility of release, rather than death. After a process strung out more than five months, the federal jury was in court just five minutes Wednesday as the judge read their verdict form giving a life sentence to McCluskey. A death sentence requires unanimity among the jurors, and they could not reach that level of agreement during four days of deliberation. The 30-page special verdict form asked jurors to look at 160 mitigating factors weighing against death and seven aggravating factors weighing in favor of death in the Aug. 2, 2010, kidnapping and murder of Gary and Linda Haas. The retired couple had left Tecumseh, Okla., headed for a Colorado fishing vacation when they were kidnapped for their travel trailer and pickup at a rest stop on Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico. They were shot about an hour later at a remote site north of the interstate by McCluskey, according to trial testimony and the jury’s verdicts in other phases of the complicated federal death case. McCLUSKEY: Jury deadlocked after four days. McCluskey, 48, had escaped just days earlier from a state prison in Arizona with Tracy Province, also an inmate, and with the help of McCluskey’s cousin and girlfriend Casslyn Welch, who provided money, supplies and reconnaissance of the prison. Both were codefendants in the federal case charging conspiracy to commit carjacking and murder and testified for the government in exchange for life sentences. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera, who presided over the trial, invited jurors to meet with her in chambers following the verdict and told them attorneys for the prosecution and the defense would be anxious to hear about their deliberative process. “I think that some jurors saw that John’s life has value,” said Theresa “Teri” Duncan, who was appointed to represent McCluskey within days of the murders. For example, she said witnesses told about what a great friend he was when he was young and about his life in prison in Pennsylvania. McCluskey entered that system in his mid-20s and remained until he was older than 40, during which he was a prized, hard worker and an inmate who counseled others to avoid the kind of trouble that can erupt in that environment. She said other witnesses who knew McCluskey in Arizona “talked about how respectful he was to older people.” Among them was Sissy Honea, who told the jury about McCluskey sending her a card during the trial to offer his condolences when her life partner died. “That meant something to her,” Duncan said. “She brought John’s capacity for kindness up to the present. That was one of the more compelling things that the evidence showed for the right juror.” Gary Haas’ younger sister Linda Rook, reached by phone in Oklahoma following the verdict, said she was in a state of shock after her uncle – one of several family members who attended trial religiously – called to tell her about it. “I’m just going to have to learn to accept it some way,” Rook said. “He (McCluskey) already had a life sentence, so he’s essentially getting nothing for what he did to my brother and sister-in-law.” Rook brought her mother, Vivian Haas, to Albuquerque in August to hear testimony in the guilt-innocence part of the trial. That testimony began with the detailed escape planning from the northern Arizona privately operated facility; the escape itself and subsequent hijacking of two truckers in northern Arizona; the fugitive trio’s acquisition of another vehicle before carjacking the Haases, mostly to get their roomy and air conditioned travel trailer. Codefendants Province and Welch, who have been promised a prison version of the witness protection program, testified about what they called McCluskey’s unexpected, unnecessary and infuriating shooting of the Haases and about their post-escape wanderings to Wyoming and other parts. In a second phase, prosecutors proved the statutory factors required for a death verdict. And in a final, “selection” phase, prosecutors argued that McCluskey was such a danger that he couldn’t be safely housed even in a federal prison and that he deserved to die for killing a special couple. The defense brought in mitigation witnesses about McCluskey’s life and social history. Despite the outcome, Rook said she was appreciative of the jury’s work and that of prosecutors who’ve spent over two years on the case. The official word, however, from acting U.S. Attorney Steve Yarbrough was not disappointment. “The jury decided not to seek death but they found him guilty of every count charged,” Yarbrough said. “The process played out the way it was supposed to.” Asked if the millions of dollars spent on a death penalty prosecution was worth it, Yarbrough said that wasn’t his call. “It isn’t my decision. Congress passed the law and the president signed it,” he said. “It’s ultimately the call of the (U.S.) Attorney General, who looks at it in terms of other cases across the U.S.” in pursuit of uniformity. The extensive jury verdict form asks each juror to certify that race, color, religious beliefs, national origin or gender of the defendant or victim was not a factor involved in reaching their decision. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Greg Fouratt and Linda Mott and Department of Justice Attorney Michael Warbel began selecting a jury in July with Duncan, lead attorney Michael Burt of San Francisco and Ruidoso attorney Gary Mitchell. All of them were paid for by the government. The jury, plus four alternates, was drawn from throughout the state and included some from southern New Mexico, three from northern New Mexico and others from the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho area. There were three men and nine women. McCluskey, who is being held at the Torrance County Detention Facility, is expected to remain there until he is formally sentenced. No date has been set. Mitchell said the defense team understands how tragic the event was for the victim’s family, and offered condolences to them. Duncan said she believes the McCluskey verdict “is consistent with New Mexico attitudes toward the death penalty. “We’re just a state that values life, and the verdict shows that we continue to show our commitment to life,” she said.

 

October 7, 2013 Albuqurque Journal News

A federal jury will spend at least another month in court after finding John Charles McCluskey committed crimes with which he was charged after escaping from an Arizona prison, foremost among them the murders of an Oklahoma couple that could bring the death penalty. McCluskey, who looks pale, gaunt and older than his 48 years – a far cry from the tall, beefy convict shown in photos at trial – remained calm as the verdict was read. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera read the verdict out loud – guilty of a total of 20 counts – in a courtroom packed with FBI agents, including the special agent in charge, other law enforcement officials, news media and the family of the victims. The charges stem from the Aug. 2, 2010, carjacking of Oklahoma couple Gary and Linda Haas from a rest stop on Interstate 40 in New Mexico and their subsequent murders in Guadalupe County. After he and his wife were kidnapped at gunpoint for the truck and trailer that would allow McCluskey and his co-defendants to continue on the lam, Gary Haas was forced to drive into a rural area north of I-40 in Guadalupe County and pull over. The couple was ordered into the camper/trailer, and both were shot. The trailer was subsequently torched, with the bodies inside, using liquor the couple had brought for their annual Colorado camping vacation. McCluskey and co-defendants Casslyn Welch, his girlfriend and cousin, and Tracy Province, a fellow escapee from the state contract prison in Kingman, Ariz., were charged with conspiracy to commit carjacking, carjacking resulting in death, tampering with a witness, conspiracy to interfere with commerce and gun-related charges. Gary Haas’ younger sister, Linda Rook, said after the verdict that it was “good news for what we wanted” – the death penalty. “It’s still very emotional,” she said. The family wrote prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in support of seeking the death penalty. The penalty is to be decided by the jury in a separate phase of trial that has been projected to last even longer than the first phase, which began Aug. 19. Rook, her mother, Vivian Haas, and other family members have occupied the front row of the courtroom throughout the trial. Since the murders of Gary and Linda, they have endured major health issues, Oklahoma storms, and other deaths in the family. The jurors, who were drawn from all over the state, deliberated for a day on Thursday, took Friday off and resumed deliberations on Monday. By 3 p.m., they had reached a verdict. On the first day of deliberations, jurors asked to again see the video interview of Casslyn Welch with an FBI agent in which she revels in the prison escape that she was instrumental in planning and carrying out, and in which she refers to the victims as “Ma and Pa Kettle” and “Okies.” The court refused and instructed them that they had all the evidence. The upcoming penalty phase could begin next week. During that phase, which is to be subdivided into two parts, prosecutors will present aggravating factors under the federal death penalty statute, and the defense will present mitigating factors weighing against it. Those factors may include mental health evidence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt reminded the judge that within 24 hours of conviction on a death-eligible charge, the defense must file a document saying whether attorneys plan to use mental health evidence during the penalty phase. The defense already has given notice of its plans to use such evidence, but could alter course. The defense team, led by Michael Burt of San Francisco, gave notice in March of plans to use expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect. The notice said a forensic neuropsychologist had conducted more than two dozen tests on McCluskey and was about to conduct magnetic resonance imaging and other kinds of electronic imaging tests. Province and Welch, who entered guilty pleas that avoided a potential death penalty prosecution for them, and who and testified at McCluskey’s trial in the guilt/innocence phase, may be recalled for the penalty phase. They face up to life in prison, but neither has been sentenced. Welch and Province were the star witnesses in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, each testifying for well over a day. Both were firm in insisting it was McCluskey who shot the Haases, giving no warning of his plans before shots rang out, despite a defense assault on their credibility. Members of the Haas family also are expected to testify. “We actually have subpoenas,” Linda Rook said

 

Aug 22, 2013 The Washington Post

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The pile of ash and twisted metal looked like what was left of a travel trailer, but a New Mexico sheriff testified Wednesday he had no idea when he first saw the crime scene that the case was a homicide that investigators would later link to two Arizona fugitives and their accomplice. “What was really bad was within about a 100-foot radius of the burned out frame, the trees were completely charred, even parts of the corrals,” Guadalupe County Sheriff Michael Lucero told jurors. “It was a mess.” The sheriff was among several law enforcement agents who took the stand in the capital murder trial of John McCluskey, the last of three defendants to be tried on federal carjacking and murder charges in the 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. The retired couple, on their way to an annual camping trip in Colorado, had been targeted for their pickup truck and travel trailer after they stopped at a rest area near the Texas-New Mexico state line on Aug. 2, 2010. Prosecutors say the couple was forced at gunpoint to drive west along Interstate 40 before being ordered to pull onto a lonely two-lane road. They were shot and then the trailer was taken to a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico, where it was unhitched and burned. Prosecutor Greg Fouratt showed jurors photographs of everything from the trailer to the dirt road that led to the ranch. He also played clips from surveillance video taken from a convenience store near a highway exit that showed the truck and trailer headed toward the ranch that afternoon. Less than 40 minutes later, the video shows the truck heading back toward the interstate with no trailer. A ranch hand testified he discovered the trailer along with three small dogs. Two of the pets were rounded up and their tags led the sheriff to the Haases’ daughter. Lucero testified that he thought he was dealing with a kidnapping. The case changed when James Butterfield, a criminal investigator with New Mexico State Police, got closer to the wreckage. “When I arrived at the wheels of the trailer, I started looking down straight in front of me. Through my training and experience, I recognized a skull and a femur bone,” he testified. Other agents testified about finding the Haases stolen truck hours away in Albuquerque. It was unlocked, the keys were in one cup holder and a bottle of brake fluid was in another. Prosecutors planned to call more investigators to the stand Wednesday afternoon. McCluskey’s accomplices — his cousin and fiance Casslyn Welch and fellow inmate Tracy Province — are expected to testify next week. Both face life sentences after pleading guilty last year to charges stemming from the Haases’ deaths.


August 6, 2013 chron.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal prosecutors expect to seat a jury this week in the case of an Arizona inmate who escaped from prison and is accused of killing a retired couple who was traveling through New Mexico. Jury selection is in its third week for John McCluskey. He's the last defendant to face federal carjacking and murder charges in the 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. The Haases were headed to Colorado for an annual camping trip when they were targeted for their truck and travel trailer. So far, prosecutors and defense attorneys have retained 57 prospective jurors for the panel. They are expected to whittle that pool to the final 12 jurors Thursday. Opening statements are scheduled for Aug. 19. Prosecutors have said the trial could last four months.

 

07/31/2013 connectamarillo.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Jury selection is in its second week for an Arizona inmate who escaped from prison and is accused of killing a retired couple who was traveling through New Mexico. John McCluskey is the last defendant to face federal carjacking and murder charges in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. The Haases were headed to Colorado for an annual camping trip when they were targeted for their truck and travel trailer. Lawyers questioned 60 prospective jurors in the first week and retained 25. Some were dismissed because of their firm views either for or against the death penalty. Others had hardships that would prevent them from serving in a trial that could last up to four months. Jury selection is expected to wrap up by Aug. 9.


Jul 26, 2013 abqjournal.com

An Arizona prison escapee accused of murdering a vacationing retired couple in 2010 in a crime that shocked the state and sparked a nationwide manhunt appeared in an Albuquerque courtroom Monday at the start of his federal capital trial. John Charles McCluskey is charged with kidnapping Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., and murdering them north of Santa Rosa on Aug. 2, 2010. The Haases were en route to a Colorado vacation and had stopped in their pickup and camper at a rest area outside Santa Rosa when they were carjacked, according to prosecutors. Attorneys estimate the trial will take months from start to finish, concluding just before Thanksgiving. Testifying will be McCluskey’s girlfriend and cousin, Casslyn Mae Welch, and fellow escapee Tracy Allen Province. Both Province and Welch, who helped the two men in their escape, have entered guilty pleas. McCluskey has appeared at previous hearings in the case shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, but at trial Monday, he wore a dark suit and tie. By late afternoon Monday, there were five potential jurors, and a long way to go. It will take a pool of 64 qualified, potential jurors from which to pick a jury of 12. Six alternates are also to be selected before testimony begins in about a month. Prospective jurors are called in groups of 12 each day for questioning, first as a group by U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera and attorneys on topics like pre-trial publicity, then individually in the courtroom to decide if the juror can be fair to both sides. Each side has about 10 minutes to ask general questions or to further probe the questionnaire of almost 100 questions the federal court jury division sent to 1,800 possible jurors statewide six months ago. That list was winnowed to some 300 after factors like vacations, age, disability and the like eliminated those unable to spend months hearing the case. The federal capital trial procedure requires a jury to make a finding of guilt in the first trial phase. If that occurs, the penalty phase begins. The prosecution presents aggravating factors that it believes weigh in favor of a death sentence – prior convictions, for instance – and the jury must find that those factors also have been proved. Then the defense presents “mitigating” factors that weigh in favor of life in prison with no possibility of release. Those may include mercy. A decision to impose the death penalty must be unanimous. According to prosecutors, the Haases and their three dogs were carjacked and taken to a remote ranch area near Colonias, and the couple was shot. Their trailer was burned and McCluskey and two companions allegedly stole the pickup and a gun, left the dogs behind and traveled to Albuquerque, where they ditched the truck. Law enforcement officials found the pickup on North Fourth Street and found fingerpints on the plastic covering from a roll of paper towels. McCluskey and Welch traveled east to Arkansas and back west to Arizona before they were arrested in a U.S. Forest Service campground in eastern Arizona on Aug. 19, 2010, according to court documents. Prosecutors Michael Warbel of the U.S. Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Greg Fouratt and Linda Mott, and defense attorneys Michael Burt of San Francisco, Theresa Duncan of Albuquerque and Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso took turns asking questions as jury panelists, identified only by a number so as to preserve their anonymity, were called out one by one. Among those who could be selected for the final 12 are a woman from a deeply Christian home in Texas who said she grew up seeing the world in only black and white and being a staunch believer in the death penalty. But when a youth whom she and her husband had befriended and considered a son robbed a store and killed two people, she persuaded him to take a plea offer that guaranteed life in prison rather than face the death penalty. Another retained juror said he knew Fouratt casually through service in the National Guard, and assured questioners he could meaningfully weigh factors for and against the death penalty, which he generally favors strongly. The process begins anew today, and is expected to continue for another three weeks or so before the case is ready for opening statements and testimony.

June 13, 2012 The New Mexican
The state Corrections Department could save millions by spending more on community corrections programs and tweaking some private prison contracts, the Legislative Finance Committee says. A recent evaluation of the department, by the committee and the Pew Center on the States, uncovered problems with contract management, parole planning and programs aimed at keeping prisoners from returning. A recent committee newsletter said, "The department could save $2 million a year by amending its contract with the private company that runs the Hobbs prison, the review says. Even though staffing level requirements were cut in March, the state is paying the operator the same amount." The Hobbs prison is operated by the Florida-based Geo Group, which also runs other prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton.

March 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The companies that operate private prisons where New Mexico state inmates serve their time have racked up nearly $1.6 million in penalties for understaffing and other contract violations since the Martinez administration started cracking down last year. Nearly all of that was attributable to problems at The GEO Group Inc.’s prison in Hobbs, although the company’s Clayton prison was recently added to the penalty list. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the women’s prison in Grants, also has been fined during the past couple of months, mostly for having inmates in the prison after their release dates. Reversing the practice of the previous administration, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez decided to pursue the penalties the state is entitled to impose for contract violations. “In today’s struggling economy, the people of New Mexico deserve to know the Corrections Department is running in a fiscally responsible manner,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said this week in a statement. The department recently revived its Office of Inspector General to keep tabs on contract compliance. Such fines are discretionary, and former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration gave private prisons a pass, irking lawmakers who estimated that upwards of $18 million could have been collected. Richardson’s corrections chief, Joe Williams – who claimed that estimate was inflated – said that prisons already were paying substantial overtime costs, that understaffing was largely due to factors beyond their control, and that the facilities were safe and secure. Williams worked at Hobbs for GEO’s predecessor company before Richardson hired him, and he returned to GEO’s corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of Richardson’s tenure. After negotiations with the Martinez administration, GEO in January paid a $1.1 million fine for violations at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs for the period from January through October of 2011. GEO also agreed to put another $200,000 into recruitment over the subsequent year. GEO continued to be penalized: $158,529 for November, $139,621 for December, $78,710 for January and $84,753 for February, according to documents provided by the department. The February assessment isn’t final yet, because the company has until late this month to respond to it. The fines largely were due to vacancies in the ranks of correctional officers and in noncustodial positions such as teachers, counselors and treatment providers. Corrections officials have said it’s difficult for the men’s medium security lockup at Hobbs to recruit and keep corrections officers because it’s competing with the oil industry. An assessment of $2,570 for understaffing in January was proposed for GEO’s Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, but the problem had been corrected by the time the department sent a letter to the prison on Feb. 10, and no penalty was assessed. In early March, however, the department notified the Clayton prison that it would be fined $5,373 for February, for vacancies in mandatory posts and for two inmates imprisoned beyond their release date. That penalty is pending. GEO did not respond to requests from the Journal for comment. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, was fined $11,779 for January, and $9,974 for February – still pending – for an academic instructor vacancy and for inmates held beyond their release dates. Inspector General Shannon McReynolds said that occurs when the required parole plans aren’t developed in a timely way.

November 20, 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Joe Williams, who was the corrections secretary in the Richardson administration, is back at work at the Florida-based private prison company that he spared from paying millions of dollars in penalties for contract violations. Williams is again employed by The GEO Group Inc., an international firm he worked for before he was appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to head the New Mexico prison system. In New Mexico, GEO operates prisons in Hobbs, Clayton and Santa Rosa that house inmates under contract with the state Corrections Department. Williams came under scrutiny from New Mexico legislators last year for his decision not to fine GEO and another private prison operator for understaffing. A report by the Legislative Finance Committee at the time said there were potentially millions of dollars to be collected. The administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who took office in January, has decided to collect some penalties for this year. Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said last week that GEO has agreed to pay $1.1 million for understaffing at the Hobbs prison during 2011 and to put another $200,000 into recruitment. The fine will be deducted from what the state pays the company to run the private prison. Williams headed the Corrections Department for eight years, through 2010, under Richardson. Before his appointment, he worked for GEO’s predecessor, Wackenhut Corrections Corp., as warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. Wackenhut was renamed The GEO Group in 2003. GEO was a contributor to Richardson. It reported giving $10,000 in 2004 to Moving America Forward, a Richardson political committee. The company also pumped at least $43,750 into Richardson’s 2006 gubernatorial re-election bid, according to campaign finance data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. And GEO officials and employees gave at least $10,750 in 2007 for Richardson’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Richardson, a Democrat, has consistently maintained that there was no connection between contributions to his political committees and what happened in state government. Williams is working out of GEO’s Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters, according to a listing of 2011 associate members of the Association of State Correctional Administrators. A recent GEO publication identified him as the company’s director of operations for U.S. corrections. A GEO spokesman last week refused to confirm Williams’ employment or title or provide other information. Pablo Paez said in an email that the company’s policy is to not comment on employment matters. Williams could not be reached for comment. Private prison contracts include required staffing patterns and allow for penalties under certain circumstances — for example, if more than 10 percent of correctional officer positions remain vacant for more than 30 days. The Corrections Department headed by Williams “has chosen not (to) enforce financial penalties for staffing patterns at the private prisons, which is within the secretary’s discretion per the contract,” the Legislative Finance Committee staff said in a September 2010 memo. Based on limited monitoring information from the Corrections Department — and assuming those vacancy trends existed for the previous four budget years — the LFC staff estimated that about $18.6 million could have been collected “if the department had chosen to enforce the contract.” Williams defended his position in a letter to the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee two months later. He called the $18.6 million calculation “highly inflated” and said it didn’t take into account the substantial overtime and other costs paid by the prisons. He said Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the women’s prison in Grants, could have been subject to vacancy penalties of about $530,000 for the previous four years but had paid $2.7 million in overtime during that period. GEO, he said, could have been subject to $4.3 million in penalties for its three men’s prisons over the four years, but it paid $3.6 million in overtime to cover vacancies and another $1.5 million on uncompensated inmate transportation. The Corrections Department “had no legitimate basis for collecting any staffing penalties from GEO” during the four-year period, Williams wrote. Williams also said that it was difficult to recruit employees in the rural areas where the prisons are located and that the Hobbs facility additionally “has to compete with the oil industry.” “Because the private prisons are operating safely and securely, I have chosen to exercise my executive power, as have all secretaries before me, not to penalize the private prisons for staff vacancies caused by factors largely beyond their or anyone else’s control,” Williams wrote in the November letter. Williams had solicited GEO’s help with making his case a few months earlier, urging company officials in an August letter to give him staffing data as well as information about how much GEO paid in taxes and inmate transportation and how much it had contributed to communities and schools. “This information could help me defend my position” to lawmakers, Williams wrote. Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, an advisory member of the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, said it was never clear to him why Williams didn’t impose penalties. But he criticized the movement of employees, such as Williams, from the private sector to the public sector, then back again, as a “built-in conflict of interest” that should be stopped. “The people who go back and forth come out really well, but the taxpayers are the ones who aren’t well-served,” McSorley said. Marcantel said the department plans to look at all vendors, including CCA, to ensure compliance with contracts.

November 14, 2011 Santa Fe New Mexican
A Florida company will pay New Mexico $1.1 million in penalties for not adequately staffing a private prison it operates in Hobbs, a state official said. GEO Group, which manages three of New Mexico's four private prisons, agreed to pay the settlement last week following a meeting between the corrections agency and the company's top management, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said Monday. "They've agreed on it," Marcantel said of GEO. "It's a very fair way of doing it. They are not completely happy. It needed to be done." Officials at GEO could not be reached for comment Monday night. GEO will pay the $1.1 million over several months, the corrections secretary said. In addition, GEO has agreed to spend $200,000 over the next calendar year to recruit new correctional officers for the Hobbs facility. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, the two firms that operate the private facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. The settlement represents the first time in years — possibly ever — that New Mexico has penalized the out-of-state, for-profit companies for not adequately staffing the facilities they operate. The issue has come up in the past, but state officials said New Mexico had never levied penalties for understaffing issues. The question surfaced in 2010 when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties by not assessing penalties against the two firms for inadequate prison staffing levels. The $1.1 million covers understaffing by GEO at the Hobbs facility for only this year and was reached after the state corrections agency and GEO spent most of the summer disputing each other's methodology for computing how much GEO should be penalized, state documents show. Marcantel said he could not retroactively penalize the companies for previous years, but could only go back to the first day of Gov. Susana Martinez's tenure, Jan. 1. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data — between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March 2011 — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records showed. Going forward, the state will check monthly to ensure the four privately operated prisons are adequately staffed, Marcantel said. "Our new approach, it's not going to be waiting," Marcantel said. "That doesn't motivate" the companies to keep staffing levels where they need to be, he added. GEO, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., recently reported $1.2 billion in earnings and $58.8 million in profit through the first nine months of this year, according to a Nov. 2 release by the company.

April 25, 2011 The New Mexican
The two for-profit firms that run four of New Mexico's 10 prisons often struggle to keep correctional officer jobs filled, state records show. One in five such jobs at a Hobbs facility was vacant for much of the past 15 months, while the prison in Santa Rosa reported a vacancy rate of around 12.5 percent over the same period, according to the records. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two firms that operate the facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. It's a threshold that appears to have been crossed multiple times at all four prisons since January 2010. The vacancy rate at Hobbs topped the 10-percent threshold in each of the 14 months for which data was available between January 2010 and March of this year. Meanwhile, the 10-percent threshold was topped nine times over that period at Santa Rosa and six times at a Clayton facility. Like the Hobbs facility, both are run by GEO. A CCA-operated prison in Grants topped the 10 percent rate four times over the same period. Whether to penalize the out-of-state, for-profit firms is an issue that has come up before. The question surfaced last year when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties against the two firms. One powerful lawmaker said Monday the issue is still important and the Legislature shouldn't lose sight of it. "We'd like to follow up and perhaps do a performance group review on the private prison operators to see whether they are making excessive profits," Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, said of the Legislative Finance Committee. Varela, the committee chairman, said he can accept a reasonable return for the prison operators, but high vacancy rates at prisons operated by the firms raise questions about how state dollars are being spent to operate the facilities. Determining whether the companies should be penalized for high vacancy rates is an involved process, a Corrections Department spokesman said. GEO and CCA might have asked corrections officers already on the job to work overtime to address the staffing situation. If they did, the department "cannot in good faith consider that position to be vacant," spokesman Shannon McReynolds wrote in an email. But the state doesn't know whether that happened. That would require going through shift rosters at each privately operated facility, McReynolds said in a follow-up phone interview. "That will take a decision from the administration," McReynolds said, referring to new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez. "We do not have specifics on overtime. Every once in awhile we'll hear a particular facility has spent a lot on overtime." Because of sporadic record-keeping at the facilities GEO and CCA operate, the state corrections agency couldn't verify last year how often the two firms violated the vacancy-rate provision in their contracts, if at all. As a result, the agency couldn't corroborate or refute the Legislative Finance Committee's estimate of uncollected penalties. Joe Williams, then-corrections secretary, decided not to pursue penalizing the two companies, saying GEO and CCA were making a good-faith effort to keep the facilities staffed. The contracts give the corrections secretary discretion to waive the penalties. If Lupe Martinez, the new corrections secretary, decides to collect penalties, it would be only for January 2011 and onward, McReynolds said. Gov. Susana Martinez took power in January and soon afterward appointed Lupe Martinez, no relation, as her corrections secretary. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records show. GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa reported a 16.93 percent vacancy rate last July, a high point. The vacancy rate has hovered below 10 percent in five of the last seven months. Another GEO-run facility, the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton, showed a similar trend, reporting vacancy rates higher than 10 percent for six of the seven months for which data was available between January and August 2010. Data for July 2010 was missing. As in Santa Rosa, the Clayton facility's vacancy rate has dropped in recent months. The state's fourth privately operated prison, CCA-run New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, reported a vacancy rate above 10 percent four times from January 2010 to July 2010, with a 16.47 percent vacancy rate reported in July. The state corrections agency did not have data for August 2010 to March 2011.

September 21, 2010 New Mexico Independent
Corrections Secretary Joe Williams‘ prior employment at one of two private prison operators he chose not to fine despite repeated contract violations casts a cloud over his decision, a powerful state senator says. For years Williams, who worked as a warden for GEO Group before joining Gov. Bill Richardson’s cabinet, has not collected penalties against his old employer and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) despite increasing evidence that both firms regularly violated a contract rule requiring certain staffing levels at the four facilities they operate. Williams told The Independent in a previous interview that his decision was based on the good job the two companies had done operating prisons in Hobbs, Grants, Santa Rosa and Clayton. He added that the firms’ contracts give him discretion to penalize or not. But Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told The Independent on Friday that Williams’ previous employment with GEO casts suspicion over his decision and creates questions of appearance. “It’s a real cloud on his career,” Smith said of Williams. “That type of generosity will make certain that he is hired quickly.” Williams will likely be out of a job when New Mexico’s new governor takes over in January—cabinet secretaries are typically replaced when a state’s new chief executive takes over. Williams acknowledged as much in a recent interview with The Independent. “They fire guys like me,” Williams quipped. Asked Friday to respond to Smith’s remarks, a spokeswoman for Williams instead sent an e-mail saying: “Last week Secretary Williams explained his position to you regarding this matter. He has not changed his position.” Potential penalties never assessed -- State records suggest that GEO and CCA might have regularly triggered staffing-level penalties. By contract, New Mexico can levy penalties against GEO and CCA when staffing vacancies at their facilities stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. State records show that staffing levels at three of the four facilities operated by GEO and CCA hovered above 10 percent for much of the last fiscal year. At the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. One estimate by the Legislature’s budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), has put at $18 million the potential penalties the state has not collected as a result of Williams’ decision. “If the facilities’ operational quality is not hampered due to high vacancy rates, then the department may be paying for staff that isn’t needed,” LFC staff noted in a 14-page report. Inadequate record-keeping makes dollar amount elusive -- But a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Corrections Department said the agency can’t verify how much in potential penalties the state has given up because of sporadic record-keeping at the four facilities the two firms operate. “We do not have an estimate of how much in penalties could have been assessed–because we do not have adequate records to demonstrate how long some correctional officer positions remained vacant,” corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland told The Independent. The corrections agency has a bureau dedicated to making sure the private prison operators meet contractual obligations, but the inadequate record keeping — and the agency’s inability to account for such data — suggests that detailed tracking of staffing levels was not an agency priority. The Legislative Finance Committee has directed the agency to immediately start collecting such information, which it is doing, Bland said. Meanwhile the corrections agency has ordered GEO and CCA to provide past staffing data to get a sense of how often the 10 percent rule was violated and how much in penalties the state forgave. Some of the data has come in, Bland said in an e-mail. Williams’ ‘unilateral’ decision angers state lawmakers -- Some state legislators are angered by the Corrections Department’s inability to say how much the state never collected in potential penalties, especially given the state’s dismal financial situation. Leaner state agencies, cut in previous years, are again imposing cost-saving measures because state revenues aren’t keeping pace with state spending. Smith added to that refrain last week. “It’s real bothersome to me that we’re scratching for money and he unilaterally makes this decision,” Smith said of Williams. “That is spending taxpayer money recklessly. He is not looking out for the best interest of New Mexico.”

September 15, 2010 New Mexico Independent
Over the past four years New Mexico has potentially given up more than $18 million in never-assessed penalties despite repeated contractual violations by two private prison operators, a new legislative report says. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. That penalty has been triggered regularly, state records show and the new report by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) confirms. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. And at the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. The LFC report, issued last week, reached the $18 million figure after finding that the two firms had triggered $5 million in penalties last year because their facilities had higher vacancy rates than allowed by contract. The LFC then assumed similar vacancy trends at three of the facilities for the four years previous, and two years previous at the fourth facility, which has only been open for two years. The state’s corrections secretary, Joe Williams, has defended not collecting the penalties, saying the state’s contracts with the two firms gave him discretion to fine the two companies and he chose not to. Corrections agency doesn’t track vacancies at private prisons . But the 11-page LFC report found that Williams’ agency never regularly tracked vacancy rates at the four facilities, meaning it did not even know how much the state was forgoing in money by not penalizing the two firms. “NMCD does not regularly compile vacancy rates, contractor staff pay rates, contractor vacancy savings or review potential penalty amount in its central office, but should do so immediately,” the report said. The report also noted that the state appeared to have been spending “large sums of contract funding on vacant private prison staff positions.” Williams, who worked for GEO as a warden prior to becoming the state’s corrections secretary, did not have a response to the legislative report Monday other than a one-sentence statement: “We will be reviewing the report and we will present our response to the LFC.” While the potential penalties to the two firms amounted to more than $18 million, the savings to the two firms by not fully staffing their facilities was larger, the LFC report noted. The $18 million in potential penalties equals the salaries the companies did not pay, the report said. Add in benefits that also were never paid by the two firms, and the amount saved is more than $22 million, the LFC report said. Representatives of both firms could not reached for comment Monday. Williams has subsequently asked GEO, which manages three of the four facilities, to “perform this analysis and provide other information to ‘defend my position’ of not enforcing contract penalties,” the report noted. But the LFC report said Williams and his agency should have performed this task all along “to assist in decision making” about whether to penalize the companies or, if not, provide a “rationale for why not to enforce agreed upon contractual provisions.” Williams’ decision not to collect the penalties from the two firms has put him on a collision course with state lawmakers, some of whom are questioning the action. Williams acknowledged to The Independent two weeks ago that he hadn’t penalized the two companies because, he said, they were doing an outstanding job managing the four facilities. The issue of the uncollected penalties comes at a time when state government is scrounging for every dollar because of hard economic times. The building controversy also threatens to stir up a long-simmering debate over New Mexico’s decision years ago to pay private firms to operate several of its correctional facilities. Critics have long vilified the agreements as a giveaway to private, out-of-state companies while some state lawmakers have quietly wondered if the companies are making out-sized profits.

September 10, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The state appears to have been within its rights last year to repeatedly penalize two private prison operators for letting their vacancy rates hover above a 10 percent trigger in their contracts, state records show. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against the two firms – GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) — when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. As for the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who worked for GEO before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary, told The Independent last week the state had never penalized GEO or CCA despite vacancy rates repeatedly topping the 10 percent trigger. He had the discretion to decide whether to penalize the firms or not, and he had decided against it, Williams said. The firms were doing a good job of managing the prisons, he added. Some state lawmakers are wondering why Williams never assessed the penalties. Some believe the never-assessed penalties could amount to millions of dollars. State records show that vacancies at GEO-operated Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa were above the 10 percent threshold in 11 of the13 months between July 2009 to July 2010; 10 of the 13 months at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs; and nine of the 13 months at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The vacancy rate at the GEO-run Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility eclipsed the 10 percent rate in six of the 13 months covered by the time period shown in the records, state records show. The agency on Friday reiterated Williams’ discretion in deciding whether to penalize the companies or not. “The contract clauses that deal with vacancy rates gives sole discretion to NMCD so that they may penalize the private prisons,” read an e-mail to The Independent after we had sent questions related to the vacancy rates from July 2009 to July 2010. “The penalties are not mandatory and are decided by the department,” the e-mail continued. “Secretary Williams will be presenting the reasons to why he has not penalized the vendors to the Legislative Finance Committee in an upcoming hearing. The department welcomes you to attend the committee hearing.”

September 7, 2010 New Mexico Independent
Think Progress, the blog of the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund, has picked up on NMI’s story about New Mexico Corrections Secretary Joe Williams not penalizing two private prison operators despite repeated contract obligations. But Think Progress added a bit of information we forgot to mention: that Williams worked for GEO, one of the two firms that wasn’t penalized, prior to becoming the state’s corrections secretary. Williams has not been secret about the affiliation. He talks freely on the corrections department’s website about the years he spent with GEO as warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility, which the firm operates, before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary. Here’s an excerpt from Williams biography on the agency’s website. In 1999, four years before becoming secretary of corrections, Joe accepted one of the more difficult challenges of his career. The Geo Group, Inc. (formerly known as Wackenhut) hired Joe as the warden for the Lea County Correctional Facility, and charged him with turning around the troubled prison in Hobbs, New Mexico. The facility eventually became a flagship prison. Agreeing to serve as its warden proved to be the right move, both professionally and personally. In fact, Joe liked the city of Hobbs so much, he named his beloved basset hound Sir Hobbs. The question now is whether Williams’ affiliation will be an issue among state lawmakers who are wondering why the corrections secretary decided against penalizing the two private prison operators — GEO and Corrections Corp. of America — possibly costing the state millions of dollars.

September 2, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The New Mexico Corrections Department has not collected penalties from two private prison operators despite repeated contract violations, costing the state potentially millions of dollars in uncollected fines, state officials have told The Independent. That has put New Mexico Corrections Secretary Joe Williams on a collision course with state lawmakers, some of whom are questioning Williams’ decision not to collect penalties from GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The companies have repeatedly violated a contractual obligation to keep certain staffing levels at the prisons they operate. The two for-profit businesses operate four correctional facilities for the state in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa. Williams sees no problems due to vacancy rate -- Williams acknowledged that the vacancy rates at the prisons GEO and CCA operate often are higher than their contracts allow, but he decided against punishing the firms because the prisons they manage “are outstanding,” he said. “They are not having escapes; there are no substantial problems. If there were a problem I would be down there penalizing them,” he said. GEO and CCA operate four of the state’s prisons, while the state of New Mexico operates the remaining six prison facilities. It is also unclear where the disagreement is headed, and what action, if any, state lawmakers might take during this upcoming 2011 legislative session. In addition to the quality of the privately operated prison, Williams said he rejected fining the companies because most of the prisons they operate are in rural areas or small towns, where recruiting and retaining correctional officers and other staff is difficult. Working as a correctional officer is not for everyone and it’s best to only recruit top-notch people, Williams added. “I would rather run a prison with 10 quality correctional officers than a bunch of bad apples introducing contraband,” Williams said. “I would rather they be in a penalty phase than they have to meet a contractual obligation.” “The contract does not say I shall do it. The contract says I can do it,” Williams told The Independent on Wednesday, explaining why he never penalized the two firms for the contract violations. State lawmakers want to know dollar amounts -- So far, there is no agreed-upon amount on how much money New Mexico has given up in uncollected penalties from GEO and CCA. Asked if his agency had an estimate, Williams said, “We don’t know. That is what we are trying to investigate right now. I’m sure you’ll have an LFC number, a private prison number and our number.” The situation has irked some state lawmakers who predict the situation over the uncollected penalties is finally coming to a head, especially with New Mexico facing economic difficulties. Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, wondered aloud Wednesday “how much money New Mexico taxpayers had lost” due to Williams’ decision. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, meanwhile, said a report from the Legislature’s budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), due out soon would place an estimated dollar amount of the never-assessed penalties. “I think we need to see the magnitude of the payments that haven’t been made,” Wirth said. “If we are talking about millions of dollars, then absolutely I am concerned about it fiscally and policy-wise. I can assure you that the private operators wouldn’t stand idly by if the state wasn’t meeting its contractual obligations.” Wirth added that public safety is a concern because staffing shortages mean fewer correctional officers to guard inmates. Representatives of GEO and CCA could not be reached Wednesday. Staffing shortages trigger penalties -- The issue of the uncollected penalties comes at a time when state government is scrounging for every dollar because of hard economic times. The building controversy also threatens to stir up a long-simmering debate over New Mexico’s decision years ago to pay private firms to operate several of its correctional facilities. Critics have long vilified the agreements as a giveaway to private, out-of-state companies while some state lawmakers have quietly wondered if the companies are making out-sized profits. Williams defended GEO and CCA on Wednesday, saying they deserved to make a profit since they’re for-profit businesses. He also questioned the wisdom of trying “to balance the corrections budget through penalties.” The corrections department has suffered $10 million in budget cuts over the past two years. Williams acknowledged that over the years GEO and CCA each could have faced repeated penalties as called for in their contracts. The penalties are triggered when staffing vacancies reach 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days at the prisons GEO and CCA operate in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa, according to the rules. High vacancy rates at the state’s privately operated prisons are nothing new. As far back as 2007, state lawmakers were fuming over an LFC report (page 24) that reported a 37 percent vacancy rate for correctional officers at GEO-operated Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. According to agency figures, during July of this year, correctional officer vacancy rates at all four of the GEO and CCA managed facilities were higher than the 10 percent allowed by contract. Of those, the Lea County facility had the largest vacancy rate, at 22 percent. The other privately operated facilities registered vacancy rates of 17 percent, 14 percent and 13 percent, according to the agency. A corrections agency spokeswoman said Wednesday it would take days to get monthly vacancy rates for each of the privately operated prisons over the past year. Private prisons may be paying extra overtime to compensate -- Williams also speculated that GEO and CCA were addressing the high vacancy rates at their facilities by giving a lot of overtime to existing employees, as has occurred at the six state-operated prison facilities. From July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, correctional officers at the six state-operated prison facilities took home $7.2 million in overtime, according to the agency. It’s unclear how much overtime corrections officers at the four facilities operated by GEO and CCA earned during the same period. Williams knows his decision to not assess and collect the penalties had put him on the hot seat with state lawmakers. He fully expects to hear from legislators in coming weeks. Asked if he were scheduled to speak before any legislative committees, Williams replied, “I’m not scheduled to, but I expect to get the phone call.”

December 17, 2009 The Skanner News
In the wake of a required 60-day background investigation by local officials, the racial discrimination tort claim by three law enforcement employees against Clark County Corrections has expanded into a full-on lawsuit seeking millions in damages. The lawsuit, detailing more than a dozen instances of racist harassment that allegedly took place throughout the past 20 years, has been brought against the county by former Clark County Sheriffs Department Commander Clifford B. Evelyn, 58; former corrections officer Britt Easterly, 39, now with the U.S. Secret Service in Washington D.C.; and Elzy P. Edwards, 46, an unsuccessful applicant for Clark County Corrections who is now working with the Washington Department of Corrections. Evelyn is seeking $1 million, while Easterly and Edwards are asking $500,000 each in damages. A 20-year veteran of the corrections department who had recently been honored for his efforts to promote diversity in its ranks, Evelyn was fired in June after an Internal Affairs investigation found he had violated general orders regarding “harassment,” “courtesy” and “competency.” In the joint lawsuit against Clark County, Edwards, who unsuccessfully applied for a job at Clark County Corrections, alleges that the hiring process was unfair; Easterly, as well as Evelyn, allege they were subjected to a long-standing atmosphere of racist incidents and comments. Evelyn also alleges unfair treatment at the hands of Clark County Corrections Chief Jail Deputy Sheriff Jackie Batties, as well as management and staff of Wexford Health Solutions, the company contracted to provide health care services at the jail. Documents obtained by The Skanner News show that a former Wexford employee, who has since been convicted of stealing cash from a co-worker’s purse, filed a complaint against Evelyn this year that kicked off a chain of events resulting in his firing. Evelyn had for the past two years reported on Wexford Health Sources’ failure to meet the terms of their operations contract, including submitting a detailed report in writing delivered to his supervisors at Clark County more than a year before the county’s own performance audit confirmed his allegations. Elsewhere around the nation, in July of this year million-dollar lawsuits were filed against Wexford corporation and New Mexico state corrections officials by incarcerated men and women alleging similar problems – even deaths -- at Wexford-managed health programs in the state’s prison system. Also in New Mexico, a Black dentist won a racial discrimination case against Wexford in November of 2008 when the company was found guilty by a federal jury of paying him a smaller wage on the basis of his race. Clark County contracted with Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Solutions in 2006 after problems cropped up with their former jailhouse health care provider, Prison Health Services. Clark County officials signed a three-year, $9 million contract with Wexford set to expire in 2010. Its May, 2009 report, prepared by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, was intended as a performance audit. Several documents obtained by The Skanner News show that reports Evelyn had filed with superiors in 2008 about Wexford’s failure to meet the demands of its contract were validated by Clark County’s performance audit. In a series of memos to his superiors dated before the release of Clark County’s own report on Wexford’s performance this past June, Evelyn had outlined specific examples of the corporation’s failure to follow the terms of its contract with Clark County, from lack of a written operations manual to untrained staff, lack of medical supplies onsite and a tendency to “short” the jails’ medical services that forced Clark County to pay out more in resources to cover the gaps. The chief finding of Clark County’s own investigation into Wexford was that “the company has systematically failed to comply with the many complex undertakings included in its contract with the county.” Evelyn, Easterly and Edwards were unavailable for comment at press time. Clark County officials are declining media requests while the legal case is pending.

October 28, 2009 The New Mexican
The state of New Mexico would have to shutter two prisons, give early releases to up to 660 prisoners and lay off and furlough Corrections Department employees if Gov. Bill Richardson signs budget cuts approved by the Legislature, his office said Wednesday. Richardson's office raised that grim possibility as his staff analyzes the impact of $253 million in spending cuts legislators passed during a special session last week to deal with a revenue shortfall. His administration on Monday had said other cuts approved by the Legislature could mean the state Human Services Department would reduce children's health care, nutrition programs for seniors and programs for the developmentally disabled, if he were to sign the measures. But lawmakers say they won't be blamed for decisions that are now up to Richardson. "He wants it to seem like we're making the decisions," said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell. "But he's making the calls where he wants to cut. He's making that decision." The Corrections Department said that in order to meet $21 million in budget cuts, it would have to close the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman and the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants. About 270 inmates are incarcerated at the state-operated Roswell facility, while about 590 are housed in the Grants facility, which is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. The state would have to cancel its contract with the company.

July 17, 2009 New Mexico Independent
A new lawsuit filed in federal court this week accuses a former corrections department contractor of medial malpractice in its care for the state’s prisoners, the Albuquerque Journal reports today. The lawsuit names Wexford Health Sources Inc., Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, medical professionals and others on behalf of a former Penitentiary of New Mexico inmate named Martin Valenzuela, 52, who now lives in Texas, the paper reports. According to the complaint, Valenzuela was serving an eight-year prison sentence at the Santa Fe prison in 2006 when he developed a urinary tract problem that led to an emergency hospital admission. The complaint describes lack of medical attention leading up to a January 2007 surgery, lack of a policy for follow-up care and the subsequent loss of medical records by the prison and the hospitals, according to the paper. This is not the only lawsuit against Wexford that alleges improper care. Others have been filed previously. Here’s an excerpt of the Journal story: Wexford is also defending against a lawsuit filed by an inmate who claimed he was essentially lost in the system for purposes of chemotherapy he needed to treat colon cancer, although he was housed within a few hundred feet of the Los Lunas prison hospital. Michael Crespin’s medical malpractice lawsuit was filed in 2008, but he died before his attorneys could persuade a court to order a videotaped deposition in the case. The lawsuit, now being pursued by a personal representative on behalf of Crespin’s estate, has been mired in a fight over what documents must be produced by Wexford. Lawyers for the estate are demanding documents related to financial contributions, gifts, meals, entertainment by Wexford company officers between 2001 and 2008 to Gov. Bill Richardson, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish or any of the political action committees that might have supported them, including Si Se Puede PAC and Moving America Forward PAC. The Journal story goes on to list still other lawsuits that allege improper medical care, including one in which four women allege sexual assaults, batteries and rapes by former Correctional Medical Services employee. Another has been filed by the family of a federal detainee who died while awaiting a deportation hearing in southeastern New Mexico is alleging medical negligence. Wexford Health Sources was cited often for problems when it held the contract to provide health care in New Mexico’s prisons. It eventually lost the contract. A May 2007 audit by the Legislative Finance Committee found gaping holes in the delivery of care provided by Wexford, including too few physicians, dentists and optometrists on staff, according to two prison health experts that visited five facilities in February and March of that year. Wexford also failed to issue timely reports on 14 inmates who died at correctional facilities in 2006, the audit found. The Santa Fe Reporter, meanwhile, did extensive reporting on the health care delivered in New Mexico’s prisons and first uncovered the lapses.

July 12, 2008 Santa Fe New Mexican
When the doors swing open on the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility next month, inmates will file in, new employees will start collecting paychecks and a tiny corner of the state will become its own small economic engine. The opening marks another milestone as well. Once Clayton is online, the number of inmates living in the state's privately run prisons will almost match the number living in state-run slammers. To be exact: 46.5 percent of male inmates will be in prisons run by private companies. The other 53.5 percent will be in state-run prisons. One hundred percent of female inmates will be in private facilities. If the number of criminals behind private bars seems big, it is: New Mexico has the highest rate of private prison use in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Indeed, the prison near the Rabbit Ear Mountains in Clayton, just shy of the border with Oklahoma and Texas in northeastern New Mexico, caps a major shift in state policy over the past three decades of housing an increasing number of criminals in privately run prisons. Since 1980, the year a deadly prison riot made awful headlines for the state, the number of inmates has increased 440 percent. Including Clayton, the number of prisons has gone from one to 11, a figure that doesn't include Camino Nuevo, a privately operated prison that has opened and closed since then. And questions about whether privatizing was the best choice have mounted. As the state's inmate population grew, so did lawmakers' interest in private prisons, seen by proponents as a way to save money and outsource some of the state's toughest jobs. Ten years ago, the state had only two privately run prisons — the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, open since 1989, and the Hobbs prison, which opened in 1998. Now, when Clayton opens, it will have five, spread out around the state. The change in inmate-management policy didn't happen overnight, and hasn't happened without controversy. It also couldn't have happened without two New Mexico governors, most notably former Gov. Gary Johnson, who kicked off the privatization push, and Gov. Bill Richardson, who has kept the trend alive. It was under Johnson's watch that the 1,200-bed lockup in Hobbs opened in 1998. A year later came the 600-bed Santa Rosa prison. Both are run by The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut. Those weren't good times; both facilities suffered deadly confrontations. Three inmates were killed in Hobbs and a prison guard was murdered in a riot in Santa Rosa in less than a year. Before that, an inmate in Santa Rosa died after he was beaten with a laundry bag full of rocks. New Mexico hadn't seen so much prison violence since the 1980 riot at the state penitentiary, where 33 people died. No new state prisons? When Richardson ran for office in 2002, he pledged there would be no new state prisons built on his watch. "The governor said he would not build new state prisons, and he has not done so," spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in a statement to The New Mexican. "All of the capital money that would have been used for new state prisons has instead been invested in new schools, modernizing highways and updating infrastructure in communities across the state." Still, since he's been governor, 240 beds have been added to the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa, run by The GEO Group. The Camino Nuevo Correctional Center in Albuquerque, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, opened in 2006. In 2007 came the 234-bed, minimum-security Springer Correctional Center, which is run by the state. And then came Clayton. The town of Clayton is paying to build the facility, which will house 625 inmates, nearly all of them state prisoners. The town is using $63 million in revenue bonds to finance the project. Clayton officials have welcomed the prison — and its jobs — as a major source of economic activity in the outpost of about 2,500. Critics, however, say the lockup is essentially a state prison. "I guess it's a debate in semantics, but it's holding state prisoners," said Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "I guess the governor gets a certain amount of satisfaction in saying the state didn't build it, but from a functional point of view, the state might as well have built it," he said. Gallegos said that's not the case. "Of course it's not a state prison. The town of Clayton and GEO can house county or federal inmates," he said. "Beds were available for medium-security inmates, and the Corrections Department chose to take advantage of the new facility for some of its inmates." Of the 625 beds, 600 will be used for state prisoners. Others suggest Richardson chose to support the Clayton project to curry favor in the heavily Republican Union County. "We could have added a wing or pods to other facilities that could have been expanded," said Senate Minority Whip Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces. Adding on to places such as Santa Rosa or Hobbs would have been cheaper and quicker than building a new prison, he added. "But the governor decided he wanted to build in Clayton for political purposes. We can say it's good economic development, but I don't think it was the best choice for the public," he said. The Governor's Office denied that, saying Richardson "already had great relationships with Democrats and Republicans in Clayton." And, Corrections Department Secretary Joe Williams said, building the Clayton prison was "absolutely the right decision." "When we signed those agreements, we were operating at well over 100 percent capacity," he said. "We were busting at the seams when we did that." In the past two years, however, the state's prison population has dropped 6.6 percent, a recent report found. Williams said even though population projections are now much lower than they were when talk of Clayton first surfaced, the state still needs the facility, particularly because it will provide beds for medium-custody, or level 3, inmates. "That's where we need the bed space, and that's what Clayton will provide us," he said. Inmates from a variety of facilities will be moved to Clayton, which is expected to be full within 60 days of opening. Questions about Clayton -- As it gets ready to open, there are other questions about the cost of building the new prison. A review done for the Legislative Finance Committee in 2007 found that the prison's actual cost will be much higher than the construction costs, which at the time of the report were estimated to be $61 million. Over twenty years, the state will pay $132 million in construction and finance charges, but will not own the building, according to the report. As part of the $95.33 per diem the state will pay to house inmates in the new prison, $27.81 will go to pay construction costs. The high cost of building private prisons has left some lawmakers concerned about whether the state can afford to keep so many inmates there. Williams said a big part of the reason the building cost was so high was because construction costs have gone way up. "You look at the cost of a gallon of gas and then you look at the cost of a new prison bed, and everything is going to have its increases and it is inflationary," he said. Williams also pointed out that the cost of labor has gone up since prisons were built 10 years ago in Hobbs and Santa Rosa. Other lawmakers have a philosophical opposition to the opening of the Clayton prison, and to private prisons in general, saying it's the job of the government, not corporations, to house prisoners. "I don't believe it's the right way, I don't think they should be for profit," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen. Sanchez said prisons are the state's responsibility. "Hopefully Clayton will be the last one," he said. An inmate drought? It's unclear, however, when the state will need another new prison. The state was expected to run out of bed space in August of 2011 for males and in March of 2012 for females, but that's no longer the case. The most recent projections show the state is expected to run out of space in 2017 for men and in 2015 for women. The department warns, however, that those projections are subject to change. "Our projections totally changed from last year to this year where we were on a spike up, and now we're growing but at a much smaller pace," Williams said. While it has dropped off recently, the population is expected to grow by about 1.4 percent in the coming years. "We're in a great state as far as corrections go for the first time in many, many years, I think," he said. "I think we're in a position a lot of states wish they were. We have room and capacity to grow." So why is the prison population — long on the increase — now decreasing? A recent report by the New Mexico Sentencing Commission shows the state's prison population has dropped for several reasons. The study, released last week, said one reason is a Corrections Department policy that is increasingly imposing sanctions other than prison for technical parole violations such as missing a counseling session. The study also said a 2006 state law that allows the department to let nonviolent inmates earn time off during the first 60 days of their stay is leading to some inmates getting out of prison sooner. Previously, inmates had to wait to start earning time. It also said felony drug courts were playing a role. The state now has 31, and the report says that although the courts are not a diversion option for prison, they may indirectly keep offenders from being rearrested and going to prison. The courts provide treatment, mandatory drug testing and judicial oversight, among other things. But if the projections are now lower than they have been, that might be a good thing for the Corrections Department. When it did its report, the LFC found the department wasn't ready for projected growth. "The department lacks active long-term planning to accommodate inmate growth, leading to a disjointed approach to acquiring bed space that proves costly," according to the report. The committee asked the department to put together a 10-year plan, which it has. But, Williams said, the plan was outdated almost as soon as it was written. "I didn't like 10-year plans because things are ever-changing in the department, projections, forecasts," he said. "It's hard enough to predict year to year or two years." Williams also pointed out that there are advantages to having some space available in the state's prisons. The state now has enough room — and the cash — to refurbish some cells at the state penitentiary and Western New Mexico Correctional Facility, work that has been a long time coming, he said. In addition, Williams said the state is considering implementing recent recommendations of a prison reform task force appointed by Richardson. "The plan is hopefully this prison reform might change the way we do business forever," he said. "If we are diverting people into drug courts and mental health courts and our re-entry initiatives are successful, it could be a while before we see a new prison."

May 24, 2007 The New Mexican
New Mexico pays significantly more than nearby states to house inmates in private prisons, according to a report presented Wednesday to state lawmakers. The 100-page audit by a Legislative Finance Committee review team says New Mexico's private-prison spending rose 57 percent in the past six years, while the inmate population increased only 21 percent. "Business decisions across two administrations may result in New Mexico paying an estimated $34 million more than it should pay for private prison construction costs," the report says. But Corrections Secretary Joe Williams defended the private prisons, saying the higher operating costs are justified. The major private prison operator in the state is The GEO Group, which operates facilities in Hobbs and Santa Rosa and will operate a prison being built in Clayton. GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, was brought in to manage private prisons by former Gov. Gary Johnson and has been embraced by Gov. Bill Richardson. New Mexico pays nearly $69 a day per inmate at the private prison in Hobbs and more than $70 at the prison in Santa Rosa. In Texas, the cost is $34.66 a day. Colorado pays $50.28 a day for inmates at private prisons. In Oklahoma, the rate is $41.23. Other states listed in the study include Idaho, $42.30, and Montana, $54.58. The LFC recommends New Mexico restructure its contracts with GEO for the existing facilities.

May 23, 2007 KOAT TV
Target 7 has uncovered a state report that said New Mexico's Corrections Department costs taxpayers millions more than it should. The investigation began more than a year ago, Action 7 News reported. Target 7 looked into the relationship between the state corrections department and the GEO Group, a private company that runs two state prisons with another one in the works. The lease to run a third prison is a central part of an audit released on Wednesday, that said while New Mexico's prisons are doing better than in the past, the state is paying too much for what it gets. The audit also found the corrections department is overpaying for private prison costs and for health care. But the state is in the process of negotiating with a new company for prison health care. The audit highlights the state's lease agreement to put inmates in a new prison in Clayton, N.M. The state's lease with GEO Group pays not just for prisoners but also for the cost to build the prison. The audit said the department would pay $132 million, nearly twice the cost of construction. That's because the deal was done last fall, just weeks before New Mexicans voted to let the state lease with an option to buy. The lease is just a small part of the audit, but it's a sign the legislature may be keeping a closer eye on the business of New Mexico's prisons. Secretary Joe Williams takes issue with the report, but he said there are positive suggestions in it. The department plans to sit down with some of the private companies running half of New Mexico's prisons to talk about restructuring lease agreements.

February 7, 2007 The Santa Fe Reporter
At the behest of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), two correctional health experts have launched an extensive audit of the medical care in New Mexico’s state prisons. SFR has learned that Dr. Steve Spencer and Dr. B Jaye Anno were hired late last month by the LFC to evaluate the level of medicine provided to state inmates. Their work is part of a larger audit the Legislature is conducting of the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD), slated for conclusion this spring. “We needed medical expertise in our audit, because up until now we haven’t had any,” Manu Patel, the LFC’s deputy director for audits, says. “This way, it’s not just us second-guessing the Corrections Department. We can actually get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t.” Patel says the contract with Spencer and Anno is worth approximately $21,000. The health care component to the Corrections audit follows a six-month investigation by SFR into Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers medical care to state inmates [Cover story, Aug. 9, 2006: “Hard Cell?”]. The investigation led to a request for the audit by the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee last October [Outtakes, Oct. 25, 2006: “Medical Test”]. SFR’s series also compelled Gov. Bill Richardson to terminate the state’s contract with Wexford in December, a process that will likely take until June, when the prison medical contract is up for renewal [Outtakes, Dec. 13, 2006: “Wexford Under Fire”]. Regardless of Wexford’s fate, the LFC is pressing ahead with the audit. “We are looking at this serving a long-term benefit to the Corrections Department, so that we can all better evaluate the medical program in the prisons and its services,” Patel says. Spencer, a former medical director of NMCD, and Anno, who co-founded the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, started work on Feb. 5, when they traveled to Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. “We’re going to look at a number of things when we travel to the sights,” Spencer says. “We’ll look at the adequacy of staffing, the appropriateness of care, the timeliness and use of off-site specialists. We’ll review inmate deaths and whether Corrections is adequately monitoring the contractor.” Moreover, the medical audit will involve a review of the contract between Wexford and the Corrections Department, as well as sifting through tuberculosis, HIV and other medical testing data. Various medical personnel will also be interviewed throughout the process, Spencer says. Inadequate tuberculosis testing, chronic staffing shortages and a systemic failure to send inmates off-site have been among the concerns raised to SFR by former and current Wexford employees [Outtakes, Oct. 18, 2006: “Corrections Concerns”]. In an e-mail, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman said, in part, that Wexford plans to cooperate with the audit and is confident its outcome will be positive. She also said Wexford is cooperating with NMCD for a smooth transition. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland tells SFR that Corrections is still working on a request for proposal, set to go out in March, that will kick off the agency’s search for a new medical provider. “We’re providing [the auditors] with whatever they need, and whatever the results are, we’ll use that information to our advantage in working with the next vendor,” Bland says. Bland reiterates NMCD’s contention that Wexford violated the terms of its contract with the state because of staffing problems. She says Corrections is still analyzing whether Wexford broke other contractual stipulations. During the mid-1990s, Spencer and Anno were hired by the Wyoming Department of Corrections to conduct medical audits of its prisons. Wexford, which administered health care for the Wyoming DOC, eventually became embroiled in a US Justice Department investigation regarding prison health care in that state and lost its contract. Recalls Anno: “There were a number of problems with Wexford’s operation in Wyoming.”

January 10, 2007 Santa Fe Reporter
For Elizabeth Ocean, the poor medical and psychological care at Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility (SNMCF) in Las Cruces had become too much to bear. After three years working as a mental health counselor there, she quit her job last March. Ocean tells SFR that inmates reported waiting weeks, even months, for medical and dental appointments and to receive prescription medications. “The guys came to me constantly about the medical care,” Ocean says. “They were going and putting in requests and waiting so long to be seen. A lot of times, they were being told there was nothing wrong with them.” Wexford Health Sources, a private, Pennsylvania-based company, has handled health care in New Mexico’s state prisons since July 2004. On the heels of a six-month SFR investigative series on Wexford, in which many former and current Wexford employees came forward, Gov. Bill Richardson told the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) on Dec. 8 to replace Wexford [Outtakes, Dec. 13: “Wexford Under Fire”]. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland says NMCD is moving ahead with the termination process and that a request for proposals will be crafted by March. Bland says NMCD has identified at least one area—staffing shortages—in which Wexford violated the terms of its state contract. Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman did not return phone or e-mail messages. Ocean says the problems in the facility where she worked were systemic. Earlier this year, she says she wrote letters to the US Justice Department and the governor’s office, alerting them to the health care deficiencies. She also wrote of four fellow mental health counselors whom Ocean alleges were operating without state licenses; Ocean also filed a complaint last January with the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board. On May 17, Erma Sedillo, NMCD’s deputy secretary of operations, wrote Ocean on behalf of the governor’s office to inform her that NMCD was working to obtain the counselors’ temporary licenses. Sedillo did not return a phone message, but spokeswoman Bland confirms a past “licensure issue” at NMCD because the department was unaware of a recent change in existing state regulations that now require mental health professionals working in prisons to obtain a full state counseling license. “When we discovered the change, we got all of our counselors to obtain full licenses,” Bland says. As for Ocean, she is out of the prisons, but still connected. Ocean is married to an inmate and former patient at SNMCF, who is incarcerated for murder. She says their relationship started after he was no longer a patient. Ocean adds: “I saw with my own eyes all the problems, all the injustices at the prison before I ever married him.”

December 13, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
After two troubled years of administering health care in New Mexico’s prisons, Wexford Health Sources will lose its multimillion-dollar contract with the state. Wexford has been the subject of a five-month investigative series by this paper. Now, SFR has learned that on Dec. 8, Gov. Bill Richardson ordered the New Mexico Corrections Department (NCMD) to immediately begin the search for a new health care provider. “The governor has directed the Corrections Department to develop and implement immediate and long-term options for improving health care quality at the state’s correctional facilities,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says. “Those options are expected to include sanctions and seeking another provider—which basically means the Corrections Department will be crafting a request for proposal [RFP] to solicit a new vendor. They’re working out the terms of the RFP now and will most likely be terminating the contract with Wexford.” Wexford’s contract expires in June 2007, Gallegos says. SFR has repeatedly and exclusively published allegations by current and former Wexford employees regarding inmate care [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Those accounts focused on dangerously low medical staffing levels at the nine correctional facilities where Wexford operates; Wexford’s refusal to grant chronically ill inmates critical, off-site specialty care; and systemic problems in administering prescription medicine to inmates. Gallegos says the governor learned about the problems with Wexford through SFR’s stories. “The governor had been concerned about the quality of care delivered in the correctional facilities and directed the Corrections Department to increase oversight of Wexford,” Gallegos says. “Corrections was doing that, but it appeared that many of those deficiencies were not being corrected.” Wexford, which also administers health care in facilities run by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), will lose those operations as well, Gallegos says. Wexford began working in New Mexico in July 2004, after signing a $27 million contract with NMCD. The Pittsburgh-based company has also lost contracts in Wyoming and Florida because of similar concerns over health care. SFR also learned this week that Dr. Phillip Breen, Wexford’s regional medical director in New Mexico, has resigned, effective Dec. 31. In addition, a dentist at a state prison in Hobbs tells SFR that facility is so understaffed that inmates sometimes wait up to six weeks to receive important dental care. Dr. Ray Puckett, who has been working as a part-time dentist at Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF) in Hobbs for approximately one year, alleges that some inmates are suffering because the backlog to receive dental treatment is so massive. “I’ve heard about inmates pulling their own teeth after months and months. I’ve heard about inmates saying, ‘I just can’t stand it anymore,’” he says. Puckett says Wexford should have hired a full-time dentist at LCCF because so many inmates require medical attention to take care of abscesses, cavities, tooth extractions and other painful dental problems. Puckett works at the facility only one day a week, during which he typically sees up to 16 patients. He says that Wexford also has another dentist who will occasionally work one day a week at the facility. “What we have now is a poorly run operation. It’s grossly understaffed and disorganized. And it ends up being unfortunate for the inmates,” Puckett says. Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman did not respond to e-mails and phone calls from SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says NMCD is not aware of a backlog of dental patients at LCCF, but will look into it. She adds that Wexford is only required to have a dentist at LCCF for two days a week. With regard to the governor’s action against Wexford, Bland says: “It’s a fact. Wexford has not met its contractual obligations to the Department, and that’s something we can’t ignore. We have to do something about it. We will be putting a plan in place.” In the coming year, both Wexford and NMCD are slated for an extensive audit by the Legislative Finance Committee. The audit was the result of a hearing on Wexford by the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee in October. The hearings also were held in response to reports in this paper [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. It’s now unclear whether the audit will still take place. As for Puckett, he has considered leaving his post because of what’s happening at LCCF. A veteran of correctional health care, he also worked for Wexford’s predecessors, Addus HealthCare and Correctional Medical Services. In his estimation, both companies, which operate to make a profit like Wexford, cared more about the inmates’ physical well-being and were willing to sacrifice dollars to ensure that medical problems were treated expeditiously. Says Puckett: “It is my sense that Wexford doesn’t care what sort of facility they run. Everything is run on a bare-bones budget. They’re in it to make money.” Not anymore. When asked whether there was any chance at all that Wexford could remain in its current capacity at NMCD or CYFD, Richardson spokesman Gallegos responded: “They’re done. The governor’s intention is to replace Wexford with a new company. We expect to have a new provider in a reasonable amount of time.”

November 28, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
In the latest setback for Wexford Health Sources, a former employee has slapped the prison health care company with a civil lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. The suit, filed Oct. 25 in US District Court in Albuquerque, alleges that former health services administrator Don Douglas was fired by Wexford last October because he is black. Moreover, the suit alleges that sick and injured inmates at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, where Douglas worked, received poor treatment and that the facility lacked critical medical staff. Wexford, which administers health care in New Mexico’s prisons, has been the subject of a four-month SFR investigation [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. As a result, the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee held a hearing last month, and the Legislative Finance Committee is slated to audit Wexford and the New Mexico Corrections Department [Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead”]. The allegations in Douglas’ lawsuit echo many of the concerns from employees who have talked to SFR. Specifically, it charges that even though Douglas alerted a Wexford corporate administrator about medical and staffing problems, the company did not respond. Instead, according to the lawsuit, Douglas’ job was audited and he was found negligent, despite no prior problems and a record of exemplary job evaluations. On Oct. 10, 2005, Douglas was fired and replaced by a white woman, the lawsuit says. “Wexford did not provide critical health care in a timely manner, and I called attention to that,” Douglas tells SFR. “Inmates have a civil right as incarcerated American citizens to be afforded adequate health care. But that service is not being provided, and Wexford is neglecting inmates.” Douglas began working at Wexford in July 2004, but also worked for its predecessor, Addus. Shortly after his firing, Douglas filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A June 5 letter from the EEOC’s Albuquerque office says the agency found reasonable cause to believe Douglas “was terminated because of his race.” When queried by SFR, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman wrote in a Nov. 27 e-mail that Wexford is withholding comment until the forthcoming audit is complete and referred to 14 prior successful audits of Wexford. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland also would not comment on the lawsuit and noted that NMCD does not oversee Wexford personnel matters. Says Deshonda Charles Tackett, Douglas’ lawyer: “This is an important case. Mr. Douglas should not have to suffer racial discrimination in an effort to provide inmates with proper health care.”

November 22, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The medical director of a state prison in Hobbs has stepped down from his post less than a month after a legislative committee requested an audit of the corrections health care in the state. Dr. Don Apodaca, medical director of Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF), turned in his resignation on Nov. 6 due to concerns that inmates there are not receiving sufficient access to health care. According to Apodaca, sick inmates are routinely denied off-site visits to medical specialists and sometimes have to wait months to receive critical prescription drugs. Apodaca blames the policies of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that contracts with the state to provide medicine in New Mexico’s prisons, for these alleged problems. Wexford has been the subject of a four-month SFR investigation, during which a growing number of former and current employees have contended that Wexford is more concerned with saving money than providing adequate health care, and that inmates suffer as a result. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved an audit that will assess Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also evaluate the quality of health care rendered to inmates [Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead”]. LCCF’s medical director since January 2006, Apodaca is one of the highest-ranking ex-Wexford employees to come forward thus far. His allegations of Wexford’s denials of off-site care and the delays in obtaining prescription drugs echo those raised by other former and current employees during the course of reporting for this series [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Specifically, Apodaca says he personally evaluated inmates who needed off-site, specialty care, but that Wexford consistently denied his referrals. Apodaca cites the cases of an inmate who needed an MRI, another inmate who suffered from a hernia and a third inmate who had a cartilage tear in his knee as instances in which inmates were denied off-site care for significant periods of time against his recommendations. When inmates are actually cleared for off-site care in Albuquerque, they are transported in full shackles without access to a bathroom for the six- to seven-hour trip, Apodaca says. “Inmates told me they aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up soiling themselves,” he says. “The trip is so bad they end up refusing to go even when we get the off-site visits approved.” When it comes to prescription drugs, there also are significant delays, Apodaca says. Inmates sometimes wait weeks or even months for medicine used for heart and blood pressure conditions, even though Apodaca says he would write orders for those medicines repeatedly. “Wexford was not providing timely treatment and diagnoses of inmates,” he says. “There were tragic cases where patients slipped through the cracks, were not seen for inordinately long times and suffered serious or fatal consequences.” Apodaca says he began documenting the medical problems at the facility in March. After detailing in writing the cases of 40 to 50 patients whom he felt had not received proper clinical care, Apodaca says he alerted Dr. Phillip Breen, Wexford’s regional medical director, and Cliff Phillips, Wexford’s regional health services administrator, through memos, e-mails and phone calls. In addition, Apodaca says he alerted Wexford’s corporate office in Pittsburgh. Neither Breen nor Phillips returned phone messages left by SFR. Apodaca says he also informed Devendra Singh, NMCD’s quality assurance manager for health services. According to Apodaca, Singh assured him that he would require Wexford to look into the matter, but Apodaca says he never heard a final response. “Wexford was simply not receptive to any of the information I was sending them, and I became exasperated,” he says. “It came to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the medical and legal position I was in. There were individuals who needed health care who weren’t getting it.” Singh referred all questions to NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland; Bland responded to SFR in a Nov. 20 e-mail: “If Don Apodaca has information involving specific incidents, we will be happy to look into the situation. Otherwise, we will wait for the LFC’s audit results, review them and take it from there.” Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman would not comment specifically on Apodaca’s allegations. In a Nov. 20 e-mail to SFR, she wrote that Wexford will cooperate with the Legislature’s audit and is confident the outcome will be similar to the 14 independent audits performed since May 2005 by national correctional organizations. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing to provide high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. Members of the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which requested the forthcoming audit, toured LCCF on Oct. 19 and were told by both Wexford and NMCD officials that there were no health care problems at the facility. On the same tour, however, committee members heard firsthand accounts from inmates who complained they couldn’t get treatment when they became sick [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. That visit, along with Apodaca’s accounts, calls into question Wexford’s and NMCD’s accounts, State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, says. “We were told on our tour that nothing was wrong. And now to hear that there is a claim that Wexford and the Corrections Department might have known about this makes it seem like this information was knowingly covered up,” McSorley, co-chairman of the committee, says. “We can’t trust what’s being told to us. The situation may require independent oversight far beyond what we have. This should be the biggest story in the state right now.”

November 8, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The New Mexico State Legislature is one step closer to an audit of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers health care in New Mexico’s prisons. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved the audit, which will evaluate Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also assess the quality of health care administered to inmates. The request for a review of Wexford originated with the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which voted unanimously on Oct. 20 to recommend the audit after a hearing on prison health care in Hobbs [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. A subsequent Oct. 30 letter sent to the LFC by committee co-chairmen Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dońa Ana, and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, refers to “serious complaints raised by present and former employees” of Wexford. The letter cites this newspaper’s reportage of the situation and notes that on a recent tour of Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, “committee members heard numerous concerns from inmates about medical problems not being addressed.” It also refers to confidential statements Wexford employees provided to the committee that were then turned over to the LFC. The decision to examine Wexford and NMCD comes on the coattails of months of reports that state inmates are suffering behind bars due to inadequate medical services, documented in an ongoing, investigative series by SFR. Over the past three months, former and current employees have alleged staffing shortages as well as problems with the dispensation of prescription drugs and the amount of time sick inmates are forced to wait before receiving urgent care [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. The timing, Manu Patel, the LFC’s deputy director for audits, says, is ideal, because the LFC already planned to initiate a comprehensive audit of NMCD, the first in recent history. Regarding the medical component of the audit, Patel says: “We will be looking at how cost-effective Wexford has been. Also, we will be looking at the quality of care, how long inmates have to wait to receive care and what [Wexford’s] services are like.” Patel says the LFC plans to contract with medical professionals to help evaluate inmates’ care. As per a request from the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, current Wexford employees will be given a chance to participate in the audit anonymously. The audit’s specifics require final approval from the LFC in December; the committee will likely take up to six months to generate a report, according to Patel. In a Nov. 6 e-mail to SFR, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman cites 14 successful, independent audits performed of Wexford in New Mexico since May 2005. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland echoes Gedman: “We welcome the audit and plan on cooperating any way we can,” she says. Meanwhile, former employees continue to come forward. Kathryn Hamilton, an ex-NMCD mental health counselor, says she worked alongside Wexford staff at the Pen for two months, shortly after the company took the reins in New Mexico in July 2004. Hamilton alleges that mentally ill inmates were cut off psychotropic medicine for cheaper, less effective drugs and that inmates waited too long to have prescriptions renewed and suffered severe behavioral withdrawals as a result. Hamilton, who had worked at the Pen since April 2002, says she encountered the same sorts of problems under Addus, Wexford’s predecessor, but quit shortly after Wexford’s takeover because the situation wasn’t improving. “They would stop meds, give inmates the wrong meds or refuse to purchase meds that were not on their formulary, even if they were prescribed by a doctor,” Hamilton says. “I felt angry, sometimes helpless, although I always tried to speak with administrators to help the inmates.” Hamilton married a state inmate by proxy last month, after continuing a correspondence with him following her tenure at the Pen. Hamilton says she did not serve as a counselor to the inmate, Anthony Hamilton, but met him after helping conduct a series of mental health evaluations. Hamilton has been a licensed master social worker under her maiden name since 2000 (according to the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners). She emphasizes that her relationship with her husband did not begin until after she left the Corrections Department. According to Hamilton, her husband, still incarcerated at the Pen for aggravated assault, recently contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a serious staph infection. In a previous story, four current Wexford employees specifically mentioned MRSA as a concern to SFR because they allege Wexford does not supply proper protective equipment for staff treating infectious diseases like MRSA [Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns”]. Wexford Vice President Gedman did not address Hamilton’s claims when queried by SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Bland also says she can’t comment on Hamilton’s allegations because she had not spoken with Hamilton’s supervisor at the time of her employment. Says Hamilton: “I initially called the newspaper as the concerned wife of an inmate, not as a former therapist. With all the stories the Reporter has done, I wanted to come forward with what I had seen at the Pen.”

October 25, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
Following months of reports that state inmates are suffering behind bars due to deficient medical services, a state legislative committee has requested a special audit of health care in New Mexico’s state prisons. During an Oct. 20 hearing at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, members of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee voted unanimously to ask for the audit, which will focus on Wexford. Last week’s hearing resulted in a requested audit of New Mexico’s prison health care. (Photo by Dan Frosch.). Health Sources, the private company that contracts with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD). The company’s operation in New Mexico has been the subject of a three-month investigative series by SFR, during which former and current Wexford employees have come forward with allegations of problematic health services for inmates [Cover Story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. As a result of the series, the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee decided to address the issue during a regularly scheduled hearing in Hobbs [Outtakes, Sept. 13: “Checkup”]. Norbert Sanchez, a nurse suspended by Wexford in September after an alleged dispute with health administrators, spoke at the hearing about problems he witnessed at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. Sanchez recalled witnessing a wheelchair-bound inmate who sat in his own feces for hours and a sick inmate who missed critical doses of medicine for congestive heart failure. Sanchez also expressed concerns that echo those raised previously to SFR by other former and current Wexford staff: a systemic lack of medical supplies, failure to properly dole out prescription drugs and reluctance to send sick inmates off-site for specialized treatment. Though he was the only former Wexford employee in attendance, Sanchez referred legislators to a packet he’d disseminated with testimony from current Wexford employees. Those employees feared retaliation if they came forward, Sanchez said. ACLU New Mexico staff attorney George Bach testified that his organization has been hearing similar concerns from Wexford employees and that many are, indeed, afraid to go public. “These employees are so passionate about this issue that if you called them to testify, I’m certain they would do it,” Bach said. Both NMCD and Wexford refuted Sanchez’ and Bach’s allegations. Devendra Singh, NMCD’s quality assurance manager for health services, hashed through the nationally approved correctional health care standards to which he said the Corrections Department adheres. He also pointed to the strict auditing process he said NMCD uses to monitor Wexford. “We go for auditing for every inch of every aspect of care,” Singh said. Wexford President and CEO Mark Hale said his Pennsylvania-based company is subject to more stringent oversight in New Mexico than in any other state where it operates. “If inmates need health care, they get it,” Hale, who categorized the attacks on Wexford as deriving from disgruntled ex-employees, said. But Singh’s and Hale’s assurances were not enough for the legislators on hand, who peppered the two with questions. At one point, State Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, referred to a recent SFR story in which a current Wexford employee at Central decried treatment of inmates as inhumane and noted that never before had the employee seen such deficiencies in health care [Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns”]. “That’s pretty darn scary to me,” Wirth said of the allegation. Committee co-chairman and State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dońa Ana, questioned Singh’s assertion that medical complaints from inmates are rare and noted that on a tour of Lea County Correctional Facility the previous night, legislators had heard numerous inmate concerns about medical problems. Co-chairman Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, said on the same tour he’d seen an inmate suffering from a visible cystic infection. The cyst should have easily been identified through only a “cursory” medical evaluation, McSorley said. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams said his agency welcomes a special audit of health care in the prisons. Legislators agreed that such an audit, under the aegis of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), should be conducted by an independent third party and include accounts from current Wexford employees who could remain anonymous. LFC Chairman Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, says he has not yet received an official request from the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, but will be keeping an eye out. “We will seriously consider looking at the Corrections component to see what type of health care and what type of contracts are being approved by the Corrections Department,” Varela says. Indeed, for Peter Wirth, the logical next step is an audit that examines Wexford’s services and NMCD’s oversight and that allows current employees to speak freely. Says Wirth: “We really need to hear more from these folks. Obviously, we’ve begun a dialogue here, and we don’t want to short-change it.”

October 18, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
Current prison health workers say they fear retaliation if they speak out. Just days before state legislators convene a hearing on correctional health care in New Mexico, a group of medical employees in the state prison system have come to SFR with allegations about how inmates are treated. All four requested anonymity because they say they fear retaliation from Wexford Health Sources—the private company that administers health care in the prisons—if their identities are revealed. The employees currently work at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. They allege, among other things, that chronically ill inmates are forced to lie in their own feces for hours, are taken off vital medicine to save money and often wait months before receiving treatment for urgent medical conditions. Moreover, the employees say conditions at the facility are unsanitary. “In my entire career, I’ve never seen this sort of stuff happening,” one employee says. “These inmates are not being treated humanely. They don’t live in sanitary conditions. They live in pain.” Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman denies all the employees’ allegations in an e-mail response to SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says the department is unaware of these allegations and that “none of these issues have surfaced during our regular auditing process.” The employees’ allegations come on the heels of a series of stories by SFR, in which several former Wexford employees have publicly come forward with similar charges [Cover Story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. As a result of the stories, the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee will hold a hearing on Oct. 20 in Hobbs to discuss the matter [Outtakes, Sept. 13: “Checkup”]. Wexford and the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD), which oversees the Pennsylvania-based company, have categorically denied charges that inmates are being denied proper health care. These latest allegations are the first to come from current employees of Wexford. The employees describe an environment where medical staff must purchase their own wipes for incontinent patients because they say Wexford administrators say there’s no money for supplies. They say there’s a shortage of oxygen tanks and nebulizer machines (for asthma patients) and also scant protective equipment for those staff treating infectious diseases. Gedman says, “Wexford is unaware of any shortage in medical supplies. Extra oxygen bottles and nebulizers are always on hand and ready for any emergency use. The oxygen bottles are inventoried daily as part of our emergency response requirement.” The employees also allege that chronically ill inmates sometimes wait what they say is too long to be taken off-site for specialty care. Gedman says this also is false and that Wexford “strongly encourages all of our providers to refer patients for necessary evaluation and treatment, off-site when necessary, as soon as problems are identified that need specialty referral.” All four employees say their complaints to Wexford administrators about the lack of supplies and treatment of inmates have been ignored, and all believe coming forward publicly will cost them their jobs. Gedman says this concern is unfounded because “Wexford encourages an open-door policy for all employees to bring issues to the attention of management so that they can be investigated and acted upon as appropriate.” Bland says Corrections staff are “visible and accessible in the prisons. If any of Wexford’s staff would like to speak with us concerning these allegations, we welcome the information and will certainly look into the matter.” As for the legislative hearing, State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, R-Dońa Ana, co-chairman of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, says he hopes some of these Wexford critics will show up in Hobbs. And he says further hearings are a possibility. “I hope there is a full airing of the issues. I would like to learn that the Corrections Department is working to resolve all of this, but if they haven’t, I expect to make deadlines for them so we can expect adequate progress,” Cervantes says. “We’d still like to protect the anonymity and bring to light any allegations and complaints.” Cervantes also says he wants to introduce legislation during the next session to protect whistle-blowers. Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute watchdog group in Florida, says the Legislature must do everything it can to safeguard current Wexford employees against retaliation. “The Legislature is the ultimate authority, and they need to put pressure on the Corrections Department to find out what the hell is going on. They also need to protect these employees so they can come forward and testify about their specific experiences,” Kopczynski says. “And if there are allegations of civil rights abuse, which is what it sounds like, then the Justice Department needs to come in.”

October 4, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
Medical personnel at a New Mexico state prison don’t have protective gear to treat inmates with infectious diseases. Nurses at the same prison lack sanitary wipes for sick inmates who have soiled themselves. Inmates regularly miss doses of critical medicine because their prescriptions are not renewed properly. These are just some of the allegations made by Norbert Sanchez, a nurse for Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers health care in New Mexico’s state prisons. Sanchez asserts that Wexford suspended him on Sept. 6 from his post at the Long Term Care Unit (LTCU) at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in retaliation for continually raising concerns about Wexford’s operations at the facility. But he recently spoke with SFR in an exclusive interview. His account follows a series of stories by SFR in which a wide range of former Wexford employees have raised similarly serious concerns regarding Wexford’s treatment of inmates [Cover Story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. “There were no guidelines, no policies from Wexford. It was unsafe for the inmates and the employees,” Sanchez, a 20-year veteran nurse, says. Sanchez says he began to work for Wexford in April and quickly noticed problems. Incoming nurses received only scant safety training from Wexford and were immediately thrown into intense treatment settings to plug staffing shortages, he alleges. More disturbingly, Sanchez says that there weren’t protective gowns and masks for medical staff who needed to treat inmates with infectious diseases, dangerous for staff, inmates and the general public. There also was a shortage of linens and sanitary wipes, which are particularly critical for chronically ill inmates. Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman responded in a lengthy Oct. 2 e-mail to SFR. She would not comment on the details of Sanchez’s suspension but denies he was disciplined for complaining. SFR also queried New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) spokeswoman Tia Bland on Sanchez’ allegation of retaliation and his issues with Wexford’s health care. Bland says NMCD has no information on Sanchez’ employment status and is unaware of a shortage of medical supplies or protective gear, as well as prescription drug lapses, but that the Department is looking into it. As for Sanchez’s assertions about dirty linens, Bland says: “The linens are our responsibility. We have gotten a little behind with linen laundry in LTCU because of some electrical problems. We’ve ordered new linens, and we’re working on fixing the problem.” Regarding the staffing shortages Sanchez and other ex-Wexford employees have complained of, Bland says: “We’ve always acknowledged staffing challenges. We are happy to say the vacancy rate is the lowest it’s been in months. We applaud Wexford’s efforts and encourage them to keep it up.” Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute watchdog group in Florida, says that aside from the hearing, NMCD should consider liquidating damages or fining Wexford if it refuses to live up to its contractual obligations. NMCD hired Wexford in July 2004; last fall, a $35,000 agreement was reached between NMCD and Wexford over the state’s concern that Wexford didn’t provide enough work hours for its full-time employees, particularly psychiatrists. “You’re only as good as your contract. And if there are systematic problems here, than the state might need to hit Wexford where it hurts,” Kopczynski says. Ultimately, though, Kopczynski maintains that it is up to the Legislature and Corrections Secretary Joe Williams to ensure that Wexford upholds humane standards of care. “Somebody needs to be enforcing that contract. And it should be up to the Legislature to hold the secretary’s feet to the fire,” he says. “And if the secretary chooses not to, then they need to get rid of him.” Meanwhile, Sanchez says he plans on speaking at the forthcoming hearing in Hobbs. “Wexford doesn’t care about its employees,” he says. “And they don’t care about the inmates.”

September 13, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
Concerns about prison health care reported exclusively by the Santa Fe Reporter will be discussed by a legislative committee next month. The Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee will gather in Hobbs on Oct. 19 and 20 for a regularly scheduled hearing and discuss, among other items, the health care provided to state inmates by Wexford Health Sources. Wexford, a private, Pennsylvania-based company, has come under fire from ex-employees who allege that inmates receive dangerously substandard health care [Cover Story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dońa Ana, co-chairman of the committee, says those concerns prompted the Legislature to take action. “The issues [SFR] has raised have not come before our committee recently. Inevitably, you get a perception that the management wants you to see, but we want to go beyond that,” Cervantes says. Cervantes expects representatives from Wexford and the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) to answer questions at the meetings. He also encouraged all those who have concerns about Wexford’s health care in the prisons to come forward. “We need these individuals to not only participate in the public portion of the meetings but consider presenting evidence and testimony to the committee,” Cervantes says. State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, co-chairman of the committee, echoes his counterpart’s sentiment. “With the increasing outcry of health care in the prisons, Joe and I decided this was an issue that needs to be discussed,” McSorley says. Meanwhile, SFR recently obtained an Aug. 29 memo from Wexford that directs staff not to speak with this paper. The memo is from J Chavez, identified as director of nursing at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. “It is important that you either contact the Pittsburgh office or myself if this reporter contacts you,” the memo states. “Please keep in mind that all of you have read and signed the business code of conduct…” The memo also cites the company’s media relations policy, which prohibits employees from speaking with the news media on matters relating to Wexford.

September 4, 2006 Albuquerque Tribune
When I got the no-return-address envelope in the mail, I figured it was another anonymous tip on someone's opponent. It wasn't. The packet - yes, sent without a name - outlined a revised ethics policy at the state Corrections Department. Once I read on, I realized why he or she sent the information namelessly. "We are told we cannot contact you without violating this policy and face possible termination even though the only way of getting information out to change problems is via the media," they wrote. Nothing gets a reporter's heart pumping like something somebody doesn't want them to know about. Especially in government. Tia Bland, Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the code doesn't prohibit employees from contacting the media. "I don't think we have anything in our policy that says if a person is off duty and has a conversation with a reporter, they are going to be fired." The letter-writer goes on: "In the policy, it states we cannot tape or video record a person. (Remember the Joe Williams piece on Channel 7) And if we do we face possible termination." The mention of Williams, the department's Cabinet secretary, is a reference to a recent KOAT-Channel 7 news segment that showed Williams at a party in Clayton, where the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) plans to build a new prison. The report said GEO helped pay the tab for the gathering in the northern New Mexico town. A grainy video of the event showed Williams walking out of the Clayton Civic Center, where employees were dancing to "La Macarena." In terms of videotaping people, the policy does say: "Applicable personnel are prohibited from tape recording, video recording or otherwise electronically recording the acts of others or conversations with or among other personnel while at or on any work site, unless all persons proposed to be so recorded have consented to being so recorded."

August 30, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
A Santa Fe dentist and his assistant say they quit their jobs at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 2004 because of concerns that state inmates were not receiving adequate dental care. Dr. Norton Bicoll and Sharon Daily left their employment at Wexford Health Sources, which handles health care in nine New Mexico correctional facilities, because the company ordered them to cut their hours for inmates in half, they say. Bicoll and Daily’s problems with Wexford follow a number of serious allegations levied by six ex-Wexford employees that also question the level of health care inmates are receiving [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Last week, SFR also reported that two Albuquerque psychiatrists have sued Lovelace Health Systems for firing them after they refused to participate in a proposed contract with Wexford. The contract would have called for the psychiatrists to provide substandard treatment to state inmates, the lawsuit alleges [Outtakes, Aug. 23: “Unhealthy Proposal”]. These latest assertions about Wexford appear to be part of a growing chorus of criticism of the company and its treatment of inmates. Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman, who has responded previously to questions regarding the company, did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. But Bicoll and Daily’s issues with Wexford relate to the company’s staffing shortages in New Mexico, one of the company’s most pervasive problems, according to ex-employees. While both NMCD and Wexford have consistently played down such shortages, according to Wexford’s own Web site, there are currently 47 vacancies for medical personnel in New Mexico. That number comprises close to half of the 117 total positions Wexford, the nation’s third largest private correctional health care company, is currently advertising for. Such vacancies not only include a range of nursing positions but also critical, high ranking administrative posts. According to the Web site, Wexford is looking to hire a director of nursing and medical director at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The medical director position is also open at Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces and Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. The Penitentiary of New Mexico needs a director of nursing. Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute watchdog group in Florida, says charges of compromised prison health care in New Mexico warrant federal involvement. “It would be good to get the Department of Justice involved if there are allegations of lack of care on behalf of the inmates,” he says. “The New Mexico Corrections Department and the Legislature can’t hide their heads in the sand and say they didn’t know about these problems if there’s ever a lawsuit. The inmates are ultimately the responsibility of the state, and you can’t contract that away.”

August 25, 2006 The New Mexican
Santa Fe County has interviewed four people who applied to be the new jail administrator. One high-profile candidate, however, took her name out of the hat just before interviews were slated to begin Thursday. Ann Casey, a lobbyist and Illinois jail official embroiled in controversy over her relationship with state Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, had applied for the job along with five others. Casey canceled her interview Thursday and said she no longer wanted to be considered for the job, according to Assistant County Attorney Carolyn Glick. Casey was in the news in New Mexico when the state put Williams on unpaid leave and launched an investigation. Officials looked into his relationship with the woman, including use of his work cell phone and other expenses after the Albuquerque Journal reported billing records for his state cell phone showed 644 calls between the two over five months. Williams returned to work and is on probation following what a governor's aide called "a lapse in judgment." Illinois officials also looked into the matter, but Casey remains in her position of assistant warden of programs at the Centralia Correctional Center, said department spokesman Derek Schnapp. Casey was not available for comment.

May 31, 2006 New Mexican
A state prison contractor involved in the investigation of a relationship between Corrections Secretary Joe Williams and a lobbyist contributed $10,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson's re-election campaign. The political-action committee for Aramark -- a Philadelphia-based company that makes millions of dollars a year to feed New Mexico inmates -- contributed to Richardson's campaign in May 2005, according to Richardson's most recent campaign-finance report. That was about a year after Aramark renewed its contract with the state Corrections Department. Aramark also has been generous to the state Democratic Party, contributing $10,000 in 2004, and the Democratic Governors Association, which Richardson chairs. The company contributed a total of $15,000 to the DGA in 2004 and another $15,000 in 2005, according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Aramark provides food service to more than 475 correctional institutions in North America. The corporation also has food-service contracts in colleges, hospitals, convention centers and stadiums. Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley referred questions about the campaign donation to Richardson's campaign manager, Amanda Cooper, who couldn't be reached for comment. The Governor's Office announced this week that Williams is being put on administrative leave while the state Personnel Office investigates his relationship with Ann E. Casey, who registered as a lobbyist for Aramark and Wexford Health Services, which provides health care to New Mexico inmates. Casey is an assistant warden at an Illinois prison. A copyrighted story in the Albuquerque Journal said Williams' state-issued cell-phone records show 644 calls between Williams and Casey between Sept. 24, 2005, and Feb. 23. According to that report, Casey was hired as a consultant by Aramark in 2005, but that contract has since been terminated. Aramark's $5.4 million contract ends in July. The Secretary of State Office's Lobbyist Index lists Casey as a lobbyist for Wexford, though the Journal report quotes a Wexford official saying the company never hired her. In 2004, a $10,000 contribution to a Richardson political committee from Wexford's parent company caused a stir and later was returned to the Pittsburgh company. The Bantry Group made the contribution to Richardson's Moving America Forward PAC in April 2004. This was during a bidding process just a month after the Corrections Department requested proposals for a contract to provide health care and psychiatric services to inmates. That contract potentially is worth more than $100 million, The Associated Press reported. In August 2004, a Richardson spokesman said the money would be returned "to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."

May 30, 2006 AP
Gov. Bill Richardson has put Corrections Secretary Joe Williams on unpaid leave while the secretary's recent actions are investigated. Richardson said the review will focus on Williams' use of a state-issued cell phone, a state-funded trip that included some personal travel and his relationship with a lobbyist. "Gov. Richardson wants a thorough investigation to examine the secretary's actions and determine if anything improper occurred," said James Jimenez, Richardson's chief of staff. "The governor sets a very high ethical standard for his administration and will not tolerate any level of abuse of authority or public trust." A spokeswoman for the Corrections Department said Williams was unavailable for comment. State Personnel Director Sandra Perez will conduct the investigation through her office, Jimenez said. Williams will be on unpaid leave until June 9, the day Perez's office is to report to the governor. The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that Williams spent about 91 hours on his state-issued cell phone talking with Ann Casey, an assistant warden at a state prison in Centralia, Ill. The calls between the two phones were placed between Sept. 24, 2005, and Feb. 23, 2006. Casey registered as a lobbyist in 2005 for two companies that have contracts with New Mexico to provide health care and meals to prisoners. Williams described his relationship with Casey as a friendship and said he doesn't give preferential treatment to anybody. Richardson also is questioning a trip Williams took to Nashville on the state's dollar. In January, Williams attended a conference of the American Correctional Association. His travel records show he added a St. Louis leg to the trip, which he said was personal. A 30-mile drive from the St. Louis airport would land Williams at an address in O'Falcon, Ill., which Casey listed on lobbyist registration forms. Records show Williams wrote a check to his department in January for $266, the cost of adding the St. Louis trip. While on the trip, Williams and Casey accepted a dinner invitation from a company that operates a state prison in Santa Rosa, according to Williams' e-mail records. A billing statement for a hotel stay during the trip also lists two people in his party, but Williams would not say who the second person was. Richardson appointed Williams, a former warden at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs and former warden at two state prisons, as corrections secretary in 2003.

July 19, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Some legislators on Monday said a proposed prison in Clayton would help that town's economy, while others advocated different ways to add prison space in New Mexico.  Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque, suggested that lawmakers consider expanding the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa or the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. Both options would be cheaper than running a 600-bed, medium-security prison in Clayton, according to initial estimates from the state Corrections Department.  The actual operating cost may be lower, Williams said.  Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, called on Williams to consider placing more criminals in community-based corrections programs rather than prison, as allowed under state law.  "We're rushing to try to get people employed at another private prison when we're not following our own statute," Stewart said at a hearing at the United World College.  Williams said he opposed the early release of prisoners.

July 9 , 2004
Prison food is not supposed to taste great, but inmates in two state-correction institutions said this week that their food had taken a turn for the worse in recent days while inmates in a third facility staged a widespread boycott of meals earlier this week.  Only 44 of the 330 inmates at the minimum-security facility in Los Lunas showed up for lunch Wednesday because of complaints about the food, Corrections Department spokeswoman Tia Bland confirmed Thursday.  "We've had nothing but ground turkey for days," an inmate at the state prison in Las Cruces told a reporter Thursday. "It's terrible. You can't eat some of this stuff."  Meanwhile, an inmate at the state prison in Grants said his prison kitchen has been serving a soy-meat substitute, which he described as tasting like cardboard .  Under that new contract, the company receives about 20 cents less for each meal served.  "That does change what is offered," Albert said.  (The New Mexican)

September 9, 2003
A flight from Virginia is set to arrive back in New Mexico late next week. But its homecoming welcome will include shotguns, shackles and prison vans.  The New Mexico Corrections Department said Monday it plans to return all but one of what it has labeled troublemaker inmates from Virginia's super-maximum-security Wallens Ridge State Prison. The return will end a controversial four-year stint in which problem prisoners were transferred and housed in the lockup nearly 2,000 miles away.  The arrival of the 16 prisoners back in New Mexico is tentatively set for Sept. 19, state corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland said.  "These inmates are (those) that have gang ties, primarily. They're instigators. They start trouble," Bland said.  "We're ready for them."  Bland said the return of the inmates is favored by Gov. Bill Richardson, who formed a series of teams earlier this year that looked at ways of cutting costs across state government.  Bland said bringing the prisoners home is projected to save the state $671,000 over the next five years.  Bland said New Mexico pays $64 a day to house inmates at Wallens Ridge. It costs about $12 a day more to house prisoners at the Penitentiary of New Mexico outside of Santa Fe— this state's version of a "super max" where the troublemakers will be sent. However, when things such as transporting the prisoners from Virginia to New Mexico for court dates are eliminated, savings will be achieved. The prisoners' security classifications also could be lowered over time, requiring less expense in keeping them locked up.  Former corrections secretary Rob Perry began shuffling inmates to Wallens Ridge just days after a deadly 1999 prison riot near Santa Rosa. But Perry's replacement, Joe R. Williams, said Monday the New Mexico system can handle its own problem prisoners.  "At the beginning, it served its purposes," Williams said of the transfers. But "we're capable of running our own system. I don't see any cause for alarm or any potential disruption because they're here."  New Mexico sent 109 suspected prison rioters to Wallens Ridge after the Aug. 31, 1999, riot at the privately run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa. Guard Ralph Garcia was killed in the uprising, and his alleged killers are now being prosecuted.  (ABQ Journal)

January 1, 2003
Santa Fe - Gov. -elect Bill Richardson filled out his cabinet Tuesday, appointing a veteran prison warden to run the Corrections Department and a longtime television journalist as head of the Labor Department.  Joe Williams, warden at a privately operated prison in Hobbs, was named corrections secretary.  Williams has been warden since 1999 of the Lea County Correctional Facility, which is owned and operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corp.  Richardson said he wanted Williams, "someone with the experience in both the public and private systems, to study privatization of the corrections system and to give me his best advice on how best to proceed long-term in corrections.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 25, 2002
The secretary of the state Corrections Department had ordered his staff not to give any information to the transition team of Gov.-elect Bill Richardson because at least two members of the team are suing the department.  The memo from Secretary Jim Burleson prompted Richardson spokesman to accuse Burleson of putting up "roadblocks" to the transition process.  "A potential issue had arisen involving the newly appointed Corrections Transition Team," Burleson's memo said.  "As such it is at this point that I must initiate a legal analysis of potential conflicts."  Santa Fe lawyer Mark Donatelli, who co-chairs the transition team responsible for evaluating the CP, represents six inmates suing the department over "cognitive restructuring," a controversial lock-down program for problem inmates.  One of his team members is Lawrence Barreras, a former prison warden who was fired by Johnson's administration in 1997.  Barreras' lawsuit against the state was thrown out by a district judge.  The state court of appeals upheld that decision in September.  Barreras who more recently was warden at Santa Fe County jail - told AP in September he would appeal.  (Santa Fe New Mexican.com)

October 7, 2000
The corrections Department exceeded its authority in giving a private prison company a retroactive pay raise for jailing New Mexico prisoners. Assistant Attorney General, Zachary Shandler said in an advisory letter to the Legislative Finance Committee, "The Corrections Department has contractual authority to provide only for prospective payment adjustments. It does not have the authority to provide for retroactive payment adjustments."

New Mexico Legislature
State gets tougher on private prisons - Operators face fine as leniency disappears under Martinez administration: March 1, 2012, Trip Jennings, The New Mexican: Damning expose on how former DOC Secretary and former Wackenhut warden cost state millions of dollars in un-collected fines against for-profits.

March 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The companies that operate private prisons where New Mexico state inmates serve their time have racked up nearly $1.6 million in penalties for understaffing and other contract violations since the Martinez administration started cracking down last year. Nearly all of that was attributable to problems at The GEO Group Inc.’s prison in Hobbs, although the company’s Clayton prison was recently added to the penalty list. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the women’s prison in Grants, also has been fined during the past couple of months, mostly for having inmates in the prison after their release dates. Reversing the practice of the previous administration, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez decided to pursue the penalties the state is entitled to impose for contract violations. “In today’s struggling economy, the people of New Mexico deserve to know the Corrections Department is running in a fiscally responsible manner,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said this week in a statement. The department recently revived its Office of Inspector General to keep tabs on contract compliance. Such fines are discretionary, and former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration gave private prisons a pass, irking lawmakers who estimated that upwards of $18 million could have been collected. Richardson’s corrections chief, Joe Williams – who claimed that estimate was inflated – said that prisons already were paying substantial overtime costs, that understaffing was largely due to factors beyond their control, and that the facilities were safe and secure. Williams worked at Hobbs for GEO’s predecessor company before Richardson hired him, and he returned to GEO’s corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of Richardson’s tenure. After negotiations with the Martinez administration, GEO in January paid a $1.1 million fine for violations at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs for the period from January through October of 2011. GEO also agreed to put another $200,000 into recruitment over the subsequent year. GEO continued to be penalized: $158,529 for November, $139,621 for December, $78,710 for January and $84,753 for February, according to documents provided by the department. The February assessment isn’t final yet, because the company has until late this month to respond to it. The fines largely were due to vacancies in the ranks of correctional officers and in noncustodial positions such as teachers, counselors and treatment providers. Corrections officials have said it’s difficult for the men’s medium security lockup at Hobbs to recruit and keep corrections officers because it’s competing with the oil industry. An assessment of $2,570 for understaffing in January was proposed for GEO’s Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, but the problem had been corrected by the time the department sent a letter to the prison on Feb. 10, and no penalty was assessed. In early March, however, the department notified the Clayton prison that it would be fined $5,373 for February, for vacancies in mandatory posts and for two inmates imprisoned beyond their release date. That penalty is pending. GEO did not respond to requests from the Journal for comment. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, was fined $11,779 for January, and $9,974 for February – still pending – for an academic instructor vacancy and for inmates held beyond their release dates. Inspector General Shannon McReynolds said that occurs when the required parole plans aren’t developed in a timely way.

November 20, 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Joe Williams, who was the corrections secretary in the Richardson administration, is back at work at the Florida-based private prison company that he spared from paying millions of dollars in penalties for contract violations. Williams is again employed by The GEO Group Inc., an international firm he worked for before he was appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to head the New Mexico prison system. In New Mexico, GEO operates prisons in Hobbs, Clayton and Santa Rosa that house inmates under contract with the state Corrections Department. Williams came under scrutiny from New Mexico legislators last year for his decision not to fine GEO and another private prison operator for understaffing. A report by the Legislative Finance Committee at the time said there were potentially millions of dollars to be collected. The administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who took office in January, has decided to collect some penalties for this year. Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said last week that GEO has agreed to pay $1.1 million for understaffing at the Hobbs prison during 2011 and to put another $200,000 into recruitment. The fine will be deducted from what the state pays the company to run the private prison. Williams headed the Corrections Department for eight years, through 2010, under Richardson. Before his appointment, he worked for GEO’s predecessor, Wackenhut Corrections Corp., as warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. Wackenhut was renamed The GEO Group in 2003. GEO was a contributor to Richardson. It reported giving $10,000 in 2004 to Moving America Forward, a Richardson political committee. The company also pumped at least $43,750 into Richardson’s 2006 gubernatorial re-election bid, according to campaign finance data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. And GEO officials and employees gave at least $10,750 in 2007 for Richardson’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Richardson, a Democrat, has consistently maintained that there was no connection between contributions to his political committees and what happened in state government. Williams is working out of GEO’s Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters, according to a listing of 2011 associate members of the Association of State Correctional Administrators. A recent GEO publication identified him as the company’s director of operations for U.S. corrections. A GEO spokesman last week refused to confirm Williams’ employment or title or provide other information. Pablo Paez said in an email that the company’s policy is to not comment on employment matters. Williams could not be reached for comment. Private prison contracts include required staffing patterns and allow for penalties under certain circumstances — for example, if more than 10 percent of correctional officer positions remain vacant for more than 30 days. The Corrections Department headed by Williams “has chosen not (to) enforce financial penalties for staffing patterns at the private prisons, which is within the secretary’s discretion per the contract,” the Legislative Finance Committee staff said in a September 2010 memo. Based on limited monitoring information from the Corrections Department — and assuming those vacancy trends existed for the previous four budget years — the LFC staff estimated that about $18.6 million could have been collected “if the department had chosen to enforce the contract.” Williams defended his position in a letter to the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee two months later. He called the $18.6 million calculation “highly inflated” and said it didn’t take into account the substantial overtime and other costs paid by the prisons. He said Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the women’s prison in Grants, could have been subject to vacancy penalties of about $530,000 for the previous four years but had paid $2.7 million in overtime during that period. GEO, he said, could have been subject to $4.3 million in penalties for its three men’s prisons over the four years, but it paid $3.6 million in overtime to cover vacancies and another $1.5 million on uncompensated inmate transportation. The Corrections Department “had no legitimate basis for collecting any staffing penalties from GEO” during the four-year period, Williams wrote. Williams also said that it was difficult to recruit employees in the rural areas where the prisons are located and that the Hobbs facility additionally “has to compete with the oil industry.” “Because the private prisons are operating safely and securely, I have chosen to exercise my executive power, as have all secretaries before me, not to penalize the private prisons for staff vacancies caused by factors largely beyond their or anyone else’s control,” Williams wrote in the November letter. Williams had solicited GEO’s help with making his case a few months earlier, urging company officials in an August letter to give him staffing data as well as information about how much GEO paid in taxes and inmate transportation and how much it had contributed to communities and schools. “This information could help me defend my position” to lawmakers, Williams wrote. Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, an advisory member of the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, said it was never clear to him why Williams didn’t impose penalties. But he criticized the movement of employees, such as Williams, from the private sector to the public sector, then back again, as a “built-in conflict of interest” that should be stopped. “The people who go back and forth come out really well, but the taxpayers are the ones who aren’t well-served,” McSorley said. Marcantel said the department plans to look at all vendors, including CCA, to ensure compliance with contracts.

November 14, 2011 Santa Fe New Mexican
A Florida company will pay New Mexico $1.1 million in penalties for not adequately staffing a private prison it operates in Hobbs, a state official said. GEO Group, which manages three of New Mexico's four private prisons, agreed to pay the settlement last week following a meeting between the corrections agency and the company's top management, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said Monday. "They've agreed on it," Marcantel said of GEO. "It's a very fair way of doing it. They are not completely happy. It needed to be done." Officials at GEO could not be reached for comment Monday night. GEO will pay the $1.1 million over several months, the corrections secretary said. In addition, GEO has agreed to spend $200,000 over the next calendar year to recruit new correctional officers for the Hobbs facility. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, the two firms that operate the private facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. The settlement represents the first time in years — possibly ever — that New Mexico has penalized the out-of-state, for-profit companies for not adequately staffing the facilities they operate. The issue has come up in the past, but state officials said New Mexico had never levied penalties for understaffing issues. The question surfaced in 2010 when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties by not assessing penalties against the two firms for inadequate prison staffing levels. The $1.1 million covers understaffing by GEO at the Hobbs facility for only this year and was reached after the state corrections agency and GEO spent most of the summer disputing each other's methodology for computing how much GEO should be penalized, state documents show. Marcantel said he could not retroactively penalize the companies for previous years, but could only go back to the first day of Gov. Susana Martinez's tenure, Jan. 1. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data — between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March 2011 — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records showed. Going forward, the state will check monthly to ensure the four privately operated prisons are adequately staffed, Marcantel said. "Our new approach, it's not going to be waiting," Marcantel said. "That doesn't motivate" the companies to keep staffing levels where they need to be, he added. GEO, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., recently reported $1.2 billion in earnings and $58.8 million in profit through the first nine months of this year, according to a Nov. 2 release by the company.

December 30, 2010 Albuquerque Journal
The family of an inmate who sued the state prison health services provider and three wardens claiming he failed to get treatment for colon cancer has settled the lawsuit filed on his behalf. The inmate, Michael Crespin, died in July 2008 at age 50 while the litigation was pending in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit continued with a personal representative for the man's estate. The amount of the settlement is confidential, and neither Crespin's attorneys nor Wexford Health Sources Inc., a Pittsburgh-based corporation that describes itself as "the nation's leading innovative correctional health care company," had any comment on it. A stipulated motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed with the court Nov. 29. In court documents, Wexford denied any wrongdoing, or that any actions by its employees constituted cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, as Crespin had claimed.

October 28, 2009 The New Mexican
The state of New Mexico would have to shutter two prisons, give early releases to up to 660 prisoners and lay off and furlough Corrections Department employees if Gov. Bill Richardson signs budget cuts approved by the Legislature, his office said Wednesday. Richardson's office raised that grim possibility as his staff analyzes the impact of $253 million in spending cuts legislators passed during a special session last week to deal with a revenue shortfall. His administration on Monday had said other cuts approved by the Legislature could mean the state Human Services Department would reduce children's health care, nutrition programs for seniors and programs for the developmentally disabled, if he were to sign the measures. But lawmakers say they won't be blamed for decisions that are now up to Richardson. "He wants it to seem like we're making the decisions," said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell. "But he's making the calls where he wants to cut. He's making that decision." The Corrections Department said that in order to meet $21 million in budget cuts, it would have to close the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman and the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants. About 270 inmates are incarcerated at the state-operated Roswell facility, while about 590 are housed in the Grants facility, which is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. The state would have to cancel its contract with the company.

January 19, 2009 Santa Fe New Mexican
A director of a foundation established by Gov. Bill Richardson — which collected more than $1.7 million from undisclosed contributors — once worked as a lobbyist for a corporation that manages private prisons for the state. Joe Velasquez, a former senior adviser for Richardson's presidential campaign, in 2006 was a registered lobbyist in the state for GEO Care Inc., which at the time managed the troubled 230-bed Fort Bayard Medical Center east of Silver City. GEO Care is part of a private prison corporation that runs several New Mexico prisons and which has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Richardson's campaigns and other political activities. GEO discontinued the Fort Bayard contract last year by mutual agreement with the state. Velasquez was one of several members of Richardson's political team listed as a director of the Moving America Forward Foundation, which was formed as a public charity more than four years ago, about the same time Richardson started a similarly named political action committee, Moving America Forward. Both had the stated goal of increasing voter participation among Hispanics and Native Americans. Word of the foundation's fundraising efforts comes during an ongoing federal pay-to-play investigation that derailed Richardson's nomination for U.S. Commerce secretary. His administration also has been accused by a former state investment official — described by a Richardson spokesman as a "disgruntled former employee'' — of applying political pressure in investments by the State Investment Council and the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board. Unlike the Moving America Forward PAC, the foundation legally does not have to list individual contributors or expenditures. However, the director of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government said Monday that it would be wise for the foundation to disclose its donors. "There's two stories now — what the foundation was doing and the secrecy story," Leonard DeLayo Jr. said. In cases like this, the "secrecy story" usually is worse than the actual facts of who contributed and where the money was spent, he said. On Monday, the chairman of the state Republican Party called upon Democrat Richardson to disclose the donors. "Bill Richardson and his campaign workers are fighting to keep the identity of their donors secret, and New Mexicans want to know why," Harvey Yates said in a written statement. "Richardson can't pretend to support ethics reform in the state legislature while refusing to disclose his own financial contributors. ... At a minimum, Gov. Richardson should disclose any and all donors who have ever received New Mexico state contracts. That's the biggest question. Scandal is epidemic in New Mexico politics right now. Sunshine is more important than ever." Asked whether Richardson thought it would be a good political move to disclose the contributors, spokesman Gilbert Gallegos replied in an e-mail, "I am not familiar with details of the Foundation or its donors as it was not related to state government and it did not do work in the state of New Mexico." A copyrighted story in The Albuquerque Journal said Velasquez, when asked about his role in the foundation, said, "I had nothing to do with the foundation. I ran the MAF (Moving America Forward) Committee." He couldn't be reached for comment Monday. The GEO Group contributed $43,750 to Richardson's 2006 re-election campaign. Two other GEO lobbyists registered in the state contributed a total of $7,500 to Richardson's 2006 race. And while Richardson was chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association, GEO kicked in $30,000 to that organization (though it contributed more than $90,000 to the Republican Governor's Association during those years). GEO and its board chairman George Zoley kicked in another $15,000 for Richardson's 2007 inauguration. The company's political action committee and GEO executives contributed a total of $16,500 to Richardson's presidential campaign. Richardson spokesmen have repeatedly denied any link between GEO's contributions and the company's lucrative business with New Mexico. In 2006, the contracts were estimated at $38 million. Since then, GEO began managing the new prison in Clayton. According to the Secretary of State's Office lobbyist index, GEO has no registered lobbyists in the state.

July 12, 2008 Santa Fe New Mexican
Back in 2002, when Democrat Bill Richardson was running for his first term as governor, the company then known as Wackenhut, which ran two private prisons in New Mexico, donated $1,000 to his Republican opponent, John Sanchez — and nothing to Richardson. Things have changed. According to The Institute of Money in State Politics, in 2006 The GEO Group, which is the name Wackenhut now goes by, contributed $43,750 to Richardson's re-election campaign. In fact, Richardson, by a wide margin, received more money from GEO than any other politician nationwide running for state office in 2006. In contrast, Charlie Crist, governor of Florida, where GEO is headquartered, received only $1,500 from GEO. (Florida, unlike New Mexico, has campaign contribution limits.) And it dwarfs the money that the company contributed to former Gov. Gary Johnson, who first brought Wackenhut to the state. Johnson's 1998 re-election campaign received a total of $9,000 from Wackenhut and its chief executive officer, Wayne Calabrese. But that's not the last of the GEO money Richardson has received. According to the OpenSecrets.org database, which tracks contributions to federal races, the corporation's PAC donated $7,000 to Richardson's presidential campaign (which refunded $2,000 in February after his campaign folded.) Again, Richardson was GEO's favorite candidate. GEO's PAC gave only $5,000 each to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee. Richardson's presidential campaign received another $9,500 from GEO executives. The only other candidate to receive any money from GEO employees is Barack Obama, who has received a total of $2,000 — all of which came only after Richardson dropped out of the race. Because New Mexico's disclosure laws don't require that campaign contributors identify the companies they work for, it's difficult to identify GEO employees who have contributed to state races. But two GEO lobbyists registered in the state contributed. Jorge Dominicis gave $2,500 to the governor's 2006 re-election, while Diane Houston contributed $5,000 to Richardson's 2006 race. And while Richardson was chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association, GEO kicked in $30,000 to that organization (though it contributed more than $90,000 to the Republican Governor's Association.) Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said last week that campaign contributions have nothing to do with GEO's presence in the state. Asked whether the governor is proud of being the top recipient of campaign funds from a private prison company, Gallegos said the question is "ludicrous and not worth addressing." Richardson is not the only New Mexico politician to get money from GEO. In fact, only one state received more GEO campaign money than New Mexico in 2006. That's the company's home state of Florida, where GEO contributed $395,925. All but about $20,000 of that went to political parties (with Republicans getting about 85 percent of the contributions). In 2006, GEO gave $66,450 to New Mexico state candidates other than Richardson. In state races, the company gave $20,000 to the Democratic primary campaign of attorney general candidate (and Richardson protégé) Geno Zamora; $10,000 to Gary King, who beat Zamora in the primary; $2,500 to King's Republican opponent, Jim Bibb; $8,000 to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish; and $2,500 to State Auditor Hector Balderas. In New Mexico federal races this year, GEO has given $2,300 to Ben Ray Luján's 3rd Congressional District race and $1,000 to 2nd Congressional District Democratic candidate Harry Teague. The company contributed $2,500 to Michelle Lujan Grisham's unsuccessful congressional campaign in October, but the campaign refunded the contribution in March. Grisham, a former state Health Department secretary, said last week that it wasn't GEO's prison contracts that concerned her as much as the company's $3.5 million contract to run the long-troubled Fort Bayard Medical Center, a state nursing home near Silver City. GEO terminated the contract last month. The federal government decertified the facility earlier this year after inspectors found problems with infection control, food preparation and response to reports of abuse. In 2006, GEO's PAC gave congressional candidate Patricia Madrid $10,000 and U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman $1,000. Campaign contributions aren't the only way the company has helped New Mexico politicians. In 1998, Wackenhut hired then state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon as a "consultant." Aragon ended his Wackenhut employment after receiving intense criticism from both parties. While GEO is the private prison company that gives the most to New Mexico candidates, it's not the only one. The PAC for Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America — which runs the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants as well as county jails in Cibola and Torrance counties — gave $5,000 to Richardson's presidential campaign last September. He was the only Democrat to get money from the CCA, which also gave $5,000 each to Republicans McCain and Fred Thompson. Richardson also received $1,000 from Jimmy Turner, a CCA vice president. CCA also gave congressional candidate Ben Ray Luján $1,000 in March. In 2006, CCA gave $1,000 to Heather Wilson's 1st Congressional District campaign. In 2006, CCA gave New Mexico politicians a total of $18,700, $5,000 of which went to Richardson. Eighty percent of CCA's New Mexico contributions went to Democrats. Prison services contractors also contribute to politicians in the state. Aramark Corp., which has a contract with the state to provide food for prisons, gave $25,000 for Richardson's last race for governor and $30,000 for his running mate, Denish. Last year, the corporation gave Richardson $5,000 for his presidential race. (Aramark contributed $6,850 to Clinton.) The Bantry Group, the Pittsburgh-based parent company of Wexford Health Sources, which the state contracted to deliver prison medical services, contributed $10,000 to Richardson's gubernatorial race in 2006. Wexford Health CEO Kevin Halloran gave Richardson another $10,000 in 2005. Ironically, in 2004 Richardson returned a $10,000 donation from Bantry to his PAC, Moving America Forward, because, a spokesman said, the contribution was made while Wexford was being considered for the state contract. The contribution was returned "to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," the spokesman said. Wexford's contract was terminated in 2007 after a Legislative Finance Committee audit found serious problems with its performance delivering health care to inmates.

November 2, 2007 AP
Democratic presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has tapped into a pipeline of campaign cash from those who lobby government in his home state. Critics say the contributions raise questions about whether Richardson has used his leverage as governor to help fund his presidential aspirations, and whether his presidential campaign has become another avenue for state lobbyists to curry favor. Richardson, however, maintains that campaign contributions don't influence him. "There's no connection between donations and what happens in state government. That's always been an established principle," Richardson said at a recent news conference. Richardson has collected about $167,000 from lobbyists registered in the state and nearly $403,000 from executives and employees of companies and organizations represented by lobbyists during the first nine months of the year, according to a review of campaign finance reports by The Associated Press. Richardson also received $22,000 from political action committees affiliated with companies and organizations with lobbyists in New Mexico. The combined contributions from state lobbyists and their clients account for 3 percent of the $18.5 million in total contributions received by the Richardson campaign through September. "It clearly has the appearance of a conflict of interest," said Ben Luce of Santa Fe, a clean energy advocate who had a falling out with the Richardson administration this year and has formed a group to fight what he views as undue corporate influence over policymaking in the state. "There appears to be a pay-to-play situation occurring because people who do make significant donations seem to be the ones getting favors, either contracts or favorable legislation." Another big source of campaign money has been state workers who have contributed at least $468,000 - more than any other group of individuals when totaled by their employer. Richardson also has received at least $89,000 from federal lobbyists and lobbyists from outside of New Mexico, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the contributions to Richardson: - About $30,400 from executives and a state lobbyist for the media and entertainment company, Lionsgate. The state offers tax incentives and interest-free loans for films shot in New Mexico. Lionsgate has done several productions in the state and the company is planning a studio near Albuquerque. - Nearly $25,000 from executives, officers and state lobbyists for ValueOptions, which has a contract to manage mental health and substance abuse services for the state. The chairman of the company, Ron Dozoretz, and his wife, Beth, each contributed the maximum amount of $4,600 to Richardson and hosted a fundraiser for him earlier this year. They are friends of Richardson, according to a campaign spokesman. The Virginia-based company won the state contract in 2005 after a competitive bidding process. - About $19,700 from executives, lobbyists and a PAC of the state's largest electric utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico. Richardson used one of the utility's lobbyists as an on-loan staffer during this year's legislative session. The lobbyist didn't receive a state salary and remained on the utility's payroll while he worked in the governor's office from mid-November until April. However, the arrangement didn't violate any laws, according to the state's attorney general. - About $16,000 came from executives, a state lobbyist and a political action committee affiliated with the GEO Group Inc., which was paid $41 million by the state last year for housing inmates in its privately operated prisons in New Mexico. The state started using the Florida-based company's prisons before Richardson took office. However, another GEO-operated prison is under construction and the state plans to house inmates in it. The Richardson administration contracted with the company in 2005 to manage a long-term care and rehabilitation medical center. Several presidential candidates have blamed the influence of lobbyists and corporate interests for a lack of progress on health care and other issues in Washington.

August 24, 2007 AP
The Albuquerque businessman implicated in a courthouse construction scheme that cost taxpayers more than $4 million has worked on public projects around New Mexico for years. Michael Murphy, 58, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering for his alleged role in a scheme that used inflated contracts and change orders to skim money from the construction of the $83 million Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse. The Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story published Friday that Murphy had powerful friends, including former state Sen. Manny Aragon, who is also charged in the courthouse scandal. Murphy bought a home from Aragon last year. Murphy's work includes the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, renovations to the downtown jail, the Metropolitan Courthouse and a student center at Highlands University in northern New Mexico. In 2004, Bernalillo County signed another contract with Murphy's company for "construction administration services as needed." The deal, which expires in 2008, allows Murphy's Public Private Projects Inc. to work on a variety of county projects. His company has been paid about $1.1 million altogether for its work on the county jails and other county projects. Murphy, who once served on the board of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority, had his beginning in the 1970s in the homebuilding industry. He went on to work for high profile clients, including private prison operator Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

May 24, 2007 The New Mexican
New Mexico pays significantly more than nearby states to house inmates in private prisons, according to a report presented Wednesday to state lawmakers. The 100-page audit by a Legislative Finance Committee review team says New Mexico's private-prison spending rose 57 percent in the past six years, while the inmate population increased only 21 percent. "Business decisions across two administrations may result in New Mexico paying an estimated $34 million more than it should pay for private prison construction costs," the report says. But Corrections Secretary Joe Williams defended the private prisons, saying the higher operating costs are justified. The major private prison operator in the state is The GEO Group, which operates facilities in Hobbs and Santa Rosa and will operate a prison being built in Clayton. GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, was brought in to manage private prisons by former Gov. Gary Johnson and has been embraced by Gov. Bill Richardson. New Mexico pays nearly $69 a day per inmate at the private prison in Hobbs and more than $70 at the prison in Santa Rosa. In Texas, the cost is $34.66 a day. Colorado pays $50.28 a day for inmates at private prisons. In Oklahoma, the rate is $41.23. Other states listed in the study include Idaho, $42.30, and Montana, $54.58. The LFC recommends New Mexico restructure its contracts with GEO for the existing facilities.

May 23, 2007 KOAT TV
Target 7 has uncovered a state report that said New Mexico's Corrections Department costs taxpayers millions more than it should. The investigation began more than a year ago, Action 7 News reported. Target 7 looked into the relationship between the state corrections department and the GEO Group, a private company that runs two state prisons with another one in the works. The lease to run a third prison is a central part of an audit released on Wednesday, that said while New Mexico's prisons are doing better than in the past, the state is paying too much for what it gets. The audit also found the corrections department is overpaying for private prison costs and for health care. But the state is in the process of negotiating with a new company for prison health care. The audit highlights the state's lease agreement to put inmates in a new prison in Clayton, N.M. The state's lease with GEO Group pays not just for prisoners but also for the cost to build the prison. The audit said the department would pay $132 million, nearly twice the cost of construction. That's because the deal was done last fall, just weeks before New Mexicans voted to let the state lease with an option to buy. The lease is just a small part of the audit, but it's a sign the legislature may be keeping a closer eye on the business of New Mexico's prisons. Secretary Joe Williams takes issue with the report, but he said there are positive suggestions in it. The department plans to sit down with some of the private companies running half of New Mexico's prisons to talk about restructuring lease agreements.

March 30, 2007 AP
Manny Aragon ran the Senate for more than a decade as its top leader and the Albuquerque Democrat reigned as one of the most powerful political figures in New Mexico. However, his political legacy was clouded Thursday by federal indictments alleging that he received $700,000 in payoffs as part of a conspiracy with others to inflate contracts in the construction of an Albuquerque courthouse that the state helped finance. The payments allegedly were made to Aragon while he served in the Senate as well as after he resigned in mid-2004 to become president of New Mexico Highlands University. Aragon, a lawyer, was charged with 14 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering in the federal investigation of corruption in the construction of the $83 million Metropolitan court building and a parking garage. Prosecutors allege that Aragon helped obtain financing for the project and received payments from contractors. The indictment contends that Aragon played a role in selecting contractors and subcontractors. Aragon, who turned 60 last week, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. The federal charges against the high-profile Democrat were announced as the Senate was meeting in a special session. Rumors that indictments were imminent swirled throughout the Capitol in the hours before prosecutors disclosed the charges against Aragon and three others. In addition, three people — including a well-known lobbyist and former Albuquerque mayor — entered guilty pleas in the corruption case. Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, who served with Aragon for 25 years, said, "I certainly hope it's not true, but the indictment looks very damaging." Jennings cautioned that the indictment represents just "one side" and only the information supplied by prosecutors. But he said, "It's a sad day, if it happens to be true." The indictment of Aragon could increase pressure on lawmakers to revamp New Mexico's ethics laws. The state, for example, requires very limited disclosures by legislators and other elected officials of their finances, such as assets and liabilities. Five counts against Aragon involve transfers of more than $400,000 to a bank and another company. Chris Atencio, the acting executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said, "It's tangible evidence that the cancer of public corruption has existed far too long in New Mexico. As was widely suspected, it involved some elected officials. Today's actions are long overdue." The indictments on Thursday represent the second large federal corruption prosecution in two years. Former state treasurer Robert Vigil was arrested in 2005 and convicted last year of attempted extortion. His predecessor, Michael Montoya, pleaded guilty to extortion in a kickback scheme involving state investments. Aragon served as Senate president pro tem from 1988 until 2001, when he was ousted when three Democrats joined with Republicans to remove him from the chamber's top leadership post. However, Aragon reclaimed a leadership job 10 months later when Senate Democrats named him majority floor leader. He left the Senate in mid-2004 to become president of New Mexico Highlands University. His tenure at the university — like his years as Senate leader — were marked by controversy because of his autocratic style. The school paid Aragon $200,000 to buy out his contract last year. Aragon drew criticism for his rocky relationship with faculty, his failure to clear major contracts with the board of regents and a president's fund that allowed Aragon to spend money at his discretion. In the Senate, Aragon was known for his extensive knowledge of the state budget — he was a key architect of the yearly spending blueprint to finance government operations — and his bare-knuckled leadership style in pushing through favored bills. Former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican who fought with Aragon and other Democrats throughout his eight years in office, once described Aragon as a tyrant. Aragon faced ethics questions in the late 1990s when he became a paid consultant to a private prison company that did business the state. He resigned from the position in 1999, but maintained he had no conflict of interest in dealing with prison issues in the Legislature because his work for the company, then known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., involved matters outside of New Mexico.

March 15, 2007 AP
Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law on Thursday a $5.6 billion budget to pay for public education and general government operations next year, but used his veto powers to trim some spending. The budget provides for a nearly 11 percent increase in spending in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The governor trimmed about $57 million in total spending from the bill. Of that, about $28 million was from the main budget account for ongoing programs and agency operations and slightly more than $3 million was for one-time spending projects. Among other vetoes: _$250,000 for salary increases at privately operating prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa used by the state to house male inmates and a private prison in Grants for women inmates.

January 13, 2007 The New Mexican
New Mexico's use of jails run by companies is the highest in the country -- and rising -- but do they live up to their promises? New Mexico leads the nation on another list: We're No. 1 in using private prisons to house inmates. The latest U.S. Justice Department statistics, published in a study called Prisons in 2005, showed 43 percent of New Mexico prisoners were in private lockups. That's well ahead of the 6 percent national rate for privately held state prison inmates. And the percentage in New Mexico is bound to rise even higher in the near future. Cells built during a spurt of prison construction under the previous state administration have become crowded, and the state Corrections Department next year plans to add 240 beds to the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa. By the end of 2008, a planned 600-bed private prison is scheduled to open in Clayton. Most of the prisoners in that facility will be state inmates, corrections officials say. The operator for both of these prisons is The GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut. The Camino Nuevo Correctional Center in Albuquerque -- operated by Correction Corporation of America -- opened in July. The minimum-security Springer Correctional Center, scheduled to open early this year, will be operated by the state. It will house up to 220 inmates. This year, the department is asking the Legislature for an additional $37.2 million, primarily for inmate population growth, Corrections Department spokeswoman Tia Bland said. The department's current general fund budget is $240.7 million. While New Mexico leads the pack, it's not alone in the prison privatization trend. Nationwide in 2005, the percentage of inmates in private facilities rose by 8.8 percent. Santa Fe lawyer Mark Donatelli, a longtime opponent of prison privatization, contends not much good has come from depending on private operators. ``I think of the trail of lawsuits we've been inundated with -- Wackenhut, Cornell, MGC,'' he said, listing companies that have done business in the state. Governments, Donatelli said, were ``lured in with the promise of indemnification.'' While nobody ever promised an end to lawsuits over prison violence and other alleged wrongs, Donatelli said, privatization ``was supposed to get cities and states off the hook. But it hasn't worked out that way. Insurance companies still end up paying, but government officials still find themselves spending time at depositions and trials. And the government is still held accountable in the public eye. Privatization was supposed to wash the stench of prisons off the government. But the stench is still there.'' Letting private companies run correctional facilities means the government ends up with fewer experts qualified to monitor jails and prisons, Donatelli said. ``Look at how (Santa Fe County) is struggling,'' Donatelli said. For about 20 years, the county paid private contractors to operate its jail. In October 2005, after the last private firm ended its contract, county officials decided not to seek a new operator. Two months ago, the jail had a management shake-up. Cost questions. When asked about New Mexico's reliance on private prisons, Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson, noted Richardson ``inherited all of the existing private prisons.'' The state started using private corrections companies under Richardson's predecessor, Gary Johnson, a Republican advocate of privatizing government functions. In the mid-1990s, Wackenhut was contracted to build and run private prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa. Gallegos also said GEO and other current private prison contractors have done a good job under Richardson's watch, and thus the governor endorsed the new facility in Clayton -- a GEO project -- as well as expansion of the Santa Rosa prison. ``The governor would rather spend one-time capital funding on schools and other priorities,'' Gallegos said. ``Private contracts allow the state to lease prison space without burdening taxpayers with the upfront costs of building new prisons.'' But do private prisons actually save the state money, as advocates insist? That's the subject of an ongoing debate, a question that hasn't been settled after 12 years. Efforts to reach spokesmen for GEO were unsuccessful, but the company claims on its Web site that it saves governments money in prison design and construction. ``The traditional governmental method of linear and time-consuming contracts for the design and then the construction of a facility is thrown out in favor of a fast-track, design-build approach backed by a fully guaranteed, firm, fixed-fee contract,'' the Web site says. Private prisons, GEO says, also save money by ``designing out staffing redundancies'' and ``elimination of employee sick time and overtime abuses.'' But analysts at the Legislative Finance Committee point out an independent board of inquiry that studied private prisons following the slaying of a prison guard in the Santa Rosa prison was unable to answer the question of whether private prisons save money. Comparing costs of private and state-operated prisons is complicated by the fact that all New Mexico's maximum-security inmates -- who cost more to house because of the need for constant supervision -- are only in state-run facilities. One Legislative Finance Committee analyst, who asked not to be named, said relying too much on private prisons has meant the state has gotten away from planning to deal with capacity problems. ``When they get overcrowded, the private companies come along and say, `We'll take care of it for you,' '' the analyst said. The Legislative Finance Committee recently started an audit of prisons to see how much, if any, money is being saved. Political cash. Although Donatelli doesn't like private prisons, he quipped they have a silver lining: ``There's one group that's really benefited from private prison, and that's the politicians who've gotten enormous campaign contributions from the private prison companies.'' Although the Governor's Office has long insisted no connection exists, GEO, which still has the lion's share of private prisons in New Mexico, has become a big player in campaign contributions for New Mexico politicians. In this past election cycle, the GEO Group contributed about $80,000 to candidates running for state office in New Mexico. The biggest beneficiary was Gov. Bill Richardson, who has collected $42,750 from the company since 2005. According to The Institute of Money in State Politics, Richardson received more money from GEO than any other politician nationwide running for state office in 2006. GEO even was listed among sponsors in the program of Richardson's recent inauguration. The company donated between $5,000 and $10,000 for the event, said Richardson's campaign manager, Amanda Cooper. In addition, GEO this year donated $30,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, which until recently Richardson headed -- although the company contributed $95,000 to the Republican Governors Association last year. GEO also has given $8,000 to Richardson's running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, in the current election cycle. Denish got $500 from the company in the 2002 election cycle. The state pays GEO about $38 million a year -- about $25 million to run the Hobbs prison and $13 million for the prison in Santa Rosa. The Clayton prison will have about the same number of beds as the one in Santa Rosa. Also, the state awarded a GEO subsidiary a contract last year to manage the troubled, 230-bed Fort Bayard Medical Center east of Silver City and to build a $30 million replacement hospital with the help of tax-exempt bonds.

December 13, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
After two troubled years of administering health care in New Mexico’s prisons, Wexford Health Sources will lose its multimillion-dollar contract with the state. Wexford has been the subject of a five-month investigative series by this paper. Now, SFR has learned that on Dec. 8, Gov. Bill Richardson ordered the New Mexico Corrections Department (NCMD) to immediately begin the search for a new health care provider. “The governor has directed the Corrections Department to develop and implement immediate and long-term options for improving health care quality at the state’s correctional facilities,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says. “Those options are expected to include sanctions and seeking another provider—which basically means the Corrections Department will be crafting a request for proposal [RFP] to solicit a new vendor. They’re working out the terms of the RFP now and will most likely be terminating the contract with Wexford.” Wexford’s contract expires in June 2007, Gallegos says. SFR has repeatedly and exclusively published allegations by current and former Wexford employees regarding inmate care [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Those accounts focused on dangerously low medical staffing levels at the nine correctional facilities where Wexford operates; Wexford’s refusal to grant chronically ill inmates critical, off-site specialty care; and systemic problems in administering prescription medicine to inmates. Gallegos says the governor learned about the problems with Wexford through SFR’s stories. “The governor had been concerned about the quality of care delivered in the correctional facilities and directed the Corrections Department to increase oversight of Wexford,” Gallegos says. “Corrections was doing that, but it appeared that many of those deficiencies were not being corrected.” Wexford, which also administers health care in facilities run by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), will lose those operations as well, Gallegos says. Wexford began working in New Mexico in July 2004, after signing a $27 million contract with NMCD. The Pittsburgh-based company has also lost contracts in Wyoming and Florida because of similar concerns over health care. SFR also learned this week that Dr. Phillip Breen, Wexford’s regional medical director in New Mexico, has resigned, effective Dec. 31. In addition, a dentist at a state prison in Hobbs tells SFR that facility is so understaffed that inmates sometimes wait up to six weeks to receive important dental care. Dr. Ray Puckett, who has been working as a part-time dentist at Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF) in Hobbs for approximately one year, alleges that some inmates are suffering because the backlog to receive dental treatment is so massive. “I’ve heard about inmates pulling their own teeth after months and months. I’ve heard about inmates saying, ‘I just can’t stand it anymore,’” he says. Puckett says Wexford should have hired a full-time dentist at LCCF because so many inmates require medical attention to take care of abscesses, cavities, tooth extractions and other painful dental problems. Puckett works at the facility only one day a week, during which he typically sees up to 16 patients. He says that Wexford also has another dentist who will occasionally work one day a week at the facility. “What we have now is a poorly run operation. It’s grossly understaffed and disorganized. And it ends up being unfortunate for the inmates,” Puckett says. Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman did not respond to e-mails and phone calls from SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says NMCD is not aware of a backlog of dental patients at LCCF, but will look into it. She adds that Wexford is only required to have a dentist at LCCF for two days a week. With regard to the governor’s action against Wexford, Bland says: “It’s a fact. Wexford has not met its contractual obligations to the Department, and that’s something we can’t ignore. We have to do something about it. We will be putting a plan in place.” In the coming year, both Wexford and NMCD are slated for an extensive audit by the Legislative Finance Committee. The audit was the result of a hearing on Wexford by the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee in October. The hearings also were held in response to reports in this paper [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. It’s now unclear whether the audit will still take place. As for Puckett, he has considered leaving his post because of what’s happening at LCCF. A veteran of correctional health care, he also worked for Wexford’s predecessors, Addus HealthCare and Correctional Medical Services. In his estimation, both companies, which operate to make a profit like Wexford, cared more about the inmates’ physical well-being and were willing to sacrifice dollars to ensure that medical problems were treated expeditiously. Says Puckett: “It is my sense that Wexford doesn’t care what sort of facility they run. Everything is run on a bare-bones budget. They’re in it to make money.” Not anymore. When asked whether there was any chance at all that Wexford could remain in its current capacity at NMCD or CYFD, Richardson spokesman Gallegos responded: “They’re done. The governor’s intention is to replace Wexford with a new company. We expect to have a new provider in a reasonable amount of time.”

November 22, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The medical director of a state prison in Hobbs has stepped down from his post less than a month after a legislative committee requested an audit of the corrections health care in the state. Dr. Don Apodaca, medical director of Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF), turned in his resignation on Nov. 6 due to concerns that inmates there are not receiving sufficient access to health care. According to Apodaca, sick inmates are routinely denied off-site visits to medical specialists and sometimes have to wait months to receive critical prescription drugs. Apodaca blames the policies of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that contracts with the state to provide medicine in New Mexico’s prisons, for these alleged problems. Wexford has been the subject of a four-month SFR investigation, during which a growing number of former and current employees have contended that Wexford is more concerned with saving money than providing adequate health care, and that inmates suffer as a result. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved an audit that will assess Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also evaluate the quality of health care rendered to inmates [Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead”]. LCCF’s medical director since January 2006, Apodaca is one of the highest-ranking ex-Wexford employees to come forward thus far. His allegations of Wexford’s denials of off-site care and the delays in obtaining prescription drugs echo those raised by other former and current employees during the course of reporting for this series [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. Specifically, Apodaca says he personally evaluated inmates who needed off-site, specialty care, but that Wexford consistently denied his referrals. Apodaca cites the cases of an inmate who needed an MRI, another inmate who suffered from a hernia and a third inmate who had a cartilage tear in his knee as instances in which inmates were denied off-site care for significant periods of time against his recommendations. When inmates are actually cleared for off-site care in Albuquerque, they are transported in full shackles without access to a bathroom for the six- to seven-hour trip, Apodaca says. “Inmates told me they aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up soiling themselves,” he says. “The trip is so bad they end up refusing to go even when we get the off-site visits approved.” When it comes to prescription drugs, there also are significant delays, Apodaca says. Inmates sometimes wait weeks or even months for medicine used for heart and blood pressure conditions, even though Apodaca says he would write orders for those medicines repeatedly. “Wexford was not providing timely treatment and diagnoses of inmates,” he says. “There were tragic cases where patients slipped through the cracks, were not seen for inordinately long times and suffered serious or fatal consequences.” Apodaca says he began documenting the medical problems at the facility in March. After detailing in writing the cases of 40 to 50 patients whom he felt had not received proper clinical care, Apodaca says he alerted Dr. Phillip Breen, Wexford’s regional medical director, and Cliff Phillips, Wexford’s regional health services administrator, through memos, e-mails and phone calls. In addition, Apodaca says he alerted Wexford’s corporate office in Pittsburgh. Neither Breen nor Phillips returned phone messages left by SFR. Apodaca says he also informed Devendra Singh, NMCD’s quality assurance manager for health services. According to Apodaca, Singh assured him that he would require Wexford to look into the matter, but Apodaca says he never heard a final response. “Wexford was simply not receptive to any of the information I was sending them, and I became exasperated,” he says. “It came to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the medical and legal position I was in. There were individuals who needed health care who weren’t getting it.” Singh referred all questions to NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland; Bland responded to SFR in a Nov. 20 e-mail: “If Don Apodaca has information involving specific incidents, we will be happy to look into the situation. Otherwise, we will wait for the LFC’s audit results, review them and take it from there.” Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman would not comment specifically on Apodaca’s allegations. In a Nov. 20 e-mail to SFR, she wrote that Wexford will cooperate with the Legislature’s audit and is confident the outcome will be similar to the 14 independent audits performed since May 2005 by national correctional organizations. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing to provide high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. Members of the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which requested the forthcoming audit, toured LCCF on Oct. 19 and were told by both Wexford and NMCD officials that there were no health care problems at the facility. On the same tour, however, committee members heard firsthand accounts from inmates who complained they couldn’t get treatment when they became sick [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. That visit, along with Apodaca’s accounts, calls into question Wexford’s and NMCD’s accounts, State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, says. “We were told on our tour that nothing was wrong. And now to hear that there is a claim that Wexford and the Corrections Department might have known about this makes it seem like this information was knowingly covered up,” McSorley, co-chairman of the committee, says. “We can’t trust what’s being told to us. The situation may require independent oversight far beyond what we have. This should be the biggest story in the state right now.”

November 8, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
The New Mexico State Legislature is one step closer to an audit of Wexford Health Sources, the private company that administers health care in New Mexico’s prisons. On Oct. 24, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) tentatively approved the audit, which will evaluate Wexford’s contract with the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and also assess the quality of health care administered to inmates. The request for a review of Wexford originated with the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, which voted unanimously on Oct. 20 to recommend the audit after a hearing on prison health care in Hobbs [Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test”]. A subsequent Oct. 30 letter sent to the LFC by committee co-chairmen Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Dońa Ana, and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, refers to “serious complaints raised by present and former employees” of Wexford. The letter cites this newspaper’s reportage of the situation and notes that on a recent tour of Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, “committee members heard numerous concerns from inmates about medical problems not being addressed.” It also refers to confidential statements Wexford employees provided to the committee that were then turned over to the LFC. The decision to examine Wexford and NMCD comes on the coattails of months of reports that state inmates are suffering behind bars due to inadequate medical services, documented in an ongoing, investigative series by SFR. Over the past three months, former and current employees have alleged staffing shortages as well as problems with the dispensation of prescription drugs and the amount of time sick inmates are forced to wait before receiving urgent care [Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. The timing, Manu Patel, the LFC’s deputy director for audits, says, is ideal, because the LFC already planned to initiate a comprehensive audit of NMCD, the first in recent history. Regarding the medical component of the audit, Patel says: “We will be looking at how cost-effective Wexford has been. Also, we will be looking at the quality of care, how long inmates have to wait to receive care and what [Wexford’s] services are like.” Patel says the LFC plans to contract with medical professionals to help evaluate inmates’ care. As per a request from the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, current Wexford employees will be given a chance to participate in the audit anonymously. The audit’s specifics require final approval from the LFC in December; the committee will likely take up to six months to generate a report, according to Patel. In a Nov. 6 e-mail to SFR, Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman cites 14 successful, independent audits performed of Wexford in New Mexico since May 2005. “Wexford is proud of the service we have provided to the Corrections Department as documented in these independent audits and looks forward to continuing high quality health care services in New Mexico,” Gedman writes. NMCD spokeswoman Tia Bland echoes Gedman: “We welcome the audit and plan on cooperating any way we can,” she says. Meanwhile, former employees continue to come forward. Kathryn Hamilton, an ex-NMCD mental health counselor, says she worked alongside Wexford staff at the Pen for two months, shortly after the company took the reins in New Mexico in July 2004. Hamilton alleges that mentally ill inmates were cut off psychotropic medicine for cheaper, less effective drugs and that inmates waited too long to have prescriptions renewed and suffered severe behavioral withdrawals as a result. Hamilton, who had worked at the Pen since April 2002, says she encountered the same sorts of problems under Addus, Wexford’s predecessor, but quit shortly after Wexford’s takeover because the situation wasn’t improving. “They would stop meds, give inmates the wrong meds or refuse to purchase meds that were not on their formulary, even if they were prescribed by a doctor,” Hamilton says. “I felt angry, sometimes helpless, although I always tried to speak with administrators to help the inmates.” Hamilton married a state inmate by proxy last month, after continuing a correspondence with him following her tenure at the Pen. Hamilton says she did not serve as a counselor to the inmate, Anthony Hamilton, but met him after helping conduct a series of mental health evaluations. Hamilton has been a licensed master social worker under her maiden name since 2000 (according to the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners). She emphasizes that her relationship with her husband did not begin until after she left the Corrections Department. According to Hamilton, her husband, still incarcerated at the Pen for aggravated assault, recently contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a serious staph infection. In a previous story, four current Wexford employees specifically mentioned MRSA as a concern to SFR because they allege Wexford does not supply proper protective equipment for staff treating infectious diseases like MRSA [Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns”]. Wexford Vice President Gedman did not address Hamilton’s claims when queried by SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Bland also says she can’t comment on Hamilton’s allegations because she had not spoken with Hamilton’s supervisor at the time of her employment. Says Hamilton: “I initially called the newspaper as the concerned wife of an inmate, not as a former therapist. With all the stories the Reporter has done, I wanted to come forward with what I had seen at the Pen.”

October 18, 2006 Santa Fe Reporter
Current prison health workers say they fear retaliation if they speak out. Just days before state legislators convene a hearing on correctional health care in New Mexico, a group of medical employees in the state prison system have come to SFR with allegations about how inmates are treated. All four requested anonymity because they say they fear retaliation from Wexford Health Sources—the private company that administers health care in the prisons—if their identities are revealed. The employees currently work at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. They allege, among other things, that chronically ill inmates are forced to lie in their own feces for hours, are taken off vital medicine to save money and often wait months before receiving treatment for urgent medical conditions. Moreover, the employees say conditions at the facility are unsanitary. “In my entire career, I’ve never seen this sort of stuff happening,” one employee says. “These inmates are not being treated humanely. They don’t live in sanitary conditions. They live in pain.” Wexford Vice President Elaine Gedman denies all the employees’ allegations in an e-mail response to SFR. Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says the department is unaware of these allegations and that “none of these issues have surfaced during our regular auditing process.” The employees’ allegations come on the heels of a series of stories by SFR, in which several former Wexford employees have publicly come forward with similar charges [Cover Story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?”]. As a result of the stories, the state Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee will hold a hearing on Oct. 20 in Hobbs to discuss the matter [Outtakes, Sept. 13: “Checkup”]. Wexford and the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD), which oversees the Pennsylvania-based company, have categorically denied charges that inmates are being denied proper health care. These latest allegations are the first to come from current employees of Wexford. The employees describe an environment where medical staff must purchase their own wipes for incontinent patients because they say Wexford administrators say there’s no money for supplies. They say there’s a shortage of oxygen tanks and nebulizer machines (for asthma patients) and also scant protective equipment for those staff treating infectious diseases. Gedman says, “Wexford is unaware of any shortage in medical supplies. Extra oxygen bottles and nebulizers are always on hand and ready for any emergency use. The oxygen bottles are inventoried daily as part of our emergency response requirement.” The employees also allege that chronically ill inmates sometimes wait what they say is too long to be taken off-site for specialty care. Gedman says this also is false and that Wexford “strongly encourages all of our providers to refer patients for necessary evaluation and treatment, off-site when necessary, as soon as problems are identified that need specialty referral.” All four employees say their complaints to Wexford administrators about the lack of supplies and treatment of inmates have been ignored, and all believe coming forward publicly will cost them their jobs. Gedman says this concern is unfounded because “Wexford encourages an open-door policy for all employees to bring issues to the attention of management so that they can be investigated and acted upon as appropriate.” Bland says Corrections staff are “visible and accessible in the prisons. If any of Wexford’s staff would like to speak with us concerning these allegations, we welcome the information and will certainly look into the matter.” As for the legislative hearing, State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, R-Dońa Ana, co-chairman of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, says he hopes some of these Wexford critics will show up in Hobbs. And he says further hearings are a possibility. “I hope there is a full airing of the issues. I would like to learn that the Corrections Department is working to resolve all of this, but if they haven’t, I expect to make deadlines for them so we can expect adequate progress,” Cervantes says. “We’d still like to protect the anonymity and bring to light any allegations and complaints.” Cervantes also says he wants to introduce legislation during the next session to protect whistle-blowers. Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute watchdog group in Florida, says the Legislature must do everything it can to safeguard current Wexford employees against retaliation. “The Legislature is the ultimate authority, and they need to put pressure on the Corrections Department to find out what the hell is going on. They also need to protect these employees so they can come forward and testify about their specific experiences,” Kopczynski says. “And if there are allegations of civil rights abuse, which is what it sounds like, then the Justice Department needs to come in.”

August 14, 2006 In These Times
While New Mexico’s landscape may make the state the Land of Enchantment, its rapidly growing rates of incarceration have been utterly disenchanting. What’s worse, New Mexico is at the top of the nation’s list for privatizing prisons; nearly one-half of the state’s prisons and jails are run by corporations. Supposedly, states turn to private companies to cope better with chronic overcrowding and for low-cost management. However, a closer look suggests a different rationale. A recent report from the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics reveals that during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, private prison companies, directors, executives and lobbyists gave $3.3 million to candidates and state political parties across 44 states. According to Edwin Bender, executive director of the Institute on Money in State Politics, private prison companies strongly favor giving to states with the toughest sentencing laws—in essence, the ones that are more likely to come up with the bodies to fill prison beds. Those states, adds Bender, are also the ones most likely to have passed “three-strikes” laws. Those laws, first passed by Washington state voters in 1993 and then California voters in 1994, quickly swept the nation. They were largely based on “cookie-cutter legislation” pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), some of whose members come from the ranks of private prison companies. Florida leads the pack in terms of private prison dollars, with its candidates and political parties receiving almost 20 percent of their total contributions from private prison companies and their affiliates. Florida already has five privately owned and operated prisons, with a sixth on the way. It’s also privatized the bulk of its juvenile detention system. Texas and New Jersey are close behind. But in Florida, some of the influence peddling finally seems to be backfiring. Florida State Corrections Secretary James McDonough alarmed private prison companies with a comment during an Aug. 2 morning call-in radio show. “I actually think the state is better at running the prisons,” McDonough told an interviewer. His comments followed an internal audit last year by the state’s Department of Management Services, which demonstrated that Florida overpaid private prison operators by $1.3 million. Things may no longer be quite as sunny as they once were in Florida for the likes of Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the former Wackenhut, now known as the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla. But with a little bit of spiel-tinkering—and a shift of attention to other states—the prison privatizers are likely to keep going. The key shift, Bender explains, is that “the prison industry has gone from a we-can-save-you-money pitch to an economic-development model pitch.” In other words, says Bender, “you need [their] prisons for jobs.” If political donations are any measure, economically challenged and poverty-stricken states like New Mexico are a great target. In this campaign cycle, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson has already received more contributions from a private prison company than any other politician campaigning for state office in the United States. The Institute of Money in State Politics, which traced the donations, reported that GEO has contributed $42,750 to Richardson since 2005—and another $8,000 to his running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. Another $30,000 went from GEO to the Richardson-headed Democratic Governors Association this past March. Richardson’s PAC, Moving America Forward, was another prominent recipient of GEO donations. Now, its former head, prominent state capitol lobbyist Joe Velasquez, is a registered lobbyist for GEO Care Inc., a healthcare subsidiary that runs a hospital in New Mexico. But don’t get the idea that GEO has any particular love for Democrats: $95,000 from the corporation went to the Republican Governors Association last year alone. What companies like GEO do love are the millions of dollars rolling in from lucrative New Mexico contracts to run the Lea County Correctional Facility (operating budget: $25 million/year), and the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility ($13 million/year), among others. CCA also owns and operates the state’s only women’s facility in Grants ($11 million per year). To make sure that those dollars keep flowing, GEO and CCA have perfected the art of the “very tight revolving door,” says Bender, which involves snapping up former corrections administrators, PAC lobbyists and state officials to serve as consultants to private prison companies. In fact, the current New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Joe Williams was once on GEO’s payroll as their warden of the Lea County Correctional Facility. Earlier this year, Williams was placed on unpaid administrative leave after accusations surfaced that he spent state travel and phone funds to pursue a very close relationship with Ann Casey. Casey is a registered lobbyist in New Mexico for Wexford Health Sources, which provides health care for prisoners at Grants, and Aramark, which provides most of the state’s inmate meals. In her non-lobbying hours, it turns out that Casey is also an assistant warden at a state prison in Centralia, Ill. It appears that even for a prison industry enchanted by public-private partnership, Williams and Casey may have gone too far.

July 18, 2006 New Mexican
A racetrack owner, a private prison company and a chewing-tobacco corporation -- all on the record for seeking favors from New Mexico politicians -- have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a national group headed by Gov. Bill Richardson. The June 30 report by the Democratic Governors Association -- which Richardson has chaired since 2004 and which frequently pays for his out-of-state travel -- lists several contributors familiar to New Mexico political circles. Among those are: The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison corporation that operates in New Mexico and that, in this election cycle, has contributed more to Richardson than any other single candidate in the country. The company in June gave a total of $20,000 to the DGA, for a total of $50,000 this year. Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley said Monday that there is "absolutely no connection" between the contributions and administration policy. The GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut, has increased its New Mexico operations from two to four since Richardson took office. The company has operated prisons in Santa Rosa and Hobbs since the 1990s. But last year, it won a contract to operate a state hospital facility in Fort Bayard. Richardson has endorsed a plan for GEO to operate a prison to be built in the town of Clayton, which will house as many as 600 state inmates. Since 2002, GEO has contributed more than $79,000 to politicians running for state office in New Mexico. The biggest beneficiary is Richardson, who has received $42,750 from the company since 2005. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, lists $8,000 in GEO contributions in the current election season. But the DGA isn't the only governors association to get money from GEO, which operates about 50 corrections facilities in the U.S. The latest report for the Republican Governors Association shows two contributions totaling $50,000 from the prison company in May and June. That means GEO has given the DGA and the RGA the same amount this year.

July 13, 2006 New Mexican
A Florida-based private-prison company that has doled out thousands of dollars to New Mexico politicians made two $5,000 contributions to Attorney General Patricia Madrid's congressional campaign less than three weeks after Madrid's office published a legal opinion that directly benefited the firm. A spokeswoman for Madrid's campaign, Heather Brewer, on Wednesday denied the contributions were connected with the legal opinion, which cleared the way for the city of Clayton to contract with The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., to build and operate a prison facility that would house state inmates. A spokesman for GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, also denied any connection between the contributions and the legal opinion. But Enrique Knell, spokesman for Madrid's Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, said, "There's a pattern here of pay-to-play politics practiced by Patsy Madrid." GEO already operates two prisons and a hospital for the state. Last year, three state legislators concerned about the legality of the Clayton plan asked Madrid's office for a legal opinion. Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe; Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces; and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, asked the attorney general whether a local government has the authority to build or operate a state prison. The three also asked whether a local government is exempt from the state Procurement Code if it contracts with a private company to operate a state prison. The Procurement Code requires state and local governments to seek bids from multiple companies to provide services. On Nov. 14, Assistant Attorney General Zachary Shandler issued an opinion that said the plan was legal. "While legitimate policy questions may be raised about the wisdom of allowing private construction and operation of a second jail in Clayton/Union County, the local public bodies may rely on existing statutory authority for this project," he wrote. Eighteen days later, GEO made its contributions to Madrid. The company earmarked $5,000 for the primary election -- though Madrid had no primary opponent -- and earmarked the other $5,000 for the general election. This is the limit for corporate contributions, according to federal campaign-finance law. GEO receives about $38 million from the state for the two existing prisons it operates. The contract for the prison in Santa Rosa is worth about $13 million a year. That facility has about the same number of beds as planned for the Clayton prison. Last year, the state awarded a GEO subsidiary a contract to manage the troubled 230-bed Fort Bayard Medical Center east of Silver City and to build a $30 million replacement hospital with the help of tax-exempt bonds. In the past three elections, the company gave contributions totaling $2,750 to Wilson. Former state Sen. Les Houston, a New Mexico lobbyist for GEO, said this week that he expects the company to contribute to Wilson's campaign as well. Since 2002, GEO has contributed more than $79,000 to politicians running for state office in New Mexico. The biggest beneficiary is Gov. Bill Richardson, who has collected $42,750 from the company since 2005. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, has received $8,000 from the prison company. According to The Institute of Money in State Politics, Richardson, as of May, had received more money from GEO than any other politician nationwide running for state office in this election cycle.

July 11, 2006 New Mexican
A Florida-based private prison company that does tens of millions of dollars worth of business with the state has become a big player in the world of New Mexico's campaign contributions. The GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut, has dropped since 2002 more than $79,000 on politicians running for state office here. The biggest beneficiary is Gov. Bill Richardson, who has collected $42,750 from the company since 2005. According to The Institute of Money in State Politics, Richardson, as of May, had received more money from GEO than any other politician nationwide running for state office in this election cycle. In addition, GEO in March donated $30,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, which Richardson heads -- although the company contributed $95,000 to the Republican Governors Association last year. The prison company also has given $8,000 to Richardson's running mate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, in the current election cycle. Denish got $500 from the company in the 2002 election cycle. Others who got contributions from GEO this election cycle are former Richardson chief counsel Geno Zamora, who lost the Democratic primary for attorney general, and congressional candidate Patricia Madrid, the current attorney general, whose contribution represents a switch for GEO. In the past three elections, the company gave to Madrid's incumbent Republican opponent, Heather Wilson. And in the 2002 state attorney general's race, GEO donated to Madrid's GOP challenger, Rob Perry, a former corrections secretary. While mainly Democrats in this state currently are benefiting from GEO contributions, nationally the firm gives more to Republicans -- $114,157 for GOP state candidates in this election cycle, compared to $74,725 for Democrats, according to the most recent figures from The Institute of Money in State Politics. Asked whether the GEO contributions affected Richardson's policy pertaining to private prisons, spokesman Pahl Shipley said: "It's outrageous even to imply or infer a connection and absolutely not true. State contracts are fully transparent and must follow strict procurement procedures. Governor Richardson insists that state agencies act in the best interests of New Mexicans and get the best deal for the state." GEO spokesmen and lobbyists couldn't be reached for comment Monday. GEO receives about $38 million from the state, approximately $25 million to run the Lea County prison in Hobbs and $13 million for the prison in Santa Rosa. The company has contracted with the city of Clayton to operate the planned prison in that northeastern New Mexico city. That prison will house state inmates. The Clayton prison will have about 600 beds, close to the number in Santa Rosa. Also, the state awarded a GEO subsidiary a contract last year to manage the troubled 230-bed Fort Bayard Medical Center east of Silver City and to build a $30 million replacement hospital with the help of tax-exempt bonds. A key Richardson ally is a registered lobbyist in this state for GEO Care Inc., which manages the Fort Bayard hospital. Lobbyist Joe Velasquez of Washington, D.C., was the director of the national Richardson political-action committee Moving America Forward. Velasquez was President Clinton's deputy political director and a former AFL/CIO executive. Richardson's campaign manager, Amanda Cooper, said last week that Velasquez was not the reason for GEO's generosity toward Richardson. Velasquez couldn't be reached for comment. Shipley noted that the actual contracts with private prisons are done through local governments. The state pays to house inmates in the private prisons. The cost varies for each prison. In the Hobbs facility, the state is charged an average of $18,889 per inmate annually. GEO first began doing business in New Mexico as Wackenhut as part of Gov. Gary Johnson's plan to let private companies manage some of the state's prisons. During the Johnson years, Wackenhut made headlines when it was revealed it had hired then state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon as a "consultant." Aragon resigned from his post at Wackenhut after receiving severe criticism from both parties. In contrast to Richardson, Johnson only received $9,330 from GEO for his 1998 re-election campaign. Richardson, during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, wouldn't say whether he would maintain Johnson's prison-privatization program. However, since he took office, the private prisons have remained, and there has been no serious talk about getting rid of them. According to numbers provided by The Institute of Money in State Politics, GEO in the past two years has made more contributions to New Mexico politicians than any other state, save Florida, where the company's headquarters are located. GEO dropped $58,500 for candidates running for state offices in Florida, just $500 more than New Mexico, according to the institute's latest figures, which don't include federal offices. However, New Mexico has only two GEO-run prisons (with a third being built) and a hospital. In comparison, Texas has 17 GEO-operated facilities. The company only gave $2,200 to state candidates there. According to a study by the institute, New Mexico ranks ninth for all states in terms of contributions from the corrections industry, based on numbers from the 2002 and 2004 elections. "The fact that we don't have limits on campaign contributions makes this state attractive to those companies that want to get a big bang for their bucks," Matt Brix, executive director of Common Cause, a group that advocates campaign-finance reform, said Monday. GEO, which operates about 50 prison and jail operations in this country, also has contracts in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia. The company manages the "migrant operations program" -- for those detained at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard -- at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base as a joint effort with the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security.

July 7, 2006 New Mexican
The Bill Richardson campaign-money machine kept churning last month. In his bid for a second term as governor, Democrat Richardson took in more than $824,000 last month, according to his campaign-finance report filed with the state Thursday. That brings the total he has raised for re-election to more than $8 million -- about the same amount he raised for his 2002 campaign. Richardson's running mate, Diane Denish, raised nearly $150,000 and spent more than $38,417 last month according to her report. In New Mexico, governor and lieutenant governor candidates run as a ticket, not separately, in the general election, though traditionally lieutenant governor candidates raise their own campaign funds. Denish's biggest contributor was New York telecommunications mogul Leo Hindery, who gave $25,000. She also got $10,000 contributions from three companies, Eunice Well Servicing Co., ABC Tool Rental of Hobbs and Controlled Recovery Inc. of Hobbs,. The GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut, which operates private prisons for the state, gave Denish $5,000, according to her report.

May 31, 2006 New Mexican
A state prison contractor involved in the investigation of a relationship between Corrections Secretary Joe Williams and a lobbyist contributed $10,000 to Gov. Bill Richardson's re-election campaign. The political-action committee for Aramark -- a Philadelphia-based company that makes millions of dollars a year to feed New Mexico inmates -- contributed to Richardson's campaign in May 2005, according to Richardson's most recent campaign-finance report. That was about a year after Aramark renewed its contract with the state Corrections Department. Aramark also has been generous to the state Democratic Party, contributing $10,000 in 2004, and the Democratic Governors Association, which Richardson chairs. The company contributed a total of $15,000 to the DGA in 2004 and another $15,000 in 2005, according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Aramark provides food service to more than 475 correctional institutions in North America. The corporation also has food-service contracts in colleges, hospitals, convention centers and stadiums. Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley referred questions about the campaign donation to Richardson's campaign manager, Amanda Cooper, who couldn't be reached for comment. The Governor's Office announced this week that Williams is being put on administrative leave while the state Personnel Office investigates his relationship with Ann E. Casey, who registered as a lobbyist for Aramark and Wexford Health Services, which provides health care to New Mexico inmates. Casey is an assistant warden at an Illinois prison. A copyrighted story in the Albuquerque Journal said Williams' state-issued cell-phone records show 644 calls between Williams and Casey between Sept. 24, 2005, and Feb. 23. According to that report, Casey was hired as a consultant by Aramark in 2005, but that contract has since been terminated. Aramark's $5.4 million contract ends in July. The Secretary of State Office's Lobbyist Index lists Casey as a lobbyist for Wexford, though the Journal report quotes a Wexford official saying the company never hired her. In 2004, a $10,000 contribution to a Richardson political committee from Wexford's parent company caused a stir and later was returned to the Pittsburgh company. The Bantry Group made the contribution to Richardson's Moving America Forward PAC in April 2004. This was during a bidding process just a month after the Corrections Department requested proposals for a contract to provide health care and psychiatric services to inmates. That contract potentially is worth more than $100 million, The Associated Press reported. In August 2004, a Richardson spokesman said the money would be returned "to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."

May 30, 2006 New Mexican
Debbie Rodella of Espańola first won her House of Representatives seat in 1992, and has represented Northern New Mexico's District 41 ever since. This year, she faces a challenge from Moises Morales Jr., a former Rio Arriba County commissioner and a political activist of 40 years. The 59-year-old Canjilon rancher and former mechanic-shop owner is challenging Rodella in the June 6 Democratic primary for the right to represent a district that consists mostly of Rio Arriba County and parts of Taos and Sandoval counties. The incumbent legislator is well ahead of her challenger in drawing endorsements of her candidacy and in raising campaign funds. According to financial-disclosure statements filed in early May, Rodella had raised more than $10,000 in the past year, on top of the $18,000-plus she previously had in her campaign treasury. Many of her contributions are from out-of-state corporations, including big pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline); the liquor industry (Anheuser Busch, The Distilled Spirits Council), big tobacco (UST, which manufactures smokeless-tobacco brands like Skoal and Copenhagen), private prisons (Corrections Corporation of New Mexico) and several payday-loan companies.

May 9, 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Lobbyists and their employers contributed $386,000 to candidates for state, legislative and other offices during the first four months of the year, with Gov. Bill Richardson receiving the largest share of the political money. Richardson, who is running for re-election this year, collected $171,500 in campaign donations from lobbyists and their clients from January through late April, according to disclosure reports filed by lobbyists with the Secretary of State's Office. Other contributors to the governor's re-election: $27,500 from Geo Group Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which operates private prisons used by the state; $25,000 from Presbyterian Health Plan, one of the managed care companies under contract with the state to provide health care through Medicaid; $5,000 from Community Loans of America, a payday and auto title loan company; and $5,000 from Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits offered through insurance plans, including for some state retirees.

May 8, 2006 AP
Democratic candidate Geno Zamora was leading the pack in fundraising, scooping up nearly $468,000 with the help of real estate developers and race tracks to finance his campaign for attorney general. Other large contributions to Zamora: $25,000 in money and $2,250 in-kind from Santa Fe retiree Bernard Logue y Perea; and $10,000 from private-prison operator Geo Group. Zamora, former chief counsel to Gov. Bill Richardson, is in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination with District Attorney Lemuel Martinez of the 13th Judicial District and former state Rep. Gary King.

January 22, 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Bill Richardson once described his former congressional aide Butch Maki as "the go-to guy." Since Richardson was elected governor, Maki has become a "goto" lobbyist for a number of companies jockeying for state business. A businessman, consultant, Vietnam veteran, pilot and longtime Richardson loyalist, Maki first registered as a New Mexico lobbyist in January 2003 - the same month Richardson took office. By last year, he had compiled an impressive client list, ranging from BNSF Railway to Corrections Corporation of America to a Japanese company that manufactures the artificial sweetener aspartame. Corrections Corporation of America first hired Maki as a lobbyist in 2003 to handle "administrative matters," said longtime CCA lobbyist Ed Mahr. Mahr said that included lobbying the executive branch. CCA recently won a state contract through a competitive bid to manage the 196-bed Camino Nuevo female inmate correctional facility in Albuquerque.

June 14, 2005 Santa Fe New Mexican
It's a depressing prospect, made more so by the way it's being faced: Gov. Bill Richardson says he supports Corrections Director Joe Williams' pitch for a new state prison. The state has run out of cells to hold all the felons too dangerous to be free on probation, says Williams. Clayton, that pleasant, but distant, little town out near the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, proposes to build a 600-bed lockup for the sake of creating jobs. A nice match -- but Williams doesn't want the bother of running the prison. Like Republican Rod Perry before him, the Democratic appointee wants Wackenhut to do the dirty work. Now known as "the Geo Group," Wackenhut Corrections Corp. is one of the nation's leaders in the prisons-for-profit industry, a trend that took off during the Reagan years when many governmental functions were handed over to private contractors. It was on Wackenhut's watch that violence flared at prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa during the late 1990s. Maybe it would have happened if the state had been running them -- but at least there would have been a clear line of accountability; one ending at the governor's desk. With privatization, our politicians smudge the line at will, pleading that whatever goes wrong is somehow out of their hands. Prison violence, of course, is good for business: It means extended sentences, at a certain number of dollars a day. And rehabilitation and early release are bad for business -- so how anxious are the privateers to get Joe Convict back in society? That attitude is almost as criminal as what got some inmates behind bars in the first place. Prisons, after all, are part of the justice system -- a basic responsibility of government. Put that responsibility in corporate hands, and its executives immediately look for ways to squeeze profits from their contract. Hire guards as cheaply as possible, and never mind their education and experience levels. Make each guard responsible for a few more inmates -- until it occurs to those inmates that they can overpower the poor devil ... And private prisons create a demand for convicts -- so the early stages of the justice system are caught up in a subtle pressure to supply them: Bill of Rights be damned -- our judiciary- and executive-friendly prison companies need bodies ... All that was lost on Richardson's predecessor: Gov. Gary Johnson went so far as to fire his first corrections secretary for daring to mention that the state wouldn't even save much, if any, money with Johnson's elaborate prison-profiteering scheme. Surely today's governor can do better by our justice system. If New Mexico's many social crises are unresolved to the point that we need more prisons, the least he and Joe Williams can do is maintain responsibility for the latest wave of felons.

May 4, 2005 AP
From tickets to professional sports games to "New Mexico coffee crusted beef tenderloin," lobbyists served up a full platter for lawmakers and state officials during the first four months of the year. Lobbyists spent at least $418,949 for meals, drinks, gifts, entertainment and special events for legislators, the governor, state agency officials and staff from January through late April, much of that during the Legislature's 60-day session. In addition, lobbyists and their clients gave $87,000 in campaign contributions. Gov. Bill Richardson received about $38,700 of those contributions, including $10,000 from Geo Group Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which operates private prisons used by the state. Richardson is up for re-election in 2006.

August 16, 2004
A Pittsburgh company's $10,000 contribution to one of Gov. Bill Richardson's political committees made while a subsidiary was seeking a state contract will be returned "to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," a spokesman for the governor said. The Bantry Group made the contribution to Moving America Forward in April, one month after the Corrections Department requested proposals for a contract to provide health care and psychiatric services to the approximately 6,200 state inmates in private and state-run prisons. Richardson, in a written statement Thursday, announced that Wexford Health Sources, a Bantry subsidiary, had been picked for the contract -- potentially worth more than $100 million. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

August 16, 2004
A Pittsburgh company contributed $10,000 to one of Gov. Bill Richardson's political committees while a subsidiary was seeking a contract to provide health care to prison inmates in New Mexico. The Bantry Group made the contribution, and a subsidiary, Wexford Health Sources, won the contract, potentially worth more than $100 million.
Wexford, one of three competitors for the contract, has faced hundreds of allegations in other states of providing inadequate care to inmates, sometimes leading to death. Richardson announced in a written statement Thursday that Wexford had been picked to provide health care and psychiatric services to the approximately 6,200 state inmates in private and state-run prisons. Wexford's competitors for the contract— Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis and Prison Health Services of Brentwood, Tenn.— made no contributions to Richardson. But Wexford, one of the largest companies of its kind in the country, has faced questions in several other states about its quality of care. According to published reports: In 2001, a state board in Florida criticized Wexford for poor medical care that may have contributed to the deaths of two Miami-Dade County inmates. The state of Michigan terminated a contract with Wexford after questions arose involving medical services. A 1998 U.S. Department of Justice report criticized medical care at the Wyoming State Penitentiary, where Wexford was under contract. Wexford has been the target of more than 210 lawsuits nationwide by inmates or others. (ABQ Journal)

May 13, 2003
Gov. Bill Richardson collected $549,333 in contributions from December through early May, including money raised to help pay for his inauguration.  Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, reported contributions of $15,614, expenditures of $43,890, and a balance of $67,862. The largest contributions included $2,000 from Wackenhut Corrections and $2,000 from Qwest's political-action committee.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 18, 2003
Gov. Bill Richardson's office has identified dozens of government contracts that could be reduced or eliminated to save New Mexico about $21 million. About $15 million of that amount is state money, while nearly $6 million is federal. The contract actions will range from canceling a $2 million private prison contract to getting rid of a $30,000-a-year rented copy machine at the Department of Finance, Richardson said Thursday. The money expected to be saved this year is just part of the $90 million the governor has said he wants to save as part of finding more money for the state's $4 billion budget. "I asked my Cabinet secretaries to scrutinize every penny we are spending to make sure taxpayers are getting their money's worth," Richardson said. Examples of savings identified by Richardson include a canceled contract with Management and Training Corporation to house 140 state prisoners in McKinley County. Those prisoners will instead be housed in state facilities around New Mexico, Corrections Department Secretary Joe Williams said. Including that contract, the department is expected to save $3.1 million. (ABQ Journal)

April 10, 2003
Gov. Bill Richardson earlier this week signed a bill that cuts more than four years off the amount of time corrections officers must work before they're eligible to retire, putting them on par with State Police officers  The change also is expected to serve as a hiring incentive that will help fill the corrections officer ranks at the state level. The state Corrections Department hasn't been at full strength for decades.  But it doesn't apply to workers at private prisons, where more than 40 percent of the state's 6,100-plus inmates are now housed.  The new plan won't take effect until July 2004, after corrections officers vote on it, said John LaBombard, director of labor relations for state corrections.  La Bombard said Wednesday he's already getting many calls from private-prison workers inquiring about jobs.  (ABQ Journal)

January 2, 2003
Gov. Bill Richardson's inauguration is estimated to cost about $420,000.  However, taxpayers won't be picking up the tab.  Donations from corporations and sales of tickets to inaugural balls will cover the expenses.  Among those donors were Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which owns and operates prisons that are used by the state.  (ABQ Journal)

January 7, 2002
Gov. Gary Johnson is asking the Legislature to spend $20 million next year to expand state prisons to avoid inmate overcrowding in the future. The governor, in his budget proposals to the Legislature, proposes spending $ 13.3 million next year for a 400-bed expansion at a state prison at Las Cruces and $6.7 million for a 250-bed expansion of a minimum security prison at Roswell. The money is part of the governor's recommendations for $256 million in capital improvements in the budget year that begins in July. Corrections Secretary Rob Perry said Monday the Corrections Department also has recommended a 300-bed expansion of a privately operated prison to provide more space for medium security inmates. No state monies are needed initially to pay for the construction at the private prison, but the state would cover the costs through an increase in future payments for leasing cells for inmates in the facility. (AP)

June 29, 2001
"Godbey is a dead man!"  Harsh words for a Republican state House of Representatives member to pen about a GOP colleague.  Harsh enough that Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Aluquerque, was given a State Police escort at the Capitol after Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, passed the "dead man" threat note to House Minority Whip Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington.  For his part, Foley said he was merely making a political observation about Godbey when he wrote the note.  Godbey tried unsuccessfully to unseat State Republican Party chairman John Dendahl publicly backed liberalizing New Mexico drug laws.  Godbey is a staunch opponent of liberal drug laws.  "To know that my party is involved in drugs and gambling is driving me crazy," said Roberts.  If Godbey wasn't threatened with actual death, he was threatened with political execution.  Are the issues of the leaders becoming more important than the issues of the members in the Republican Party in New Mexico?  After all, Republican national committeeman Mickey Barnett is a lobbyist for a casino-operating Indian tribe and a private prison operator and he was a lead lobbyist for liberal drug laws during the last legislative session.  (Albuquerque Journal)

New Mexico Womens Correctional Facility
Grants, New Mexico
CCA

State gets tougher on private prisons - Operators face fine as leniency disappears under Martinez administration: March 1, 2012, Trip Jennings, The New Mexican: Damning expose on how former DOC Secretary and former Wackenhut warden cost state millions of dollars in un-collected fines against for-profits.

Dec 3, 2013 thinkprogress.org

"Private Prison Company Allegedly Put 73-Year-Old Grandmother In Solitary Confinement For 34 Days" Carol Lester, a 73-year-old grandmother serving time in New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, is suing Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison companies in the world, and Corizon, Inc, a private prison health care company, for denying her medical care and keeping her in solitary confinement for over a month. Lester’s lawsuit, filed in late November, charges that the warden deliberately put her in solitary confinement because she complained to lawmakers and Department of Corrections officials that she and other women were being denied medical care. Lester plead guilty to embezzling money from her employer to feed a gambling addiction in 2010. Soon after beginning her three-year sentence, the lawsuit charges that the privately run prison stopped giving her the prescribed medication she had been taking for thyroid cancer and gave her a new medication that made her sick. Lester started fainting on a regular basis, and medical staff told her she may have a serious heart condition. However, they did not send her to a specialist or a hospital, and her health deteriorated rapidly. According to the complaint, she took up a letter writing campaign with fellow inmates who were also being denied medical care. Her letters prompted a delegation of state legislators and the head of health services for the Department of Corrections to visit the prison to talk with inmates about their concerns. Soon after these visits, Lester was given a drug test, and tested positive for methanphetamine. Though she had no history of drug use, the prison was prescribing her Zantac, which is known to cause false positives for methanphetamine. Lester reportedly offered to pay for a blood test to prove she was clean, but was put in solitary confinement instead. While in solitary, Lester says she stopped getting medications for either her thyroid cancer or her heart condition. Though a court has not yet heard Lester’s case, the two prison companies in question already face a string of allegations that they abuse or neglect inmates. Because private prison companies must turn a profit, health care and quality of life are often sacrificed for the bottom line. Corizon is already handling lawsuits and investigations all over the country charging that the health care company ignored inmates’ calls for help, left sick inmates in soiled bedsheets without any food or water, and even let a man die because calling an ambulance was deemed too expensive. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), meanwhile, was recently held in contempt for understaffing prisons, and a few months earlier paid $600,000 to settle another lawsuit over inmate abuse. The extremely profitable company has also been caught overcrowding prisons to the point that many inmates sleep on the floor, using gangs to police facilities,

Nov 16, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
A federal jury in Albuquerque found that the warden of the private contract women’s prison in Grants and its former chief of security retaliated against an inmate who reported sexual abuse by an employee at the facility in violation of her First Amendment rights. The inmate, Lisa Jaramillo, spent 60 days in segregation for reporting seeing another inmate emerge from a room with a corrections officer. The jury found no negligence by the private, for-profit contracting giant Corrections Corporation of America, whose wardens earn bonuses for keeping down complaints. Plaintiffs Lisa Jaramillo and Kim Chavez alleged that CCA’s failure to abide by its own policies requiring an officer to be present when an inmate was in the medical unit led to sexual abuse of both of them. Both women are still completing criminal sentences but are no longer at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility. Both were inmates in 2008 when a male nurse employed by Correctional Medical Services, Roger Bustamante, allegedly assaulted them. He was later escorted off the premises and fired. Four women sued Bustamante, CMS, CCA and individual prison officials including Warden Arlene Hickson and former security chief Robert Ulibarri, who was also discharged from employment there. The jury on Thursday awarded Jaramillo a total of $6,000 in compensatory damages against Ulibarri and Hickson and a total of $60,000 in punitive damages against the two. Because that claim was brought under federal law, attorneys Mark Fine, and American Civil Liberties Union lawyers Maureen Sanders and Laura Schauer Ives will be able to claim attorney fees for bringing the action. “We consider this to be a tremendous victory that the jury acknowledged that women who report sexual abuse are retaliated against — and that silence serves to suppress reports,” said Ives, the managing attorney of the New Mexico ACLU. Daniel Struck, the Phoenix attorney for CCA, left town before the verdict was returned and wasn’t available for comment.

Nov 6, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
A woman who was serving a 13-year forgery sentence at the Grants Women’s Correctional Facility in 2007 told a jury Monday that she was initially flattered by the flirtations of a male nurse when she went to the medical unit to strip and wax the floors.
But the first blush of feeling flattered soon turned to disgust, Lisa Jaramillo testified before U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera. Jaramillo was the first witness in the trial over the alleged sexual assault of her and another woman at the prison run by Corrections Corporation of America under a state contract. CCA, the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison operator, provided the facility with security, and a separate, unrelated company, Correctional Medical Services, staffed the medical unit.
Only Jaramillo and Kim Chavez remain as plaintiffs among the four women who filed the lawsuit in 2009, because settlements were reached with the two others. The claims include retaliation after reporting the assault, as well as the assault itself.
Jaramillo, who said she came from a “family of addicts” in Las Cruces, spoke softly and dabbed at her eyes as she described jerking away when the nurse, Roger Bustamante, forced her hand down his pants and then yanked down her pants and assaulted her after the rebuff. Jaramillo had earned a certificate in cleaning while in prison and was alone in the medical unit without a corrections officer as a monitor, despite rules calling for an officer to be present. An assistant warden had asked Jaramillo to teach Chavez how to operate the buffing and waxing machinery, but both women had to leave the medical units and return to their cells after three hours when a bell sounded for a regular count of inmates. Jaramillo came back to the medical unit before Chavez. As Jaramillo bolted from the room after the assault in tears, she said she saw a female nurse whom she avoided and then ran into Chavez and told her what had happened. Attorney Mark Fine, who represents the women inmates, told jurors in his opening statement that the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, sets national standards to prevent rape in prisons. By the end of trial, he said, it will become clear that under the act, it’s not OK for a prison official to have sex with an inmate. Daniel Struck, the Phoenix attorney defending CCA, said the case was about “hustling.” “Those are not my words,” he said, adding that they were a term Jaramillo used to refer to herself. He portrayed Jaramillo as a troublemaker with over 25 disciplinary infractions and suggested she had embellished the incident in each telling. Jaramillo acknowledged infractions when she was questioned by Fine and said she’d made many bad decisions in her life. But she said that when she referred to “hustling,” it meant trying to get more or better food or tobacco, and was not about selling her body.— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

July 25, 2012 KRQE
An audit of prison records begun last week has found a inmate at the women's prison in Grants who was supposed to be released last November. State Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said the statewide audit of the approximately 6,600 inmate records began at the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility. "Our standards, evaluation, and findings must remain transparent if we are to remain aware what is expected of our service," Marcantel said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "This finding represents our commitment (of) vigorously looking at yourself." The nearly nine-month delay in releasing of Shera Winings was blamed on an employee of Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the prison. Winings, who had been held on a probation violation since October 2009, was released on Saturday.

March 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The companies that operate private prisons where New Mexico state inmates serve their time have racked up nearly $1.6 million in penalties for understaffing and other contract violations since the Martinez administration started cracking down last year. Nearly all of that was attributable to problems at The GEO Group Inc.’s prison in Hobbs, although the company’s Clayton prison was recently added to the penalty list. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the women’s prison in Grants, also has been fined during the past couple of months, mostly for having inmates in the prison after their release dates. Reversing the practice of the previous administration, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez decided to pursue the penalties the state is entitled to impose for contract violations. “In today’s struggling economy, the people of New Mexico deserve to know the Corrections Department is running in a fiscally responsible manner,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said this week in a statement. The department recently revived its Office of Inspector General to keep tabs on contract compliance. Such fines are discretionary, and former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration gave private prisons a pass, irking lawmakers who estimated that upwards of $18 million could have been collected. Richardson’s corrections chief, Joe Williams – who claimed that estimate was inflated – said that prisons already were paying substantial overtime costs, that understaffing was largely due to factors beyond their control, and that the facilities were safe and secure. Williams worked at Hobbs for GEO’s predecessor company before Richardson hired him, and he returned to GEO’s corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of Richardson’s tenure. After negotiations with the Martinez administration, GEO in January paid a $1.1 million fine for violations at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs for the period from January through October of 2011. GEO also agreed to put another $200,000 into recruitment over the subsequent year. GEO continued to be penalized: $158,529 for November, $139,621 for December, $78,710 for January and $84,753 for February, according to documents provided by the department. The February assessment isn’t final yet, because the company has until late this month to respond to it. The fines largely were due to vacancies in the ranks of correctional officers and in noncustodial positions such as teachers, counselors and treatment providers. Corrections officials have said it’s difficult for the men’s medium security lockup at Hobbs to recruit and keep corrections officers because it’s competing with the oil industry. An assessment of $2,570 for understaffing in January was proposed for GEO’s Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, but the problem had been corrected by the time the department sent a letter to the prison on Feb. 10, and no penalty was assessed. In early March, however, the department notified the Clayton prison that it would be fined $5,373 for February, for vacancies in mandatory posts and for two inmates imprisoned beyond their release date. That penalty is pending. GEO did not respond to requests from the Journal for comment. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, was fined $11,779 for January, and $9,974 for February – still pending – for an academic instructor vacancy and for inmates held beyond their release dates. Inspector General Shannon McReynolds said that occurs when the required parole plans aren’t developed in a timely way.

April 25, 2011 The New Mexican
The two for-profit firms that run four of New Mexico's 10 prisons often struggle to keep correctional officer jobs filled, state records show. One in five such jobs at a Hobbs facility was vacant for much of the past 15 months, while the prison in Santa Rosa reported a vacancy rate of around 12.5 percent over the same period, according to the records. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two firms that operate the facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. It's a threshold that appears to have been crossed multiple times at all four prisons since January 2010. The vacancy rate at Hobbs topped the 10-percent threshold in each of the 14 months for which data was available between January 2010 and March of this year. Meanwhile, the 10-percent threshold was topped nine times over that period at Santa Rosa and six times at a Clayton facility. Like the Hobbs facility, both are run by GEO. A CCA-operated prison in Grants topped the 10 percent rate four times over the same period. Whether to penalize the out-of-state, for-profit firms is an issue that has come up before. The question surfaced last year when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties against the two firms. One powerful lawmaker said Monday the issue is still important and the Legislature shouldn't lose sight of it. "We'd like to follow up and perhaps do a performance group review on the private prison operators to see whether they are making excessive profits," Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, said of the Legislative Finance Committee. Varela, the committee chairman, said he can accept a reasonable return for the prison operators, but high vacancy rates at prisons operated by the firms raise questions about how state dollars are being spent to operate the facilities. Determining whether the companies should be penalized for high vacancy rates is an involved process, a Corrections Department spokesman said. GEO and CCA might have asked corrections officers already on the job to work overtime to address the staffing situation. If they did, the department "cannot in good faith consider that position to be vacant," spokesman Shannon McReynolds wrote in an email. But the state doesn't know whether that happened. That would require going through shift rosters at each privately operated facility, McReynolds said in a follow-up phone interview. "That will take a decision from the administration," McReynolds said, referring to new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez. "We do not have specifics on overtime. Every once in awhile we'll hear a particular facility has spent a lot on overtime." Because of sporadic record-keeping at the facilities GEO and CCA operate, the state corrections agency couldn't verify last year how often the two firms violated the vacancy-rate provision in their contracts, if at all. As a result, the agency couldn't corroborate or refute the Legislative Finance Committee's estimate of uncollected penalties. Joe Williams, then-corrections secretary, decided not to pursue penalizing the two companies, saying GEO and CCA were making a good-faith effort to keep the facilities staffed. The contracts give the corrections secretary discretion to waive the penalties. If Lupe Martinez, the new corrections secretary, decides to collect penalties, it would be only for January 2011 and onward, McReynolds said. Gov. Susana Martinez took power in January and soon afterward appointed Lupe Martinez, no relation, as her corrections secretary. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records show. GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa reported a 16.93 percent vacancy rate last July, a high point. The vacancy rate has hovered below 10 percent in five of the last seven months. Another GEO-run facility, the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton, showed a similar trend, reporting vacancy rates higher than 10 percent for six of the seven months for which data was available between January and August 2010. Data for July 2010 was missing. As in Santa Rosa, the Clayton facility's vacancy rate has dropped in recent months. The state's fourth privately operated prison, CCA-run New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, reported a vacancy rate above 10 percent four times from January 2010 to July 2010, with a 16.47 percent vacancy rate reported in July. The state corrections agency did not have data for August 2010 to March 2011.

September 10, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The state appears to have been within its rights last year to repeatedly penalize two private prison operators for letting their vacancy rates hover above a 10 percent trigger in their contracts, state records show. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against the two firms – GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) — when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. As for the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who worked for GEO before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary, told The Independent last week the state had never penalized GEO or CCA despite vacancy rates repeatedly topping the 10 percent trigger. He had the discretion to decide whether to penalize the firms or not, and he had decided against it, Williams said. The firms were doing a good job of managing the prisons, he added. Some state lawmakers are wondering why Williams never assessed the penalties. Some believe the never-assessed penalties could amount to millions of dollars. State records show that vacancies at GEO-operated Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa were above the 10 percent threshold in 11 of the13 months between July 2009 to July 2010; 10 of the 13 months at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs; and nine of the 13 months at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The vacancy rate at the GEO-run Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility eclipsed the 10 percent rate in six of the 13 months covered by the time period shown in the records, state records show. The agency on Friday reiterated Williams’ discretion in deciding whether to penalize the companies or not. “The contract clauses that deal with vacancy rates gives sole discretion to NMCD so that they may penalize the private prisons,” read an e-mail to The Independent after we had sent questions related to the vacancy rates from July 2009 to July 2010. “The penalties are not mandatory and are decided by the department,” the e-mail continued. “Secretary Williams will be presenting the reasons to why he has not penalized the vendors to the Legislative Finance Committee in an upcoming hearing. The department welcomes you to attend the committee hearing.”

December 14, 2009 Cibola Beacon
A former education director at the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility has been indicted on a second degree felony count of criminal sexual penetration of an inmate. Charles Buccigrossi, 65, former education director at the Correctional Corporations of America facility, made sexual contact with an inmate, according to a Grants Police Department report. Officers were dispatched to the prison on Aug. 10 in response to investigate the allegation. According to court documents, the inmate was cleaning the director's office when she claimed Buccigrossi instructed her to have sex with him. According to the affidavit and the victim's statement, he told the inmate she would “stay doing more time” if she refused. The inmate's account of the incident revealed evidence that was found in Buccigrossi's office, which was searched for evidence later that day. A DNA lab test showed Buccigrossi is the only person who could have left his DNA at the scene of the crime. According to GPD's Detective Kevin Dobbs and the state's statues; any sexual contact, coerced or forced in considered criminal when an inmate is confined in a correctional facility or jail and the perpetrator is in authority over the inmate.

October 28, 2009 The New Mexican
The state of New Mexico would have to shutter two prisons, give early releases to up to 660 prisoners and lay off and furlough Corrections Department employees if Gov. Bill Richardson signs budget cuts approved by the Legislature, his office said Wednesday. Richardson's office raised that grim possibility as his staff analyzes the impact of $253 million in spending cuts legislators passed during a special session last week to deal with a revenue shortfall. His administration on Monday had said other cuts approved by the Legislature could mean the state Human Services Department would reduce children's health care, nutrition programs for seniors and programs for the developmentally disabled, if he were to sign the measures. But lawmakers say they won't be blamed for decisions that are now up to Richardson. "He wants it to seem like we're making the decisions," said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell. "But he's making the calls where he wants to cut. He's making that decision." The Corrections Department said that in order to meet $21 million in budget cuts, it would have to close the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman and the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants. About 270 inmates are incarcerated at the state-operated Roswell facility, while about 590 are housed in the Grants facility, which is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. The state would have to cancel its contract with the company.

September 19, 2007 AP
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a private prison company is not entitled to a refund of taxes for operating prisons that house inmates for the state and federal governments. Corrections Corporation of America had sought a refund of state gross receipts taxes, claiming it was allowed a deduction for the leasing of its prisons under agreements with the Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The Court of Appeals concluded Tuesday there was no lease of real property. "The fact that CCA had the right to fill up any extra space with inmates from other jurisdictions coupled with the governmental entities' paying based on the number of inmates housed, makes these agreements look more like those between 'hotels, motels, rooming houses, and other facilities' and 'lodgers or occupants' than leases for real property," the court said in an opinion written by Judge Michael Bustamante. The company built and owns prisons used by the state and other governments: the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, the Cibola County Correctional Center near Milan and the Torrance County Detention Facility at Estancia. In 2002, the company filed for a refund of nearly $2.5 million for taxes from January 1999 to October 2002. A state district court in Santa Fe ruled against the company in 2005.

September 18, 2007 AP
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a private prison company isn't entitled to a refund of taxes for operating prisons that house inmates for the state and federal governments. Corrections Corporation of America had sought a refund of state gross receipts taxes. The company claimed a deduction for the leasing of its prisons under agreements with the Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The court ruled today that there was no lease of real property. In 2002, the company filed for a refund of nearly $2.5 million for taxes from January 1999 to October 2002. In its appeal, the company dropped some claims but didn't specify the amount of refund it was seeking. CCA operates a prison at Grants that houses state female inmates. It also has a prison in Torrance County and contracts with the Bureau of Prisons to hold federal inmates near Milan in Cibola County.

August 30, 2007 Cibola Beacon
The Beacon recently received several calls from residents concerned about the safety of the community because of the staff shortage in the areas prisons. All three prisons, Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, Cibola County Corrections Center (AKA Four C's) in Milan and the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility, also in Grants, are currently in need of correctional officers. Four C's in Milan is the most needful of officers. Currently, it is 38 officers short. The facility has a total of 159 CO positions, therefore it is now understaffed by 24 percent. “First, there is absolutely no risk to be concerned about,” Warden Walt Wells said on Wednesday. “We continually analyze the staff to be sure we have the adequate staff to protect our inmates, employees and the community. We'll never let it fall to the level to where there is a risk.” According to Warden Allan Cooper at the Grants women's facility, Americans Corrections Association says the ratio of inmate to corrections officer should be about 580 inmates to 76 staff, about 65 of the latter being correctional officers. “The public will never be at risk,” said Cooper. Cooper's Administrative Assistant, Lisa Riley, said they have to fill all the posts no matter what. “If it costs us lots of overtime, that doesn't matter,” Riley said. “We have our requirements that have to met by the state.”

August 4, 2006 Cibola Beacon
The New Mexico Corrections Department recently announced the settlement of an ACLU lawsuit against it includes a proviso that the department will not be releasing inmates early. “This agreement gives us the confidence that offenders will not be released from prison early, especially since the department currently has adequate capacity,” said Corrections Department Secretary Joe R. Williams. After the lawsuit was filed in April, corrections officials authorized the move of 68 minimum-security female inmates from Grants Women's Correctional Facility to temporary holding at the Regional Correctional Center in downtown Albuquerque until Camino Nuevo opened last month. Camino was the former Children's Youth and Family juvenile detention center in Albuquerque and will hold up to 192 women. The ACLU contended that the corrections secretary is mandated by state law to create a Population Control Commission to address the overpopulation problem within 30 days after a facility is deemed overcrowded. The commission must convene in 60 days, and at the 30-day point Williams must provide the commission with a list of non-violent offenders, who are slated for release within six months. The Corrections Corporation of America built the Grants facility in 1989 for 200 female convicts, and expanded in 1995 to include 118 more beds and educational work areas. It houses women inmates from minimum to maximum-security levels, and its highest capacity is 611. Its current population is 605 as of Thursday morning.

July 21, 2006 AP
The American Civil Liberties Union dropped a lawsuit Thursday against the state Corrections Department after Secretary Joe Williams agreed to convene a special commission to address overcrowding at the women's prison near Grants. The action ended a dispute that began when the civil-rights organization sued in April. The ACLU claimed the agency wasn't complying with a 2002 law that provides for early release of nonviolent prisoners when a prison is over capacity for two months. Officials subsequently moved 68 women from the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility to a privately operated Albuquerque jail. Corrections officials argued that the shift meant the Grants prison no longer was over capacity.

June 21, 2006 Gallup Independent
The veteran warden of the New Mexico Women's Correction Facility in Grants has retired, according to a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America. CCA operates the prison on Grants east side under a contract with the state of New Mexico's Corrections Department. Bill Snodgrass has been succeeded, at least temporarily, by Barbara Wagner as interim warden. She is the first warden of the Camino Nuevo Corrections Center in Albuquerque, opened to relieve overcrowding at the 596-bed female facility. The excess number of women being held in Grants was reduced by the recent transfers to Camino Nuevo long after a lawsuit against the state for violating prisoners' civil rights. Steve Owen of CCA headquarters in Nashville denied that Snodgrass had been let go, commenting, "When you get a new management team, the administration often assesses its key management personnel and it is not uncommon to have some changes made. When you are going with a new management style, you want to be sure you want to be sure you have the right people in place." The word going around the community was that in addition to Snodgrass departing, four others were escorted from the compound on Sakeluras Boulevard. And a week later, another four or five also were given the boot.

April 14, 2006 Cibola Beacon
New Mexico ACLU executive director Peter Simonson recently announced the organization filed legal papers to force the New Mexico Department of Corrections to rectify inmate overcrowding at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. Simonson said the ACLU has told DOC Secretary Joe Williams it needs to see progress in solving the overcrowding and other problems at the women’s facility. “He knew … about a month ago there would be a lawsuit. The ACLU stated that the overcrowding has contributed to tensions, fighting and even problems for the facility’s employees. In addition, ACLU contends sewage backups into the living areas resulted in corrections officers having to wear masks because of the smell.

November 22, 2005 Cibola Beacon
Tia Bland of the New Mexico Corrections Department reported Friday that she still has not been served with the lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The suit alleges the NMCD, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and other related defendants are violating First Amendment rights by using taxpayer funds to support religious indoctrination as a component of the programming provided to prison inmates. Bland said, "The corrections department pays the CCA to house inmates and how they break that down is a question for CCA." In a previous Beacon story, CCA claimed that volunteers provided the faith-based resources.

November 8, 2005 BBS News
A state-funded fundamentalist Christian prison ministry program ("God pod") in a women's prison in New Mexico is being challenged in federal court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog. The Foundation filed suit yesterday in the Federal District of New Mexico. The lawsuit marks the sixth faith-based challenge by the national association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate. The Foundation has brought and won more legal challenges against the "faith-based initiative" than any other group. The Foundation, as a plaintiff, is joined by six taxpaying New Mexico Foundation members: Martin Boyd, M.D., Jesse V. Chavez; Ernie and Sabina Hirshman; Peter Viviano, and Paul Weinbaum. Defendants are: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Joe R. Williams, Secretary of the New Mexico Corrections Department; Homer Gonzales, coordinator of faith-based programs for the New Mexico Corrections department; Bill Snodgrass, warden, New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility, and the Corrections Corporation of America. The extent to which "faith-based" programs are being promoted in New Mexico prisons is indicated by a recent statement by Corrections Secretary Joe Williams. He told the American Correctional Conference in Phoenix in January 2005: "Don't forget that Jesus Christ himself was a prisoner" (The Santa Fe Reporter, March 9. 2005). The State of New Mexico contracts with the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to provide prison services. CCA, the largest private provider of prison services in the country, manages the women's prison in Grants, N. M., which offers an exclusively faith-based segregation pod. Officially, the Grants program is called the "Life Principles Community/Crossings Program."

December 5, 2002
Tana Morris, a 30-year-old inmate at the Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, filed a civil complaint in state district court on Monday against the Department of Corrections and Bill Snodgrass, the warden of the Grants facility, seeking compensation for her current and future health problems she claims are the result of constant exposure to secondhand smoke in the prison.  "I have never even smoked even one cigarette in my life, and this 24-hour exposure to secondhand smoke is of grave concern to me ...," Morris states in her complaint. "I have young children who deserve to have a healthy mother.  At this point, my health is rapidly deteriorating due to my living conditions, and the idea of being healthy is looking to be out of my reach." Department of Corrections spokesman Gerges Scott said the Grants facility has its own smoking policy because it is operated privately by Corrections Corporation of America, but a telephone operator at the Grants facility said the jail follows the state's guidelines.  State Sen. Joseph Carraro, R-Albuquerque, said the department's policy allowing prisoners to smoke was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Carraro authored a failed bill this past legislative session that would have banned smoking in prisons. He claimed the state is already paying millions of dollars a year in health care for prisoners and might be liable for inmate health problems that are the result of first- or secondhand smoke.  (Santa Fe New Mexican.com)

Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility
Clayton, New Mexico
GEO Group
Nov 2, 2013 abqjournal.com

A former prison physician accused of fondling multiple inmates during medical exams at two contract men’s prisons in New Mexico is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Mark Walden has also been suspended from the practice of medicine and has filed a notice of bankruptcy. The Justice Department’s notification to Walden that he is the target of an inquiry into the alleged violation of inmates’ civil rights is revealed in documents filed in three civil lawsuits now consolidated in U.S. District Court. Documents say Walden was notified in writing that “he is the target of a criminal investigation regarding alleged sexual abuse of male inmates at the Northeastern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton and at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa.” The prisons are privately operated by Corizon Inc. The civil lawsuits against Walden, Corizon and others were filed on behalf of about three dozen current or former inmates at the two prisons by attorneys Katie Curry, Brad Hall and Frances Crockett Carpenter. Defendants moved the case to federal court. Walden’s attorney in the civil lawsuit said she does not comment on pending litigation. But in an answer she filed on behalf of Walden in one of the civil lawsuits, he denied performing any digital rectal exams that were not medically necessary or that were inappropriate in length or methodology. He denies sexually abusing inmates at anytime or that any conduct on his part was unreasonable, cruel or harmful. Walden also contends that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations and the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. The inmates have made claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to protect any recovery they may receive in the civil litigation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Torgerson stayed the civil cases in August until the bankruptcy is resolved. Walden was entitled to an automatic stay by virtue of his bankruptcy filing. Torgerson extended the stay to other defendants, including Walden’s former employer The Geo Group Inc., now called Corizon, wardens Erasmo Bravo and Timothy Hatch, and the health services administrator. There are no details on the Justice investigation, which has apparently been underway since before the civil litigation began in March. According to a statement from Corizon, the company “is unaware of any criminal proceedings being filed at this time. We will cooperate fully with any investigations related to this matter.” The wardens, Geo and Corizon filed answers in the civil cases in which they have denied allegations of negligent hiring and supervisions, medical malpractice and civil rights violations. The inmates have asked the court to permit the litigation to go forward without revealing the names of the plaintiffs because of the potential of greater harm and victimization. But one of Walden’s attorneys in the civil suits has denied sexual abuse allegations contained in the request and opposed the request for anonymity, saying inmate lawyers are engaged in a media campaign to “impact the pending litigation.” Walden’s attorney Nicole Charlebois said in a written filing that the unnamed plaintiffs attacked Walden in the media before even serving him with the complaint. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, she said in the filing, are “manipulating the underlying litigation, tainting the public perception and tainting the potential jury pool,” and that Walden has a right to know his accusers, “especially in light of their aggressive media tactics.” Suspension: The New Mexico Medical Board suspended Walden from practice in July, after sending him notice of contemplated action and getting input from two physicians hired as experts who reviewed available records. The board ordered Walden to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation arranged by the New Mexico Monitored Treatment Program, which was to send its findings and recommendations to the board for review. The recommendations “must demonstrate to the board’s satisfaction that (Walden) is fit to safely practice medicine.” The board will then determine his further licensure status. The board hired as experts a urologist with 33 years experience, including 5˝ years participating in a prison clinic, and an emergency medicine physician described as having expertise in correctional medicine. The urologist said his review of the evidence indicated “sexual contact with a patient” by Walden on many occasions that were not legitimate medical procedures and constituted sexual abuse. The second physician found that Walden had not breached the standard of care and that his treatment of inmates was appropriate for the patient complaints documented in medical records. That doctor questioned the credibility of the inmates’ statements “because several of them indicated (Walden) had examined them without gloves, which (he) found very unlikely to have actually occurred.” Walden invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify at the medical board hearing.

Among over 40 pages of proposed factual findings:

•Walden regularly performed digital rectal examinations of inmate patients in their 20s and 30s. The Clayton prison offered exams routinely for men over age 50 and for men under 50 if they had specific complaints warranting such an exam.

•He did twice as many rectal exams each month as any other doctor at the Clayton facility, according to a prison nurse.

•A 40-year-old patient at the prison in Clayton asked a corrections officer as the inmate left the medical unit in July 2012 “if (Walden) was gay, and expressed discomfort with the examination he had received.” The officer prepared a statement based on the inmate’s statements that the doctor had turned him over and stroked his genitals. That was the only comment about any presumed sexual orientation of the doctor.

•Another patient reported on Aug. 5, 2012, that Walden had “played with” his testicles without gloves.

•A 28-year-old inmate reported that Walden called him for medical exams for three weeks straight on a Friday or Saturday, gave him a rectal exam and studied his penis.

•Another inmate filed a grievance about an Aug. 20, 2012, incident in which he said Walden asked him to drop his pants, rubbed his genitals and asked if it felt good.

•In patient statements provided by the facilities in response to a subpoena by the board, Walden diagnosed a prostate condition not confirmed by an independent analysis.

•Inmate patients are generally not referred out because of time, expense and safety issues in transporting prisoners off site.

•Only one patient at Santa Rosa filed a grievance with a nurse.

The hearing officer noted inmates “may be manipulative and will commonly do things for purposes of secondary gain,” such as getting strong pain medicine, special shoes or mattresses.


Mar 17, 2013 abqjournal.com

A New Mexico inmate claims he got an overly long and intrusive rectal exam when he went to the prison doctor for a torn meniscus in his knee. And his complaint isn’t the only one. Eighteen inmates in two separate civil lawsuits claim they were fondled or given intrusive exams – even when they weren’t needed – by Dr. Mark E. Walden, the prison physician at the time. The claims that Walden used his position to sexually abuse inmates are being made by men incarcerated at prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton. Both prisons are operated under contract with the state by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO group, a firm that operates detention and re-entry facilities in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Britain, as well as the U.S. Walden was an employee of Corizon, a private contractor that provides healthcare services at over 349 correctional facilities across the country. The company, which is based in Tennessee, has a four-year, $177.6 million contract to provide prison medical services in New Mexico at both public and privately run prisons. Katie Curry of the McGinn Law Firm in Albuquerque, attorney for one group of prisoners suing Walden, GEO Group Inc., Corizon, prison wardens Erasmo Bravo and Timothy Hatch, and health administrator Sherry Phillips, said another attorney represents another 10 or so clients with similar complaints. “That’s who has come forward, but these guys move around a lot (to other prisons),” Curry said. “I can imagine there are others who are reluctant to come forward.” The lawsuit filed by Curry alleges at least 25 known victims. The New Mexico Medical Board is investigating Walden and, on Feb. 18, issued a notice of contemplated action. No hearing has been scheduled, but it is likely to take place in April or May, a board spokeswoman said. “As a matter of standing company policy, Corizon does not comment on any litigation. However, Corizon can confirm that Dr. Walden is no longer on staff,” said Courtney Eller of DVL Public Relations & Advertising in Nashville, which handles media inquiries for Corizon. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said in an email that the company, as a matter of policy, “cannot comment on litigation related matters, but we can confirm that Mr. Bravo and Mr. Hatch are employed by GEO and Dr. Walden is not employed by GEO.” Walden, who is now working in a medical practice in Raton, did not return a call for comment. He also allegedly failed to use proper hygiene and disease prevention techniques by not using gloves when he examined inmates. Prison administrators and Corizon didn’t ensure that a third person was present to protect the integrity of the exams, according to at least one of the suits. The potential for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct toward inmates by prison employees is well-known institutional problem, the lawsuits say, and administrators have a duty to protect the inmates. Inmates often view reporting abuse as futile because of the humiliation and retaliation they risk and the prospect of losing access to medical services, the complaints say. Doctors have far greater social status than inmates, further exacerbating the imbalance, they say. GEO and Corizon should have known about the abuse through inmate reports and the perceptions of staffers such as nurses, “or kept themselves willfully blind” to it, according to Curry’s lawsuit. “Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden,” the lawsuit says. Curry said there was a written complaint about Walden by an inmate in September 2011, “and apparently nothing happens, so it’s literally like the Catholic church where they know something and transfer him someplace else.” She said lawyers know a copy of the complaint went to State Police and that GEO was made aware of it. Walden initially worked at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and was later transferred to the Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton. One of the consequences of the alleged abuse, Curry said, was that some inmates stopped going to see Walden, even though they needed medical treatment. The lawsuit says staff became suspicious after Walden was hired “based on observations including a sudden notable increase in volume of digital rectal exams being performed, unindicated digital rectal exams on young inmates (and) refusal by defendant Walden to have a third party present.” An inmate who went to Walden for urinary tract issues and had an examination that was “excessive and inappropriate” and conducted without gloves reported the incident and had a sexual assault exam performed in Santa Fe, which revealed two anal tears, according to the lawsuit. “Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden.” - McGINN LAW FIRM: A separate lawsuit filed by Frances Carpenter of Albuquerque on behalf of nine more inmates says the abuses began in 2010 and continued through July 2012 during both routine and “symptom specific” examinations. They included digital anal penetration and probing and stimulation of the genitals. One inmate who saw Walden with a request for hemorrhoid cream was told he need to be examined first, the lawsuit says, and during the exam was penetrated by the doctor’s “entire ungloved fist.” The inmate, who reported the incidents to prison officials, continues to have nightmares and anxiety related to the alleged assault. Both lawsuits, filed in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, allege negligent hiring and retention, civil rights violations, negligence and breach of contract. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Meanwhile, the medical board is expected to set a hearing this spring based on allegations that Walden, during prostate exams on some 17 inmates, “touched or attempted to touch these inmates in an inappropriate, sexual manner.” The board notice says Walden was subject to a “corrective action” for incomplete medical records that led the Union County General Hospital to terminate his privileges, and he did not report it to the board. The notice also says Walden’s professional medical liability insurance was canceled and that he gave incorrect information about it on his license renewal in 2011. Inmates say routine exams turned into horrific assaultsSee PRISON on PAGE A9from PAGE A1Prison doctor accused of sex abuse; inmates claim assaults”Corizon and GEO did not encourage reporting or documentation of these incidents, and enacted no discipline or retraining of … Walden.”<quote_attribution>McGINN LAW FIRM

March 17, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The companies that operate private prisons where New Mexico state inmates serve their time have racked up nearly $1.6 million in penalties for understaffing and other contract violations since the Martinez administration started cracking down last year. Nearly all of that was attributable to problems at The GEO Group Inc.’s prison in Hobbs, although the company’s Clayton prison was recently added to the penalty list. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the women’s prison in Grants, also has been fined during the past couple of months, mostly for having inmates in the prison after their release dates. Reversing the practice of the previous administration, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez decided to pursue the penalties the state is entitled to impose for contract violations. “In today’s struggling economy, the people of New Mexico deserve to know the Corrections Department is running in a fiscally responsible manner,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said this week in a statement. The department recently revived its Office of Inspector General to keep tabs on contract compliance. Such fines are discretionary, and former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration gave private prisons a pass, irking lawmakers who estimated that upwards of $18 million could have been collected. Richardson’s corrections chief, Joe Williams – who claimed that estimate was inflated – said that prisons already were paying substantial overtime costs, that understaffing was largely due to factors beyond their control, and that the facilities were safe and secure. Williams worked at Hobbs for GEO’s predecessor company before Richardson hired him, and he returned to GEO’s corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of Richardson’s tenure. After negotiations with the Martinez administration, GEO in January paid a $1.1 million fine for violations at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs for the period from January through October of 2011. GEO also agreed to put another $200,000 into recruitment over the subsequent year. GEO continued to be penalized: $158,529 for November, $139,621 for December, $78,710 for January and $84,753 for February, according to documents provided by the department. The February assessment isn’t final yet, because the company has until late this month to respond to it. The fines largely were due to vacancies in the ranks of correctional officers and in noncustodial positions such as teachers, counselors and treatment providers. Corrections officials have said it’s difficult for the men’s medium security lockup at Hobbs to recruit and keep corrections officers because it’s competing with the oil industry. An assessment of $2,570 for understaffing in January was proposed for GEO’s Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, but the problem had been corrected by the time the department sent a letter to the prison on Feb. 10, and no penalty was assessed. In early March, however, the department notified the Clayton prison that it would be fined $5,373 for February, for vacancies in mandatory posts and for two inmates imprisoned beyond their release date. That penalty is pending. GEO did not respond to requests from the Journal for comment. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, was fined $11,779 for January, and $9,974 for February – still pending – for an academic instructor vacancy and for inmates held beyond their release dates. Inspector General Shannon McReynolds said that occurs when the required parole plans aren’t developed in a timely way.

November 16, 2011 KOB
A man convicted of raping and murdering one UNM student and raping another back in the early 1980's is at UNM Hospital on life support after being attacked by fellow inmates in prison. The Corrections Department said Michael Guzman was attacked by more than a dozen inmates just two days after he was moved to a private prison in Clayton. His family wants answers about the attack. Guzman's sister said she is not being allowed to visit him at the hospital because he is an inmate. She has problems with that and wants to know more about the prison attack. "I do have a lot of serious questions about the investigation because if my brother was indeed jumped by 15 inmates, he should have some facial damage," she said. Officials said Guzman was not stabbed, but they cannot say if any other weapons were used. He is in intensive care with other patients, along with special security, which is why family is not allowed in to see him. Corrections said Guzman was moved to Clayton because he had problems with other inmates at the prison in Santa Rosa.

April 25, 2011 The New Mexican
The two for-profit firms that run four of New Mexico's 10 prisons often struggle to keep correctional officer jobs filled, state records show. One in five such jobs at a Hobbs facility was vacant for much of the past 15 months, while the prison in Santa Rosa reported a vacancy rate of around 12.5 percent over the same period, according to the records. By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two firms that operate the facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. It's a threshold that appears to have been crossed multiple times at all four prisons since January 2010. The vacancy rate at Hobbs topped the 10-percent threshold in each of the 14 months for which data was available between January 2010 and March of this year. Meanwhile, the 10-percent threshold was topped nine times over that period at Santa Rosa and six times at a Clayton facility. Like the Hobbs facility, both are run by GEO. A CCA-operated prison in Grants topped the 10 percent rate four times over the same period. Whether to penalize the out-of-state, for-profit firms is an issue that has come up before. The question surfaced last year when state lawmakers were struggling to find ways to close a yawning state budget gap. At the time, the Legislature's budget arm, the Legislative Finance Committee, estimated Gov. Bill Richardson's administration had skipped $18 million in penalties against the two firms. One powerful lawmaker said Monday the issue is still important and the Legislature shouldn't lose sight of it. "We'd like to follow up and perhaps do a performance group review on the private prison operators to see whether they are making excessive profits," Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, said of the Legislative Finance Committee. Varela, the committee chairman, said he can accept a reasonable return for the prison operators, but high vacancy rates at prisons operated by the firms raise questions about how state dollars are being spent to operate the facilities. Determining whether the companies should be penalized for high vacancy rates is an involved process, a Corrections Department spokesman said. GEO and CCA might have asked corrections officers already on the job to work overtime to address the staffing situation. If they did, the department "cannot in good faith consider that position to be vacant," spokesman Shannon McReynolds wrote in an email. But the state doesn't know whether that happened. That would require going through shift rosters at each privately operated facility, McReynolds said in a follow-up phone interview. "That will take a decision from the administration," McReynolds said, referring to new Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez. "We do not have specifics on overtime. Every once in awhile we'll hear a particular facility has spent a lot on overtime." Because of sporadic record-keeping at the facilities GEO and CCA operate, the state corrections agency couldn't verify last year how often the two firms violated the vacancy-rate provision in their contracts, if at all. As a result, the agency couldn't corroborate or refute the Legislative Finance Committee's estimate of uncollected penalties. Joe Williams, then-corrections secretary, decided not to pursue penalizing the two companies, saying GEO and CCA were making a good-faith effort to keep the facilities staffed. The contracts give the corrections secretary discretion to waive the penalties. If Lupe Martinez, the new corrections secretary, decides to collect penalties, it would be only for January 2011 and onward, McReynolds said. Gov. Susana Martinez took power in January and soon afterward appointed Lupe Martinez, no relation, as her corrections secretary. According to state records, of the four privately operated prisons, Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs has struggled the most to keep correctional officers on the job. The facility's vacancy rate hovered above 20 percent for 12 of the 14 months for which there was data between January 2010 and March of this year. That includes seven consecutive months — September 2010 through March — when the vacancy rate was 25.24 percent, records show. GEO-run Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa reported a 16.93 percent vacancy rate last July, a high point. The vacancy rate has hovered below 10 percent in five of the last seven months. Another GEO-run facility, the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton, showed a similar trend, reporting vacancy rates higher than 10 percent for six of the seven months for which data was available between January and August 2010. Data for July 2010 was missing. As in Santa Rosa, the Clayton facility's vacancy rate has dropped in recent months. The state's fourth privately operated prison, CCA-run New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, reported a vacancy rate above 10 percent four times from January 2010 to July 2010, with a 16.47 percent vacancy rate reported in July. The state corrections agency did not have data for August 2010 to March 2011.

September 10, 2010 New Mexico Independent
The state appears to have been within its rights last year to repeatedly penalize two private prison operators for letting their vacancy rates hover above a 10 percent trigger in their contracts, state records show. By contract New Mexico can levy penalties against the two firms – GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) — when staffing vacancies at the facilities they manage in Hobbs, Grants, Clayton and Santa Rosa stay at 10 percent or more for 30-consecutive days. Staffing levels at three of the four privately operated facilities hovered above 10 percent for much of last year, state records show. As for the fourth facility, the vacancy rate was above the 10 percent trigger in six of the 13 months the state records covered. Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who worked for GEO before Gov. Bill Richardson tapped him as corrections secretary, told The Independent last week the state had never penalized GEO or CCA despite vacancy rates repeatedly topping the 10 percent trigger. He had the discretion to decide whether to penalize the firms or not, and he had decided against it, Williams said. The firms were doing a good job of managing the prisons, he added. Some state lawmakers are wondering why Williams never assessed the penalties. Some believe the never-assessed penalties could amount to millions of dollars. State records show that vacancies at GEO-operated Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa were above the 10 percent threshold in 11 of the13 months between July 2009 to July 2010; 10 of the 13 months at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs; and nine of the 13 months at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants. The vacancy rate at the GEO-run Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility eclipsed the 10 percent rate in six of the 13 months covered by the time period shown in the records, state records show. The agency on Friday reiterated Williams’ discretion in deciding whether to penalize the companies or not. “The contract clauses that deal with vacancy rates gives sole discretion to NMCD so that they may penalize the private prisons,” read an e-mail to The Independent after we had sent questions related to the vacancy rates from July 2009 to July 2010. “The penalties are not mandatory and are decided by the department,” the e-mail continued. “Secretary Williams will be presenting the reasons to why he has not penalized the vendors to the Legislative Finance Committee in an upcoming hearing. The department welcomes you to attend the committee hearing.”

June 17, 2009 New Mexico Independent
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is suing a privately-run prison in Clayton for imposing cruel and unusual punishment, charging that in December, 2008, prison guards kept seven nude or semi-nude prisoners locked in a cold shower room for hours after a prison lockdown ended. The suit, filed today in federal court, claims that prison guards at the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility teased and taunted the prisoners and a female guard videotaped the naked men. After the two-hour lockdown ended, employees told the inmates that they couldn’t find the key to the shower room door, so the inmates were given the option of crawling through a filthy cinderblock hole in the shower room wall or waiting for guards to find the key. Several prisoners developed skin conditions after the incident and were denied treatment, the lawsuit charges. The director of corporate relations for the GEO Group, which manages the prison, declined to comment on the lawsuit, writing in an e-mail: ”As a matter of policy, our company does not comment on litigation related matters.” “New Mexico has one of the largest percentage of inmates housed in privately-run prison facilities in the country,” Bryan J. Davis, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico, said in a press release. “These prisons go up, the employees don’t receive adequate training, and the inmates suffer the consequences. It’s irresponsible on the part of the private prison companies and the state that contracts with them.” The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the GEO Group and several employees.

July 12, 2008 Santa Fe New Mexican
When the doors swing open on the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility next month, inmates will file in, new employees will start collecting paychecks and a tiny corner of the state will become its own small economic engine. The opening marks another milestone as well. Once Clayton is online, the number of inmates living in the state's privately run prisons will almost match the number living in state-run slammers. To be exact: 46.5 percent of male inmates will be in prisons run by private companies. The other 53.5 percent will be in state-run prisons. One hundred percent of female inmates will be in private facilities. If the number of criminals behind private bars seems big, it is: New Mexico has the highest rate of private prison use in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Indeed, the prison near the Rabbit Ear Mountains in Clayton, just shy of the border with Oklahoma and Texas in northeastern New Mexico, caps a major shift in state policy over the past three decades of housing an increasing number of criminals in privately run prisons. Since 1980, the year a deadly prison riot made awful headlines for the state, the number of inmates has increased 440 percent. Including Clayton, the number of prisons has gone from one to 11, a figure that doesn't include Camino Nuevo, a privately operated prison that has opened and closed since then. And questions about whether privatizing was the best choice have mounted. As the state's inmate population grew, so did lawmakers' interest in private prisons, seen by proponents as a way to save money and outsource some of the state's toughest jobs. Ten years ago, the state had only two privately run prisons — the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, open since 1989, and the Hobbs prison, which opened in 1998. Now, when Clayton opens, it will have five, spread out around the state. The change in inmate-management policy didn't happen overnight, and hasn't happened without controversy. It also couldn't have happened without two New Mexico governors, most notably former Gov. Gary Johnson, who kicked off the privatization push, and Gov. Bill Richardson, who has kept the trend alive. It was under Johnson's watch that the 1,200-bed lockup in Hobbs opened in 1998. A year later came the 600-bed Santa Rosa prison. Both are run by The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut. Those weren't good times; both facilities suffered deadly confrontations. Three inmates were killed in Hobbs and a prison guard was murdered in a riot in Santa Rosa in less than a year. Before that, an inmate in Santa Rosa died after he was beaten with a laundry bag full of rocks. New Mexico hadn't seen so much prison violence since the 1980 riot at the state penitentiary, where 33 people died. No new state prisons? When Richardson ran for office in 2002, he pledged there would be no new state prisons built on his watch. "The governor said he would not build new state prisons, and he has not done so," spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in a statement to The New Mexican. "All of the capital money that would have been used for new state prisons has instead been invested in new schools, modernizing highways and updating infrastructure in communities across the state." Still, since he's been governor, 240 beds have been added to the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility near Santa Rosa, run by The GEO Group. The Camino Nuevo Correctional Center in Albuquerque, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, opened in 2006. In 2007 came the 234-bed, minimum-security Springer Correctional Center, which is run by the state. And then came Clayton. The town of Clayton is paying to build the facility, which will house 625 inmates, nearly all of them state prisoners. The town is using $63 million in revenue bonds to finance the project. Clayton officials have welcomed the prison — and its jobs — as a major source of economic activity in the outpost of about 2,500. Critics, however, say the lockup is essentially a state prison. "I guess it's a debate in semantics, but it's holding state prisoners," said Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "I guess the governor gets a certain amount of satisfaction in saying the state didn't build it, but from a functional point of view, the state might as well have built it," he said. Gallegos said that's not the case. "Of course it's not a state prison. The town of Clayton and GEO can house county or federal inmates," he said. "Beds were available for medium-security inmates, and the Corrections Department chose to take advantage of the new facility for some of its inmates." Of the 625 beds, 600 will be used for state prisoners. Others suggest Richardson chose to support the Clayton project to curry favor in the heavily Republican Union County. "We could have added a wing or pods to other facilities that could have been expanded," said Senate Minority Whip Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces. Adding on to places such as Santa Rosa or Hobbs would have been cheaper and quicker than building a new prison, he added. "But the governor decided he wanted to build in Clayton for political purposes. We can say it's good economic development, but I don't think it was the best choice for the public," he said. The Governor's Office denied that, saying Richardson "already had great relationships with Democrats and Republicans in Clayton." And, Corrections Department Secretary Joe Williams said, building the Clayton prison was "absolutely the right decision." "When we signed those agreements, we were operating at well over 100 percent capacity," he said. "We were busting at the seams when we did that." In the past two years, however, the state's prison population has dropped 6.6 percent, a recent report found. Williams said even though population projections are now much lower than they were when talk of Clayton first surfaced, the state still needs the facility, particularly because it will provide beds for medium-custody, or level 3, inmates. "That's where we need the bed space, and that's what Clayton will provide us," he said. Inmates from a variety of facilities will be moved to Clayton, which is expected to be full within 60 days of opening. Questions about Clayton -- As it gets ready to open, there are other questions about the cost of building the new prison. A review done for the Legislative Finance Committee in 2007 found that the prison's actual cost will be much higher than the construction costs, which at the time of the report were estimated to be $61 million. Over twenty years, the state will pay $132 million in construction and finance charges, but will not own the building, according to the report. As part of the $95.33 per diem the state will pay to house inmates in the new prison, $27.81 will go to pay construction costs. The high cost of building private prisons has left some lawmakers concerned about whether the state can afford to keep so many inmates there. Williams said a big part of the reason the building cost was so high was because construction costs have gone way up. "You look at the cost of a gallon of gas and then you look at the cost of a new prison bed, and everything is going to have its increases and it is inflationary," he said. Williams also pointed out that the cost of labor has gone up since prisons were built 10 years ago in Hobbs and Santa Rosa. Other lawmakers have a philosophical opposition to the opening of the Clayton prison, and to private prisons in general, saying it's the job of the government, not corporations, to house prisoners. "I don't believe it's the right way, I don't think they should be for profit," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen. Sanchez said prisons are the state's responsibility. "Hopefully Clayton will be the last one," he said. An inmate drought? It's unclear, however, when the state will need another new prison. The state was expected to run out of bed space in August of 2011 for males and in March of 2012 for females, but that's no longer the case. The most recent projections show the state is expected to run out of space in 2017 for men and in 2015 for women. The department warns, however, that those projections are subject to change. "Our projections totally changed from last year to this year where we were on a spike up, and now we're growing but at a much smaller pace," Williams said. While it has dropped off recently, the population is expected to grow by about 1.4 percent in the coming years. "We're in a great state as far as corrections go for the first time in many, many years, I think," he said. "I think we're in a position a lot of states wish they were. We have room and capacity to grow." So why is the prison population — long on the increase — now decreasing? A recent report by the New Mexico Sentencing Commission shows the state's prison population has dropped for several reasons. The study, released last week, said one reason is a Corrections Department policy that is increasingly imposing sanctions other than prison for technical parole violations such as missing a counseling session. The study also said a 2006 state law that allows the department to let nonviolent inmates earn time off during the first 60 days of their stay is leading to some inmates getting out of prison sooner. Previously, inmates had to wait to start earning time. It also said felony drug courts were playing a role. The state now has 31, and the report says that although the courts are not a diversion option for prison, they may indirectly keep offenders from being rearrested and going to prison. The courts provide treatment, mandatory drug testing and judicial oversight, among other things. But if the projections are now lower than they have been, that might be a good thing for the Corrections Department. When it did its report, the LFC found the department wasn't ready for projected growth. "The department lacks active long-term planning to accommodate inmate growth, leading to a disjointed approach to acquiring bed space that proves costly," according to the report. The committee asked the department to put together a 10-year plan, which it has. But, Williams said, the plan was outdated almost as soon as it was written. "I didn't like 10-year plans because things are ever-changing in the department, projections, forecasts," he said. "It's hard enough to predict year to year or two years." Williams also pointed out that there are advantages to having some space available in the state's prisons. The state now has enough room — and the cash — to refurbish some cells at the state penitentiary and Western New Mexico Correctional Facility, work that has been a long time coming, he said. In addition, Williams said the state is considering implementing recent recommendations of a prison reform task force appointed by Richardson. "The plan is hopefully this prison reform might change the way we do business forever," he said. "If we are diverting people into drug courts and mental health courts and our re-entry initiatives are successful, it could be a while before we see a new prison."

September 26, 2006 Yahoo.com
The GEO Group, Inc. (NYSE: GEO - News; "GEO") announced today that GEO, the New Mexico Corrections Department ("NMCD"), and the Town of Clayton, New Mexico (the "Town") have signed agreements for the construction and operation of the 625-bed Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility (the "Facility") to be located in Clayton, New Mexico. The Facility will house medium security offenders for the State of New Mexico under an Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the Town and NMCD. GEO will design and build the 625-bed Facility, which will be financed through the sale of project revenue bonds sponsored by the Town and underwritten by Citigroup. Upon its expected completion in the first quarter of 2008, GEO will assume management of the Facility under its contract with the Town for an initial term of five years with five one-year renewal option periods. Once the Facility is completed, GEO's operating contract is expected to generate approximately $11.0 million in annual operating revenues.

July 9, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE— The city of Clayton's proposal to build a privately run prison with room for 600 medium-security inmates is running into legal questions from state lawmakers.  Legislators want to know whether the city's plan requires the Legislature's approval and whether it should be subjected to terms of the state's Procurement Code.  The prison would provide an economic boost for Clayton in the form of roughly 200 corrections jobs. It would help the state, which Clayton hopes would lease room in the lock-up, with much-needed new prison space.  But three lawmakers this week asked Attorney General Patricia Madrid for a legal opinion on the plan.  The request for the opinion came from the leaders of the Legislative Finance Committee and the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee.  It was signed by Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, a Santa Fe Democrat and LFC chairman, and the co-chairmen of the corrections committee— Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces.  Varela acknowledged the state's need for more prison beds and said he was sympathetic with the aim of stimulating the northeastern New Mexico economy.  But Varela said legislators have several legal questions about the plan.  "We're looking at the entire issue of whether or not it is legal for them to build," Varela said.

Otero County Processing Center
Otero County, New Mexico
MTC

January 23, 2011 KASA
A report from the American Civil Liberties Union says a southern New Mexico center that holds immigrants for possible deportation needs to improve how it treats them. Immigrants interviewed by the ACLU at the federal immigration detention center in Otero County complained about prolonged detention, inadequate food, medical services and legal resources, according to an Albuquerque Journal copyright story published Sunday. The 1,084-bed Otero County Processing Center houses immigrants who face deportation proceedings. Many were taken into custody from the interior of the United States. They typically have not been charged with crimes other than immigration offenses. Illegal immigrants charged with federal criminal offenses usually are deported after completing their sentences, but those imprisoned for state charges can end up at the facility. Detentions there average about 30 days, but can be longer for those who fight deportation. The ACLU's report said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials responded swiftly and appropriately in several cases, including a request to dim lighting in the solitary unit, where bright lights were on 24 hours a day. Many detainees said, however, they were threatened with solitary confinement if they filed complaints. The report also said that when they are filed, some "reported never even receiving a response to their grievance." The processing center, financed by Otero County, is operated by the private Utah-based Management and Training Corp., under contract with ICE. The facility, with 20 dormitories of 50 beds and a more secure unit of 84 beds, houses an average of 890 detainees. The ACLU received complaints about conditions at the Otero County facility from more than 200 detainees since 2008. The report also is based on 42 interviews with those housed there from fall 2009 through June 2010. An MTC spokesman referred questions to a Texas-based spokeswoman for ICE, Leticia Zamarripa. "ICE carefully considers the recommendations offered to further improve its operations," she said. Detainees also complained about restrictive policies, such as short weekly visits from family and outdoor recreation to an enclosed, concrete courtyard with only a view of the sky. One detainee reported vomiting repeatedly and suffering acute stomach pains for two or three days before the clinical staff gave him ibuprofen and an antacid. He later was hospitalized for three weeks.

Regional Correctional Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico
GEO Group (bought Cornell Corrections
)
April 4, 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Raw sewage bubbled up around inmates' ankles six or seven times last month at the Regional Correctional Center prison Downtown, an inmate said in a written declaration presented to the federal judge overseeing a long-running prison conditions lawsuit Thursday. Inmate William Clark said "liquid containing feces came out of the shower drains" and toilets in Unit 1 South, standing two inches deep in some areas. The liquid and solids couldn't be flushed back down, causing inmates in their cells to get headaches and become nauseated, especially when they were on lockdown. The prison is currently operated by the Geo Group under contract with the county, which has a contract with the federal government and is scheduled to be shut down by April 30. The prison owns a machine it uses to remove liquid from floors, but inmates were instead forced to use mops and buckets, Clark's sworn statement says, because they weren't trained on the machine. Using that method took hours, in part because the correctional center shut off water during the flooding, the statement says. "On one occasion," it says, "we had to pour the contents of the buckets we had filled onto the floors of empty cells in 1 South because we had nowhere else to put the liquid and feces." Declarations by Clark and Keith Millhouse were submitted to Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker as inmate attorneys in the conditions lawsuit known as the McClendon case were pressing the court to allow them access to the Regional Correctional Center. Inmate lawyers have said that they should have been able to speak in person with their clients while the county appealed an adverse ruling by the previous judge in the case over the last two years, but they have been barred from the facility. Lawyer Mark Donatelli said that transitional periods such as the current progressive shutdown are dangerous periods in any prison because the guards' employment situation means they don't always show up for work, and mingling of different classes of inmates creates tension. Parker said he would be willing to accompany lawyers for both sides on a tour of the facility to assess current conditions. Marcus Rael, one of the lawyers representing the county in the litigation, said that, because Geo Group is operating the jail, inmate lawyers need to get in touch with Geo lawyers to assess conditions. Millhouse's declaration describes raw sewage in his pod over five consecutive days in March, standing four to six inches deep.

February 4, 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Bernalillo County officials are considering getting out of the business of housing federal inmates at the old Downtown jail, known as the Regional Corrections Center. A County Commission vote is scheduled for Tuesday that would terminate 2004 and 2005 agreements between the county and the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee. The latter agreement expires in March. The county owns the building at 4th and Roma NW. It receives about $1.5 million a year under a lease agreement with GEO Group Inc., a Florida-based private prison company that runs the corrections center. More than 500 U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and federal Bureau of Prisons inmates are housed at the center, officials said. "We're evaluating whether we're in a position anymore to lease that building out for federal prisoners," said Deputy County Manager Tom Swisstack. "We aren't sure it benefits the county anymore to have that facility hanging over our head." U.S. Marshal Conrad Candelaria said marshal's service prisoners would be transferred to other facilities in the state if the county shuts down the RCC. It is unclear how many GEO Group employees work at the RCC. The facility's warden did not return a telephone call. The vote on whether to pull out of the agreements comes less than a month after setback for the county in the so-called "McClendon" case — a federal civil rights lawsuit over inmate conditions at the Downtown jail and the county's massive Metropolitan Detention Center on the far West Mesa that has dragged on nearly 16 years. In the ruling, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal from the county, which has been seeking to keep intact a settlement agreement over jail conditions reached in 2005. The agreement settling the lawsuit specified that it only applied to the MDC, not the Downtown jail, which was renamed the Regional Correction Center. But the judge then presiding over the lawsuit ruled in 2009 that county officials had so misrepresented the county's role in running the old Downtown jail — which it had leased to a private operator — that parties should be allowed out of the deal, and she withdrew her approval of the settlement.

July 3, 2008 New York Times
The federal immigration agency should report all deaths in detention promptly, not only to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, but also to state authorities where required by law, the inspector general has recommended after a “special review” of the deaths of two immigrant detainees. The detainees — a 60-year-old South Korean woman in Albuquerque and a 30-year-old Ecuadorean woman in St. Paul — were among dozens whose deaths in the custody of the agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have drawn scrutiny in the past year. Congress, advocates for immigrants and the news media have highlighted the lack of systematic accountability in such cases, and documented problems with the medical care provided in the detention system, a patchwork of county jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities. Both detainees died because of serious medical conditions that existed before they were detained. But the review found that the cases pointed to larger problems with oversight and medical care, including the failure to recognize or act on serious health care deficiencies in both detention centers that had been documented by routine inspections. The 55-page report, released Tuesday, did not name the two detainees, but one was Young Sook Kim, a cook who died of metastasized pancreatic cancer on Sept. 11, 2006, a day after she was taken to a hospital from the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque, a county prison operated by the Cornell Companies. A complaint to the inspector general’s hot line, testimony by a former employee, and an affidavit from a fellow detainee all contended that Ms. Kim had pleaded in vain for medical attention. The review found that it was already too late to save her life, and that Cornell clinical records showed the staff had responded to her written medical requests — albeit only by giving her antacid tablets when she complained of stomach pain. But the review confirmed complaints that Cornell was slow to deal with sick calls because of a nursing shortage: a government inspection in September 2006 found ailing detainees had to wait for as long as 30 days to see the medical staff. That inspection, by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, also found that only 11 of 20 detainees with chronic conditions were regularly scheduled for chronic care clinics, and that its policies did not fulfill requirements to notify the Homeland Security Department — the system’s parent agency — or the Justice Department of deaths. Ms. Kim’s death was not reported, as required, to state medical investigators. The immigration agency initially maintained that the county should have reported the death, but on Wednesday, a spokeswoman, Kelly Nantel, said that “as a result of the report,” the agency has directed that all deaths be reported to the appropriate state and federal authorities. The report also urged the immigration agency to pool information with the detention trustee. In September 2006, it noted, trustee inspectors gave the Albuquerque prison the lowest overall rating, “at risk” — two levels below acceptable. But because the two agencies do not routinely share information, the report said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed some 3,500 more detainees at the facility. Last August, the immigration agency removed all detainees after its inspectors found a host of other problems, including an inadequate suicide watch. The Minnesota case involved Maria Inamagua Merchan, a department store worker who was detained in the Ramsey County jail and died in April 2006. For more than a month, her persistent headaches had been treated only with Tylenol; when she fell from a bunk bed, several hours passed before she was taken to the hospital, where physicians diagnosed neurocysticercosis, an infection of the brain by larvae of the pork tapeworm. “We cannot determine with certainty whether this death could have been avoided had the detainee received immediate medical attention for head trauma,” the report said, after praising the authorities for promptly reporting the incident and for notifying the Consulate of Ecuador and the detainee’s spouse. But it recommended better medical screening and education about the parasite, which is endemic in parts of Latin America.

April 1, 2008 The New Mexican
More than eight months after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed 600 detainees from an Albuquerque jail, they say they won't house immigrants there again. The federal immigration agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, says it has enough space elsewhere for detainees arrested in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas. A majority of the immigrants who would have gone to the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque will be housed in El Paso, said Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokeswoman. The agency also can house detainees at other regional facilities if it needs to, including a to- be-opened immigrant processing center in Otero County. The move means family members of immigrants who are detained will have to travel farther to visit their relatives. "Certainly having them far away is going to be incredibly difficult for families," said Marcela Díaz, director of the Santa Fe immigrant- advocate group Somos Un Pueblo Unido. ICE was housing hundreds of detainees awaiting deportation at the RCC. That facility faced allegations by immigrant lawyers — and criticism by a federal judge — of subpar conditions. Complaints included sweltering heat inside, frozen food and poor medical attention. After the agency yanked all of its inmates last summer, an ICE official said he had "serious doubts" about the ability of Cornell Cos. Inc., which runs the jail, to provide a safe environment for detainees.

March 7, 2008 Market Watch
Cornell Companies, Inc. announced today that the Company has been informed that the federal agency which currently holds the contract in effect for use of the Regional Correctional Center (RCC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico intends to unilaterally reduce use of the facility. The modification is intended to continue use of RCC by the U.S. Marshals Service but eliminate any future use by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. Cornell, which leases RCC from Bernalillo County, believes that the attempted unilateral reduction of guaranteed bed-days does not comply with the terms of the contract and will be exploring the legal and financial implications with that in mind in the coming days. Bernalillo County owns RCC and holds the contract directly with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT). The unilateral notice indicated an intention to reduce the total guaranteed bed-days annually from 182,500 to 66,300 effective February 26, 2008. James E. Hyman, Cornell's Chairman, President and CEO said, "We are disappointed that ICE has decided not to use the RCC, as we have made an enormous effort over the past year to address all concerns that they, other customers, and other constituencies, brought to our attention. Should ICE decide in the future that their needs have changed, we would welcome them back. We remain committed to serving the needs of the U.S. Marshals Service and to providing space to other potential customers as they arise. We also are reviewing Cornell's and the county's legal rights under the contract." OFDT has stated that the Marshals Service will continue to use the facility at generally the current level, which since the third quarter of 2007 has fluctuated between 170 and 200 detainees. Cornell also continues to actively market the facility to other customers.

December 27, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
Calvin Morton started making changes in his new job as warden at the Regional Correctional Center right at the front door - literally. Since taking over as the head of the Downtown jail in early October, Morton has boosted security, starting with the lockup's entrance. All staff members and visitors now face increased scrutiny as they go through metal detectors, he said. "We've directed them to put all their items in a clear container if possible. If not in a clear container, we would be looking into their briefcases or whatever they are bringing in, lunchboxes or whatever the case might be to examine those and make sure there is no contraband in it," Morton said. The change is one of several that Morton, who has worked in corrections for more than three decades, is bringing to the jail at a key point in the facility's history. The jail at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest is looking to regain about 700 detainees of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency - clients it lost this summer. "We have a lot of empty beds here," Morton said. "We're looking at contracts we might be able to get into our facility to fill those beds." This summer, ICE pulled all of its detainees from the lockup. The agency has mostly been mum about why, but an internal review turned up problems including deficiencies in medical care, contraband in the jail and a lack of complete emergency plans. About 180 detainees of the U.S. Marshals Office remain at the jail, which can hold nearly 1,000 people. Between January and August of this year, inmates filed 218 complaints about conditions in the jail. As Cornell struggled to improve the facility, 19 employees were fired. And because it lost so many detainees, the Houston-based company laid off another 96 employees. Eighty-six staff-members remain.

November 1, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
Cornell Cos. Inc. is betting federal immigration detainees will return to the Regional Correctional Center, Bernalillo County's Downtown jail. So far, the bet is costing the company money. Because it has kept more employees than it needs for the 200 or so detainees left at the jail, Cornell's employee costs are higher than expected, and have forced the company to lower its projected fourth-quarter earnings. The company laid off about 100 employees in September after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency pulled 600 inmates from the lockup this summer. Cornell CEO and Chairman James Hyman in a written statement said fourth-quarter earnings are likely to slide 6 cents per share, to about 30 to 33 cents. Despite the projected decrease - also due in part to Cornell's slower than expected intake of new inmates at an Oklahoma prison it runs - the company chose to keep the extra staff in case ICE decides to move detainees back to the jail at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest. "There is more staff there than would be needed for 180 or so (U.S.) Marshals (Service) detainees who are there, so that if ICE chose to bring people back on short notice, we are prepared," Cornell spokesman Charles Seigel said. Seigel declined to talk about staffing levels, including how many people work there now. He also declined to say how many inmates the jail could take in before more employees would need to be hired. "Those are internal (numbers), and we prefer not to talk about that," he said. ICE officials have said the agency has no immediate plans to return to the facility, and the federal government is reviewing operations at the jail, which has come under scrutiny by inmates' attorneys for its physical conditions and health care. Meanwhile, Cornell has said it is looking for other customers for the 970-bed jail. An ICE spokeswoman didn't return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Apart from layoffs, the company has also fired employees. Documents obtained by The Tribune show 19 people were fired in the seven months before and after ICE's removal of detainees. During the same time period, inmates filed 218 grievances. The company had been predicting fourth-quarter earnings between 36 and 39 cents a diluted share. Hyman, in a news release Tuesday, said the company expects earnings to drop about 6 cents a share. The stock was trading at $24.80 a share Wednesday. The stock's two-week high was $27.76. However, the company is expecting revenues for the first quarter of 2008 to increase because of an agreement governing the Regional Correctional Center under which the federal government guarantees payment for 500 beds. Kevin Campbell, a senior analyst at Avondale Partners LLC in Nashville, Tenn., said the new earnings predictions are based on short-term situations, adding the earnings dip is likely only temporary. "Given the lack of supply of beds in the industry and strong demands from various federal agencies, it's likely Cornell will fill those beds with a customer," he said.

October 2, 2007 AP
Albuquerque authorities say a 40-year-old man in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service was found dead in his cell at the Regional Correctional Center. The inmate was found hanging by a noose made of bed sheets, less than 15 minutes after a routine check on him. That word from Charles Seigel, who is a spokesman for Cornell Companies Incorporated. Cornell runs the lockup in downtown Albuquerque. Seigel says the company is investigating. The inmate’s name was not immediately released. Cornell has been criticized about conditions at the jail. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this year pulled 600 detainees from the jail over safety and other concerns.

September 25, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
In the seven months surrounding the removal of almost 700 detainees from the Regional Correctional Center this summer, 19 jail employees were fired, inmates filed 218 grievances, and drugs and other contraband were routinely discovered. Documents obtained by The Tribune also show jail officials had reported five incidents they listed in a high-importance category - including the discovery of three bundles of marijuana on an inmate and a broom-handle assault by a detainee on a correctional officer. The documents may indicate why the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency removed all its detainees from the Downtown jail and has since said it won't be returning them in the foreseeable future. In several interviews during the past few months, officials with the federal agency have been nearly mum on what may be wrong at the jail, saying only that they pulled people from the facility after several "serious incidents." They also noted the jail was found to be deficient in two of its detention standards. A immigration agency spokeswoman didn't return a call seeking comment Monday. Representatives from Cornell Cos., which runs the lockup at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest, have said they've fixed the problems the agency had with the jail, but they still don't know why it left. "The reasons ICE left may or not be found in documents or specific numbers," Cornell spokesman Charles Seigel said. "It may simply be a feeling, which they have expressed." As for the five incidents marked in the high-importance category, Seigel said they weren't serious enough to reach the company's highest-importance level, but Cornell takes them seriously nonetheless. The jail, which has a capacity of close to 1,000, now holds fewer than 200 inmates in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Bernalillo County, which owns the building, had also been using the jail for inmates it couldn't fit at the Metropolitan Detention Center on the city's West Side but stopped that in late July. The reported incidents are common in most jails in the country, said Seigel. "Every facility in the country, whatever the detention level . . . has issues of unruly people who break the rules by trying to bring in contraband," he said.

September 13, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials pulled all their detainees from a privately run jail in Downtown Albuquerque because of critical concerns about management, a federal official says. A number of "serious events" in recent months raised concerns about the Regional Correctional Center run by Cornell Cos. Inc., said Gary Mead, assistant director for detention and removal operations for ICE in Washington. Mead declined to give specifics about the events, saying they are still under investigation. "We have serious doubts about their (Cornell's) ability to provide the safe and humane environment we want for our detainees. That's the reason we are not there," Mead said in an interview Wednesday. Until now, ICE had said little about its reasons for removing about 600 detainees from the jail in July. ICE previously had cited two detention standards it said the facility wasn't meeting, things Cornell said it had fixed. "While there were issues with the standards in terms of food service and clothing and temperature and things like that, our reasons for taking people out are really much more fundamental than that," Mead said. "We just have serious doubts about Cornell at the facility." Mead said he's met several times with Cornell officials since June 25, including a meeting at the jail at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest. Mead said the immigration agency had concerns about the jail before Chief U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez of Albuquerque sent a letter to Cornell's chief executive officer. Mead said Vazquez's letter in late June only intensified his agency's attention to complaints about conditions at the lockup. "The Cornell officials basically told us that many of the judge's concerns were unfounded, or were corrected or were in the process of being corrected," Mead said. "They told us not to worry; they were in full control of the facility." But, he said, "There have been a number of incidents at the facility that caused us to seriously question Cornell's ability to safely and humanely detain our (undocumented immigrants) there." In her letter, Vazquez said she was worried about medical care, physical conditions and nutrition at the lockup. She recounted stories inmates told her during visits this summer to the jail about missing property, and allegations of sexual misconduct and of inmates who were punished for speaking out. Federal authorities are also investigating the death of a Korean woman who died at an Albuquerque hospital while in the jail's custody last year. The woman's repeated requests for medical attention were ignored, according to lawyers familiar with the case. Cornell spokesman Charles Seigel said the company has worked to address the agency's concerns and would like to know what it can still do to appease the immigration agency. "We hear from them all the time about the past history they don't like," he said. "All we would like to hear is a specific list of things to do to make them happy, because all we hear about is past history. What we don't hear from that is what we need to do to resolve their concerns and make it a facility they can bring people back to." As for the serious incidents Mead mentioned, Seigel also refused to give details. "There are things that have happened in the past that we have addressed with ICE. We've been told everything is fine, and we've dealt with ICE," he said. Seigel said Cornell is more than willing to do what it takes to have ICE as a client again. At the same time, the company is looking for other inmates to fill the jail. "First of all, we know they are the customer, and what their perception is is what matters. There's no point in going back and forth about whether we agree with their concerns. If that's their perception, that's their perception and we'll address it." Before it removed all of its detainees, the immigration agency pulled about half in the hope that Cornell could do a better job with fewer people, Mead said. But that wasn't the case, he said, and the agency later removed everyone it had at the facility, a move Mead described as rare. "On rare occasions, we have left facilities in the past, but it's very rare for us to do it," he said. "This was serious enough in our mind that it warranted that." ICE, which has about 30,000 detainees at 300 to 350 facilities around the country, only rarely has pulled inmates, Mead said. Albuquerque is the only place ICE is contracting with Cornell, Seigel said. Although it doesn't have anyone at the Downtown jail, ICE still has a contract with Cornell and could, at a later date, decide to return detainees. "We haven't terminated our relations with them," Mead said. "We're still evaluating that situation; we just don't have a date for that at this point," Cornell has run the former Bernalillo County Detention Center since 2003. The facility is still owned by the county, which receives about $1.5 million a year in rent from Cornell. Without ICE as a tenant, Cornell earlier this week cut 82 of 185 employee positions at the jail. Fewer than 200 inmates remain at the jail, in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

September 10, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
After more than a month without its main client sending detainees to its jail in Downtown Albuquerque, Cornell Companies Inc. this morning cut 82 of 185 jobs at the jail. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which had housed about 600 people at the Regional Correctional Center, in late July yanked its inmates, saying the facility didn't meet two detention standards. Since then, the company has worked to address the concerns but has heard little on ICE's plans, said Cornell spokesman Charles Seigel. "They have not indicated whether or when or if they plan to be back," Seigel said this morning. The company is looking for other clients. An ICE spokeswoman this morning had no update on the agency's plans. The layoffs affected 82 of the 185 positions at the facility, and mostly included correctional officers. It was unclear how many people were laid off, as some positions were vacant, Seigel said. Bernalillo County Public Safety Director John Dantis said the county would work to recruit officers for its Metropolitan Detention Center. At the same time, the county is interested in possibly housing inmates again in the jail, which it owns and leases to Cornell. The Houston-based private prison company pays the county more than $1 million in rent each year.

August 30, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
For months, allegations of filthy conditions, subpar medical attention and bad food have hung over the Regional Correctional Center in Downtown Albuquerque. On the outside, little seemed to be changing as inmates and lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico repeatedly lodged complaints and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency pulled more than 600 detainees from the jail, run by Cornell Companies Inc. Bernalillo County also pulled its inmates from the facility. But key events - visits by Chief U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez and a letter from a Bernalillo County official warning Cornell that if the allegations were true and the company didn't try to correct them, the county could move to terminate its contract - appear to have sparked big changes. The two groups seem to have settled the differences, with the county in a subsequent letter saying it was satisfied with Cornell's actions and a company spokesman saying things have been worked out. Vazquez, in a letter to Cornell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Hyman, said that from one visit this summer to the next, she saw some big improvements. She outlined her concerns and her findings in documents obtained by The Tribune this week. "The detainees reported that they are now receiving toiletries as well as clean linens and towels and that they are consistently receiving an hour of recreation time each day," Vazquez wrote in a June 22 letter to Hyman. "The black mold was cleaned from the shower in the area where the (U.S. Marshals' Office) women are housed, and the air conditioning appeared to be working in the cell where it was so hot during my last visit." Still, Vazquez had other worries, including detainees who seemed afraid to speak with her a second time. "During my first visit, detainees eagerly approached me to discuss their concerns. I spent hours at the facility, took pages and pages of notes, and left with detainees still lined up to talk to me. The detainees' response to my follow-up visit was dramatically different. The detainees were subdued, some even visibly frightened to be seen speaking to me." Two detainees in the custody of the immigration agency later called Vazquez to say they had been punished for speaking with her, she wrote in the letter. In a written response to the judge, the jail's warden, Brick Tripp, said officials had investigated Vazquez's allegation but couldn't back it up. "Detainees have not been discouraged from or retaliated against for speaking the Chief Judge (sic)," he wrote. Although Vazquez was still troubled by the jail's medical care, its physical condition and behavior by correctional officers, some of her concerns seem to have been addressed after County Manager Thaddeus Lucero on July 30 wrote his warning letter to Cornell. In a letter back to Lucero on Aug. 23, Cornell's senior vice president for the Adult Secure Division, Michael Caltabiano, outlined changes the company has made and said there was no reason to terminate the agreement between the county and Cornell. Under the agreement, Cornell pays the county more than $1 million a year to rent the facility at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest. Under another agreement, federal detainees including from the U.S. Marshals' Office and the immigration agency are housed at the lockup. Currently, fewer than 200 Marshals' detainees remain. "While we acknowledge that there have been some difficulties to overcome relative to RCC operations, and while we appreciate that operational improvements can always be made at any facility, we respectfully maintain that no "event of default" exists under the Operating and Management Agreement," Caltabiano wrote. As part of its response, the Houston company cited changes including a correctional officer who was fired for "using his cell phone to take a profile photo of a female detainee fully clothed." Another officer was temporarily reassigned after he allegedly called an inmate a "black monkey." An investigation by the jail didn't substantiate the allegation, even though a witness independently backed up the assertion. After complaints of clothes not being adequately cleaned, the company also said it had adjusted its laundry services at the jail to wash smaller numbers of clothes at a time and provide inmates with an increased number of undergarments.

August 25, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
The operator of Albuquerque's Downtown jail says it could lay off up to 100 of its 185 employees if the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency doesn't return its detainees to the lockup. The federal agency earlier this month removed more than 600 detainees, saying the facility didn't meet two of its standards. With fewer than 200 inmates in the 970-inmate capacity jail, Cornell says it can't keep everyone employed at the jail at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest. "If we don't hear from them by Sept. 9, we're going to have to lay off a significant portion of our staff," Cornell Cos. Inc. spokesman Charles Seigel said. ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the agency doesn't have a timeline for when it might send inmates back to the jail. Since the agency yanked its inmates, Cornell has worked to improve the jail, Seigel said. Its staff has recently undergone cultural training, needed because the company deals with immigrant detainees from around the world. The immigration agency wouldn't say what standards the jail didn't meet. But The Tribune has learned they dealt with concerns over tool control and adequate recreation for inmates. Seigel said the company has worked to address those issues.

August 11, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
The head of Cornell Companies Inc. says Bernalillo County's Downtown jail wasn't one of the company's "best" as it struggled with management turnover, failed to meet the needs of a federal immigration agency and earlier this month lost the agency as its main customer. Yet the jail was a moneymaker for the company - accounting for $1.7 million of the $2 million second-quarter revenue increase in the company's adult prisons division, another Cornell official said in a teleconference this week with analysts. Concerns about the facility were a top priority during the call. But before Cornell Chairman and CEO James Hyman talked about the revenues, he addressed issues at the lockup, saying they were "on everyone's minds," according to documents obtained by The Tribune. The Regional Correctional Center is mostly empty after Bernalillo County and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency removed more than 700 inmates in recent weeks. Fewer than 200 U.S. Marshals Service detainees remain. During the conference call, Hyman, who visited the center in June, talked about the facility owned by Bernalillo County and run by Cornell. Operating challenges at the jail have stemmed from its "population volatility," Hyman said, adding that the quality and stability of operations at the RCC have improved since 2006. "However," Hyman said, "if we had operated RCC as we do our best facilities, no one would have had any basis for criticism. But we didn't." Over the past nine months, Cornell has revamped the center's leadership, improved staff training and pay rates, and improved operating procedures, he said. In an interview Friday, Hyman said the RCC "clearly has not had the stability of operations that what I would say our better facilities do. In part, your best facilities tend to have very constant, long-term leadership teams, and they can drive the application process and training with the staff." At least four wardens have run the jail since Cornell took control of the lockup at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest in 2004. During the conference call, analysts repeatedly asked questions about the RCC - one of 79 jails Cornell operates in 16 states. In New Mexico, Cornell also manages the Lincoln County Detention Center. In particular, analysts wanted to know what the company is predicting will happen with so few inmates in the Downtown jail, which is designed for 970 inmates. Hyman said the company is "not forecasting when any increase (in jail population) will occur." But Cornell is "actively marketing the vacated beds to other customers in the event that ICE decides not to use the beds we provide," he said. The recent decline in jail population has forced the company to lower its earnings projections for the second half of 2007, he said. Revenues for the adult secure institutional services division - one of three divisions in the company - were $47.8 million in the second quarter. ICE officials have said they won't know when or if they will return prisoners to the RCC until they complete a review of the facility. Spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said Friday it's unclear when the review will be done. During the last review of the jail done by ICE, the immigration agency found that the building didn't meet two of its 38 standards, although agency officials wouldn't say which standards were unmet. In the teleconference, Hyman said the two were in "recreation" and "tool control," but said ICE didn't provide him much detail on those or other reasons the agency pulled out its detainees. "There is no one that has said `This is the reason why' " ICE transferred its prisoners to other facilities, he said. "The problem I've got is (that) I've dissatisfied the customer to the point where they have taken a pretty extreme action. The task we have is to try and address their concerns," Hyman told the analysts. The jail is under scrutiny from federal officials after a Korean immigrant last year died in an Albuquerque hospital while in RCC custody. The lockup also is in the cross hairs of New Mexico inmates' attorneys who are seeking more access to the jail as part of a 12-year-old lawsuit about crowding and health care conditions for Bernalillo County inmates. The attorneys' request for greater access is pending before a federal judge. Both the county and ICE have denied that they transferred inmates out of the RCC because they feared becoming snared in the lawsuit. In a filing in that lawsuit this week, a county attorney wrote that having the lawsuit apply to the Regional Correctional Center would mean that other jails where the county houses inmates when the Metropolitan Detention Center is full would be reluctant to take in their overflow inmates. A county attorney also said "no one should be surprised" if the U.S. Marshals Service pulled out of the RCC, leaving an empty building and no money to pay the rent. The Marshals Service, however, hasn't indicated it will leave the jail, located close to courthouses in the city's center. Cornell pays the county $1.2 million a year to lease the building. The county uses the money to pay the bonds on the Health Services Unit at its Metropolitan Detention Center. The contract between Cornell and ICE is still in place; canceling it would require 180 days of notice, Hyman said in the teleconference. During an interview with The Tribune, Hyman also said Cornell laid off 10 jail employees after ICE removed its inmates. The company "clearly will face another decision at some point" about other staff cutbacks, he said.

August 2, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to pull all of its inmates out of the Regional Correctional Center, a spokesman for the company that runs the Downtown jail said on Aug. 2. "They have told us they are going to take out everybody for some time, at least," said Charles Seigel, a consultant for Cornell Cos. An ICE spokeswoman didn't return calls seeking comment on Aug. 2. Seigel referred questions on how many inmates were being moved and where to ICE. Seigel said ICE still has a contract with Cornell at the jail, owned by Bernalillo County. The jail in the past has housed about 700 ICE detainees, plus about 200 people in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and a handful of Bernalillo County inmates. The county removed its inmates from the jail in June, and ICE on July 27 pulled half its inmates, including all the women and non-criminal immigrants in custody. At the time, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the agency wanted to better use its jail space and was only leaving male criminal immigrants.

July 28, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has yanked hundreds of its inmates from the Regional Correctional Center in Downtown Albuquerque, reducing the jail's population by about a third. The move, which removed all the female inmates and inmates held on non-criminal immigration violations from the jail, is a first since Cornell Corrections Inc. took over the jail about three years ago. The move comes as attorneys in a 12-year-old lawsuit — known as the McClendon case — about jail crowding seek access to the building to monitor living conditions at the facility. ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the lawsuit didn't play a role in the decision to move "at least half" of the ICE inmates. "In an effort to manage ICE's use of bed space, ICE has determined that the agency is only going to use the RCC for male criminal aliens," Zamarripa said. She did not have the exact number of inmates transferred from the jail and moved to other facilities in New Mexico and Texas. The agency in the past has housed about 700 people in the jail and the population frequently fluctuates as immigrants are brought to the RCC and then deported. The move by ICE comes about a month after Bernalillo County removed its inmates from the Regional Correctional Center. The county removed their inmates about one week after a filing in the McClendon lawsuit by inmate attorneys wanting access to the RCC facility. The county contends the lawsuit had nothing to do with the move. "Bernalillo County removed its inmates from the RCC because intermittently we will place overflow inmates there as needed," said county public safety director John Dantis. "At the time, we could manage this group within our facility." It's unclear how many people remain at the jail. A consultant for the company, Charles Seigel, declined to release the current population, but said it's not over capacity. The building is rated to hold 970 people. "On a regular basis, it's more appropriate for the agencies to say how many are in there," he said. The county, ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service house detainees in the facility. The U.S. Marshals Service has just fewer than 200 people in the facility, said Deputy Chief Marshal Carl Caulk. Marc Lowry, an attorney for inmates in the McClendon case, said he was at the jail to visit a client this week and saw 22 people in a receiving and discharge unit marked with an 11-person population sign. "They all had to eat lunch standing up and holding trays," he said. "I don't know why they have to stuff people in there like sardines." The lawsuit filed in 1995 focused on crowding and living conditions including medical care at the jail, which was then the county's main detention facility. Things haven't improved at the Downtown jail since the county built a new jail on the far West Mesa, Lowry said.

July 14, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
A week after lawyers in a jail-crowding lawsuit asked to visit Bernalillo County inmates housed at a privately run Downtown jail, the inmates were ordered out. Lawyers for plaintiffs in the so-called McClendon lawsuit, originally filed against the county in the mid-1990s, asked a federal judge on June 28 to extend McClendon's oversight to the Downtown jail, now known as the Regional Correctional Center. The McClendon lawsuit led to harsh scrutiny and a federally imposed cap on the inmate population at the Downtown jail when it was run by the county prior to 2002. The county, which now houses most of its inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center on the West Side, leases the Downtown facility to Cornell Companies Inc. RCC primarily holds deportees and other federal inmates, though a small number of overflow county inmates have also been held there. As of last month, the county had 43 inmates at RCC. Lawyers had sought to use those inmates to gain greater access to RCC, arguing that the renovated jail remains overcrowded and plagued by problems. But a week after the June 28 motion was filed, no county inmates remained to be visited. "Brick Tripp, the RCC warden, telephoned MDC Director Ronald Torres and told him to remove MDC inmates from RCC," according to documents filed by the county in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on Tuesday. All county inmates had been removed from the jail by July 6, the documents say. Cornell representatives did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon. John Dantis, deputy county manager for public safety, said he didn't see the order to remove the county's inmates as an effort to insulate RCC from McClendon. "They've asked us to remove our inmates before," he said. "They have contracts to hold federal inmates that pay more than we do." RCC has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. Federal authorities are investigating the death of a Korean woman held at the facility last year.

July 10, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
A former detainee at the Regional Correctional Center is suing the private company that runs the Downtown Albuquerque lockup, saying he didn't get adequate medical care after he fractured his jaw playing handball. According to his lawsuit, Robert Delayo hurt himself Jan. 1, 2006, and was taken to the Albuquerque Regional Medical Center, where he received X-rays that showed a fracture. A physician told him he should follow up with an oral surgeon within two or three days. It wasn't until Jan. 27 that Delayo saw an oral surgeon, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque alleges Cornell Companies Inc., a former warden, and the head of the jail's Health Services Center knew about Delayo's condition but "made no effort to obtain adequate and timely medical treatment for Mr. Delayo." The lawsuit also names Bernalillo County, which owns the jail and leases it to Cornell. Public Safety Director John Dantis said it's up to Cornell to handle the claim. "The county's response is that it's a Cornell issue. They are the operators," he said. Charles Seigel, a consultant for Cornell, said the company can't comment on the case, but defended the jail's health care. "We do provide an excellent health program, available to detainees in the facility," he said. One of Delayo's lawyers, Frances Crockett, said she has also heard other concerns about medical treatment at the lockup. "It seems to be an epidemic that's going on around the country, and in part with the RCC, of prisoners not receiving adequate medical care," she said. Delayo's lawsuit says he suffered and continues to suffer extreme physical and mental pain from the injury. It also asks for monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as lawyer's fees. Crockett did not provide details of what led to Delayo's incarceration. Federal court records show Robert Delayo, 43, was indicted in connection with a Jan. 25, 2005, bank robbery of the Wells Fargo Bank at 1800 Eubank Blvd. N.E. He later pleaded guilty to federal charges of use of a firearm during a crime and aiding and abetting. Other attorneys, including some from the American Civil Liberties Union, have collected complaints from detainees about crowding, poor medical care and unsanitary conditions inside the jail. Bernalillo County, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement all have contracts to house detainees inside the facility at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest in Downtown. Cornell officials gave a tour of the jail earlier this month to two reporters, and defended the medical care, calling it "superb." The Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General also has its eye on the jail after a detainee of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in September died at an Albuquerque hospital while in the custody of the RCC. The ACLU has asked the federal government for more information about immigrant detainees who have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The group says 62 have died since 2004 and has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details.

July 4, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
The squat, bald detainee wanted to know who was in charge. Warden Brick Tripp stepped forward to address the detainee's complaint on July 3 about excessive heat in a section of the Regional Correctional Center in Downtown Albuquerque. As staffers worked to keep the building cool in triple-digit temperatures outside, the company that runs the lockup, Cornell Companies Inc., wanted to turn down the heat on a rash of complaints about the jail. Civil and labor-rights attorneys in recent weeks have reported complaints from inmates about poor medical and mental health care, as well as crowded, dirty and uncomfortable conditions. The charges stemmed from investigations that began after an immigrant in custody of the RCC died in September. To respond to the allegations, the jail's warden and other Cornell officials on July 3 talked with reporters and gave a tour of the jail. "We get concerned when we get complaints from anybody, but we believe we provide a safe and secure place for ICE and U.S. Marshals detainees," said George Killinger, managing director of operations for Cornell's adult secure institutions. Overall, officials said they look into the complaints and provide excellent medical care at the facility, which Cornell has operated since 2004. The building formerly was the Bernalillo County Detention Center. It was vacated in December 2002 after the Metropolitan Detention Center was completed on the West Side. Cornell officials said medical personnel make five trips a day to the inmates' living areas. Detainees get medical exams after they arrive, and the facility has passed inspections by the Public Health Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The center has mental health professionals and a chaplain on duty, officials said. They also pointed out $7 million in improvements to the jail paid for by the giant private prisons company in Houston. "We feel we provide superb medical access," Tripp said. The building is owned by Bernalillo County and leased to Cornell for $1.5 million a year. It houses federal inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as some county prisoners. Most of the inmates are ICE detainees, waiting to be deported. Of the 864 people held on July 3, 650 were immigrants. The building is rated to hold 970 prisoners, Killinger said. The tour came as the Department of Homeland Security reviews ICE's detention policies. That job includes determining "whether ICE has maintained adequate oversight of this (the RCC) and other detention facilities, and whether the agency's policies are sufficient to decrease the likelihood of detainee fatalities throughout the county," according to department spokeswoman Tamara Faulkner. The look isn't focused on individual cases, she said, but a broad review of ICE oversight on procedures for providing care and how deaths are reported. The review began after it was revealed a Korean woman died at an Albuquerque hospital Sept. 11 while in the custody of the RCC. The woman repeatedly sought medical attention, according to lawyers familiar with the case. ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said she couldn't comment on the death because it is an ongoing case, but said the agency "immediately reported the death through normal reporting procedures according to national detention standards." Cornell officials declined to comment on the case or to say how many people have died in the jail since they took charge of the RCC. That death and others in the country have the American Civil Liberties Union looking for more information. Last week, the group filed a public records request for details on what it says are the deaths of 62 immigrant detainees since 2004. "We are deeply concerned about this shockingly high number of in-custody deaths in immigration detention," Elizabeth Alexander, director of the group's Prison Project, said in a statement. "It raises serious concerns about about the quality of care provided to ICE detainees in their custody, and it is imperative that information about those deaths be revealed to the public."

June 29, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
For years, Bernalillo County's Downtown detention center was mired in a lawsuit that at times required a population cap imposed by a federal judge, visits by lawyers and lots of public scrutiny. Much of the focus on the jail at Fourth Street and Roma Avenue Northwest subsided in 2002 as the county packed up and moved into a $90 million slammer on the West Side. But the thorn in the county's side — the lawsuit known as McClendon, which continues to loom over the West Side facility — is making another appearance. On June 28, attorneys representing inmates in the McClendon lawsuit asked a federal judge to extend McClendon's oversight to the Downtown facility. "The (Regional Correctional Center) is as crowded or more crowded now than when it was the (Bernalillo County Detention Center) under the court order," said inmates attorney Brian Pori. "The judge ought to reinstate the cap at RCC because the same conditions that existed are still there." Pori is one of the lawyers who sued the county in 1995 over crowded conditions, among other alleged problems at the jail. The lawsuit still governs some of what happens at the county lockup, even though it's in a different building with a different name, the Metropolitan Detention Center. Pori wants the lawsuit extended to cover the Downtown jail now run by Cornell Companies Inc. Cornell leases the building from the county for $1.5 million a year. The county, the U.S. Marshals Office and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement house detainees inside the building. About 700 of the residents are immigrants, waiting to be returned to their countries of origin. Representatives for Cornell and ICE didn't return calls seeking comment on June 28. Pori filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on June 28 arguing that lawyers should be able to inspect the RCC because the building is owned by the county and because county inmates are housed there. On June 28, the county had 43 inmates at the Downtown jail because there wasn't room for them at the West Side detention center. Jeff Baker, attorney for Bernalillo County in the McClendon lawsuit, said the county hasn't yet decided what it will do with the motion. "The county is discussing the issue with Cornell. Under court rules, our formal response is due in 14 days, but we may be able to respond to it earlier than that," he said. His team must consider a multitude of legal ramifications involved in the issues, Baker said, but he declined to go into specifics. The McClendon name became synonymous with crowding in the late 1990s as the city and county struggled with where to house inmates. The MDC opened in December 2002, behind schedule and over budget, but from the start has been operating near or above capacity. Bernalillo County Public Safety Director John Dantis said he doesn't think the McClendon suit should apply to the RCC. And, he said, the county is still working to wrestle free from McClendon's grasp. "McClendon never left us. McClendon has been with us since we've taken over," he said. "We are working hard every single day to ensure we are in compliance with those agreements and we're getting closer and closer. And the accreditation is another example of our efforts." The MDC on on June 28 received high marks on its first accreditation from the American Correctional Association, but was dinged in five areas, three related to crowding. Pori said the Metro Detention Center is still too crowded, adding that he plans to file a motion to hold the county in contempt of court within two weeks. "They've had two and a half years to bring down the population in the jail and not make it so overcrowded and understaffed," Pori said, but it consistently has had more inmates than its official capacity of 2,236. Baker said he expects any request to hold in the county in contempt to fall flat. "Under state law, the jail does not control its front door or back door. To impose fines on the jail for a situation beyond its control is unfair and unlikely to result in what all of us want, which is a jail which is not overcrowded." The news comes as other lawyers are taking aim at the conditions in the Downtown jail. Attorneys involved in an American Civil Liberties Union prison project say they've talked to inmates who say health care is inadequate and the jail is dirty and cold. Federal authorities also are looking into the death of a Korean immigrant who died at an Albuquerque medical facility while in the jail's custody last year. The woman repeatedly sought medical attention and her requests were ignored, according to the attorneys.

June 28, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune
Bernalillo County's Downtown jail is under intense scrutiny from a variety of sources —including a federal judge — after the 2006 death of an inmate and complaints about crowding and other problems. Attorneys say they've received complaints about the conditions for inmates in the Regional Correctional Center, which is owned by the county and leased to a private company that oversees operations. The facility holds mostly federal inmates and detainees. This morning, inmates' attorneys in a 12-year-old lawsuit related to crowding at county jail facilities asked a federal judge to guarantee them access to the Downtown jail. U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez of Santa Fe has visited the lockup at least three times in recent months, officials said. The CEO of the company that runs the facility, Cornell Cos. Inc., was also in town last week to look at the jail. The visits come as immigrant rights and civil rights attorneys investigate complaints about conditions in the center, where 70 percent of the detainees are immigrants awaiting deportation. Others in the jail include suspects held by the U.S. Marshals Office and up to 175 detainees who can't get a bunk at the Metropolitan Detention Center because of crowding there. Santa Fe lawyer Brandt Milstein said he was among a group of lawyers who conducted about 30 inmate interviews at the center as part of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project. Those who've done time at the Regional Correctional Center had common stories of inadequate medical treatment during their stay, Milstein said. Many detainees said the jail is dirty, crowded and cold. Complaints include a woman who fell off her bunk and suffered deep facial cuts and an injured back and neck but didn't get the medical help she needed, and a woman who spent more than a month seeking treatment for swollen and bleeding gums and numbness in her face. Another inmate said he called four times seeking a psychiatrist for his anxiety. Others said they didn't have access to their medical records. One said she was given only Tylenol for her asthma. "Certainly the information could and should lead to a lawsuit at some point," said Milstein. "About everything that can go wrong did go wrong." The center has been run by Cornell Companies Inc. since Bernalillo County in 2004 vacated the building and moved to a new jail on the West Side. The company didn't return a call seeking comment on June 27 about the conditions. Company CEO James Hyman visited the jail last week, according to John Dantis, the county's director of public safety, though it was unclear whether the visit was related to complaints about jail conditions. Vazquez's trip to the Downtown jail was far from the first. Because of the crowding lawsuit in the mid-1990s known as the McClendon case, she repeatedly checked in on the center when it was run by the county. Vazquez did not return a request for an interview, but the state's top federal judge has visited the facility several times recently, Dantis said. "The judge wants to ensure Cornell is providing all the services required under the standards the (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has promulgated, things like medical, hygiene, recreation - all of those things," he said. Vazquez isn't alone. Lawyers in the McClendon case filed a motion this morning in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque asking that they be guaranteed access to the Downtown jail to check on conditions for inmates. The inmates' attorneys are allowed to regularly inspect conditions in the county's new West Side jail under a settlement of the case. In their motion, they argue that they should also be allowed to inspect the Downtown jail because it is owned by the county and because county inmates are regularly housed there. Inmates' attorney Brian Pori said crowding is a particular concern. For years, the county was forced to cap population at the Downtown jail at 586. Today — after renovations — the jail regularly holds more than 900, according to the motion filed on June 28. Dantis said the jail, rated to hold 993 people, isn't crowded, though its population fluctuates. "Have there been a couple of times they have exceeded the rated cap? There may have been, but I'm not aware of it being a problem and it was looked at carefully," he said. Dantis said no jail is perfect. "I don't know of any institution in the U.S. where there isn't going to be someone, either folks who are in there or lawyers, who aren't going to complain. What's important to me is when you raise those concerns, that they are investigated, that they are appropriately dealt with and we continue to move forward." Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo said he has not received specific complaints about the center, but wants more information about conditions there and about the death of a jail inmate last year. "I am concerned anytime anyone dies in a lockup or if they aren't getting medical attention," he said. Armijo said he's asked his staff to get more information on the situation. The New York Times reported on June 27 that Korean immigrant Young Sook Kim died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 11, 2006, in the Downtown lockup after pleading for medical help for weeks but not getting it. An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General is under way, the Times said. Kim's death prompted Milstein to start his interviews about conditions at the jail. Some of the issues were brought to the county's attention this week when commissioners voted to approve what Dantis called technical changes to the operating agreement with Cornell. The commission approved the agreement 3-2 on June 27 after several rounds of review by the state Attorney General's Office. "We kept sending it back for two years, telling the county it wasn't OK" for legal reasons, Phil Sisneros, Attorney General's Office spokesman, said. Commissioners Michael Brasher and Deanna Archuleta voted against the agreement. Archuleta said she was troubled by "the fact that someone was held and not given access to proper health care." "Individuals, no matter what situation they are being held under, deserve to not have their humans rights ignored," Archuleta said. Milstein said he hopes the federal investigation into Kim's death looks at current conditions at the center, as well. In a letter to the Homeland Security Department, Milstein said Kim arrived at the RCC in late August 2006. Milstein alleges that repeated requests for medical attention for Kim were ignored or given scant attention. During her detention, Kim was "tossed a roll of Tums by a nurse at one point and may have been administered a finger-prick blood test for diabetes." Kim was taken to an outside medical facility only when her "eyes yellowed and she could no longer eat," according to Milstein. She died at the medical facility. "In addition to our deep concern for the unnecessary suffering Ms. Kim endured in the absence of minimally adequate medical care, we are also obviously and gravely concerned that ICE detainees at the RCC facility are not currently being provided with reasonable medical attention," he wrote. ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the center meets agency standards. The agency has room for 700 immigrants at the lockup. "ICE audits the RCC as it does other contract facilities every year. It has met the same national detention standards that the ICE-owned facilities meet," she said.

April 18, 2007 Santa Fe Reporter
As hundreds of immigrants spend what may be their final days in the United States behind bars, the living conditions in New Mexico’s main immigrant detention facility are coming under fire. “Right now, people are being denied health care, the place is filthy and the food is so bad there have been hunger strikes to protest it,” Santa Fe lawyer Brandt Milstein tells SFR. Milstein, a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, has been coordinating a team of local lawyers investigating the conditions at downtown Albuquerque’s Regional Correctional Center (RCC). Local attorneys and activists are keeping an eye on the conditions at Albuquerque’s RCC, where illegal immigrants are detained. In response to questions from SFR, Christine Parker, a spokeswoman for Cornell Companies, the for-profit operator of RCC, issued a statement that highlighted the company’s efforts, but did not respond directly to Milstein’s allegations: “Cornell strives to operate excellent facilities,” the statement begins. “We appreciate all concerns expressed by our inmates and their families, and we work to address them as efficiently as possible.” Milstein says he has visited the 970-bed facility, home to more than 700 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in addition to other local and federal inmates. He met detainees with staph infections as well as ringworm. “That’s indicative of how bad conditions are in there,” Milstein says. While similar complaints have led to lawsuits elsewhere—most recently at an immigration detention facility in San Diego, Calif., earlier this year—Milstein says, “We are not prepared to announced any lawsuit as of now.” Marcela Díaz, the director of Santa Fe-based immigration rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, says she’s also heard concerns. “We’ve heard from family members that there’s an overall lack of information about immigration hearings or if family members are still detained or if they’ve already been deported,” Díaz says. Díaz says Somos also has heard “complaints from people that they don’t know how to send money to family members there to buy food or toiletries.”

July 21, 2006 AP
The American Civil Liberties Union dropped a lawsuit Thursday against the state Corrections Department after Secretary Joe Williams agreed to convene a special commission to address overcrowding at the women's prison near Grants. The action ended a dispute that began when the civil-rights organization sued in April. The ACLU claimed the agency wasn't complying with a 2002 law that provides for early release of nonviolent prisoners when a prison is over capacity for two months. Officials subsequently moved 68 women from the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility to a privately operated Albuquerque jail. Corrections officials argued that the shift meant the Grants prison no longer was over capacity.

Roswell Correctional Center
Roswell, New Mexico
Cornell

September 7, 2002
The state Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court was right to throw out a lawsuit filed by Lawrence Barreras, who went directly to court rather than appeal his firing to the state Personnel Board. Classified state employees who claim their rights under the state personnel law were violated must go to the board, the court said in an opinion Thursday. Barreras was warden at the Penitentiary of New Mexico when Gov. Gary Johnson took office in 1995 He contends his opposition to Johnson's plans to privatize prisons led to his reassignment to the Roswell Correctional Center in March 1995, then to his termination two years later. Barreras works for a private prison firm, Cornell Companies, as a senior warden, overseeing the Valencia County Detention Center and the company's development in New Mexico. He supervised the Santa Fe County jail when Cornell had the contract to operate it. Barreras said the objections he voiced within the Corrections Department dealt not so much with the concept of private prisons as with Johnson's plans for privatizing New Mexico's system. In August 1996, Johnson fired Corrections Secretary Karl Sannicks and Deputy Secretary Herb Maschner, and asked other top administrators to resign. Sannicks and Maschner had openly questioned the potential cost savings from private prisons. Eventually, the Johnson administration contracted with private prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa to house inmates. (Santa fe New Mexican.com)  

San Miguel County Jail
San Miguel, New Mexico
Correctional Systems Inc.

July 29, 2004
Guards Richard Tafoya and James Montoya also accused jail administrator Patrick Snedeker of failing to warn guards of threats on their lives by inmates.  San Miguel County took back control of the jail two weeks ago from a private company, County Manager Les Montoya said. Snedeker, a 19-year corrections veteran, took over as jail administrator July 12 after being hired by the county, which last spring severed its contract with Correctional Systems Inc. to run the jail.  The change from a privately run jail to county control "affected both staff and inmates as we put into place all the common standards to run a facility," Snedeker said.  At least two of the guards who left were upset about a new schedule of rotating staff within the facility, Snedeker said.  A security sweep Wednesday— involving State Police, Las Vegas police, San Miguel County sheriff's deputies and state Corrections Department officers— found homemade weapons in several cells, Snedeker said. The shakedown also discovered prisoners had tried to cut through a wall in one cell, he said.  (ABQ Journal)

July 29, 2004
A walkout by 11 detention officers and an anonymous note from an inmate warning of violence and destruction on Wednesday led to a shutdown at the San Miguel County Jail.  Specially trained officers from the State Police and Corrections Department, called in by jail administrator Patrick W. Snedeker, marched into the jail a few minutes before 5 p.m. By 8 p.m., they had found several metal shanks and some wooden ones, and identified six inmates who will be shipped to the Northern New Mexico Correctional Facility outside Santa Fe. Snedeker, the jail's warden for the few weeks since San Miguel County ended its relationship with private jail operator Correctional Systems Inc., said changes in the jail's operations probably brought problems to the surface.  "We've had some challenges," Snedeker said. "Transition and change often affect people that way." Earlier in the week, three officers quit because they were assigned to supervise inmate crews in roadside cleanup, Snedeker said. The 11 who left on Wednesday didn't state specific reasons, he said.  Besides the handmade weapons, State Police and Department of Corrections officers found a cell wall that had been damaged in what is thought to have been an escape attempt. Snedeker said that last weekend three inmates were discovered with part of a metal door frame and were attempting to damage a ceiling.  As the county began managing its jail again a few weeks ago, new procedures were put in place to familiarize each officer with every unit and work station, Snedeker said. As those changes began, some officers weren't happy, he said.  (ABQ Journal)

April 15, 2004
San Miguel County officials have decided not to renew their contract with Correctional Systems Inc. to operate the county jail.  County commissioners voted Tuesday to invoke a clause in the contract that gives the San Diego-based company 90 days notice that the contract will not be renewed. CSI has run the jail for the past two years.  Commission Chairman LeRoy H. Garcia said economics were the primary reason for Tuesday's decision.  "They've done a good job. I have no complaints," he said of CSI. "It's just they're nickel-and-diming us."  He estimated the county could save $400,000 annually if it resumes operations of the lockup.  (AP)

August 21, 2003
San Miguel County jail officials are investigating an attempted escape that occurred Tuesday night.  Jail warden Chuck Ala said Wednesday that the number of inmates involved in the attempt was still under investigation. No inmates escaped from the facility when the attempted break was foiled around 10:30 p.m., he said.  No other details of the failed escape attempt were available from Ala on Wednesday.  Four inmates escaped in June 2002 while the jail was operated by the county; those inmates were eventually caught.  California-based Correctional Systems Inc. began operating the 160-bed facility in July 2002. CSI was recently granted a one-year extension of its contract and is scheduled to be paid $142,000 a month— or $1.7 million for 12 months.  CSI has recently come under fire by inmate rights advocates who say they have gathered reports of poor treatment of inmates at the jail. Ala has denied the claims.  Under CSI management, county officials hoped the operation would pay for itself by housing inmates from other jurisdictions but fell short of that goal during the past fiscal year. The county ended up paying $700,000 out of its general fund to make up for the shortfall.  (ABQ Journal)

August 14, 2003
The San Miguel County Commission on Tuesday approved a one-year extension of a contract with a private operator for the county's jail.  Activists who have pointed out complaints about inmate treatment at the facility decried the move.  "Unfortunately they went this route because there's a can of worms being opened and I'm hoping they can eat worms," said Lorenzo Flores, a member of the Concerned Citizens Committee of Las Vegas, N.M.  The county ended up paying $700,000 from the county's general fund to make up a shortfall in jail revenues last fiscal year. The county paid CSI a total of $1.8 million to operate the jail for the past fiscal year, but had expected nearly $1.3 million in revenue would come from housing inmates from other jurisdictions. The shortfall occurred when the number of out-of-county inmates came in lower than expected.  Duran said he's been working on complaints from inmates who allege they were not given insulin or were given medication by nonlicensed personnel.  (ABQ Journal)

July 24, 2003
San Miguel County Jail inmates and their families are complaining about unsanitary conditions and treatment that leads to violence, said a long-time activist for inmates' civil rights. "It's like opening a can of horribles," said Dwight Duran, whose name became part of a 19-year federal consent decree enforcing greater rights for inmates in New Mexico. An official with the privately run jail and county officials disputed Duran's assessment. Duran has been visiting Las Vegas, N.M., in the past few weeks at the behest of local activist Lorenzo Flores. Duran said Tuesday that complaints he's fielded from former inmates and their families include a description of a "cruel game" played by jail officers. Each week, the officers distribute two rolls of toilet paper per cell block by throwing the rolls up in the air and yelling "Thunderdome!" Duran said. The inmates have to fight for the paper, which is then used as barter. "People fight over it ... The lack of paper leads to all kinds of illness," said Duran. Chuck Ala, warden of the jail that is run by Correctional Systems Inc., said jail officers distribute the toilet paper to each cell block once a week, but not in the way Duran described. "They hand it out," Ala said. Duran is president of the Committee on Prison Accountability, which is part of the Center for Justice, an organization based in Albuquerque. He plans to hold a town hall meeting on the CSI operation because of the number of complaints he's received, Duran said. Flores, who said he experienced filthy conditions and other problems after he was jailed several weeks ago for unpaid traffic warrants and a drunken driving charge, wants San Miguel County to end its dealings with CSI. "It's being run like a warehouse — jails are supposed to be people, not buildings and bars — and we oppose any more cooperation with the county," said Flores, who represents the Las Vegas Concerned Citizens Committee. Flores said he stayed in a holding cell with only a drain for inmates to relieve themselves. Warden Ala said those in the holding cell are escorted to restrooms. Flores also questioned whether CSI should continue operating the jail, which can house 140 inmates, because of a revenue loss last year due to fewer than expected inmates from outside jurisdictions. CSI began operating the jail in July 2002, but the county's one-year contract with the San Diego-based company has been under review by state officials for several months, said County Manager Les Montoya. County officials recently asked for a one-year contract extension. The county commissioners have not voted to approve the extension because they're waiting for approval from the state agencies, Montoya said. Montoya and San Miguel County Commission Chairman LeRoy Garcia said they're satisfied with the conditions at the jail and CSI's management. Garcia said that on his monthly tours of the jail, the conditions are clean and inmates say they are treated well. Otherwise, the jail isn't supposed to be overly pleasant, Garcia said. "Jail is a place where you're incarcerated when you do something wrong," he said. Montoya said he and county commissioners have heard complaints from inmates' family members. "Some of those complaints have been about unsanitary conditions and unnecessary use of force" and those have been passed along to CSI, Montoya said. The county paid CSI $1.8 million to operate the jail in the past fiscal year, Montoya said, with an expectation that nearly $1.3 million in revenue would come from housing inmates from other jurisdictions. However, that estimate fell short by $700,000, Montoya said. The money was paid out of the general fund, Montoya said. The one-year contract extension calls for payments of $142,000 a month — about $1.7 million for the year — plus payments of $25 per day for every inmate beyond a housing level of 130 inmates, Montoya said. (Albuquerque Journal)


Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Formerly run by Management and Training Corporation, Physicians Network Association (run formerly by Cornell)
February 15, 2009 Trans Border Project
Complaints about medical care at the Reeves County Detention Center aren’t new. In 2007 an inmate went on a hunger strike protesting inadequate medical care. When inmates protested after the death of an inmate in solitary confinement on December 12, 2008, they alleged that medical deficiencies and malpractice were widespread. Six weeks later the immigrant inmates rioted again with the same demands that they be provided with decent medical care. Juan Angel Guerra, a South Texas attorney who was the former district attorney in Willacy County, says some 200 inmates at the immigrant prison have enlisted his services to address their concerns about medical and other abuses. During the week of the Jan. 31 disturbance, the county kept the prison on “lockdown,” denying access to reporters and all others, including Guerra. Neither the county, which owns the prisons, nor GEO Group, which runs the immigrant prison, released any information about the concerns of the rioting prisoners, simply saying in brief releases that the “issues” were being resolved. Similarly, the Bureau of Prisons, which contracts with Reeves County, to hold the immigrant prisoners, ignored public requests for information. A full week after authorities said that they restored control over the prison, County Attorney Alva Alvarez sent a letter to Guerra denying his request to meet with his clients. "We are doing everything possible to meet your request," Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez wrote. "However, since the facility was destroyed, there is no secure place for you to meet with your clients at this time." Reeves County Detention Center is not a maximum-security prison. It has been variously described by prison officials as a minimum or low-security facility – hence the “detention center” designation. The immigrants detained at the Pecos prison are not violent criminal offenders but rather immigrants, often legal ones albeit noncitizens, who have been convicted generally of nonviolent felonies like drug possession and various immigration violations. In the name of guaranteeing public safety, Reeves County officials have kept the prison off limits to reporters and attorneys. And in an apparent effort to keep the story about inmate protests from gaining momentum in the media and to keep it away from the view of state and federal officials, county officials and the private prison contractors have refused to comment on prison conditions. Among those who have declined to comment about the state of medical care at the detention center is the private contractor that is responsible for this care. Leader in Correctional Healthcare -- Physicians Network Association (PNA), a Lubbock-based company that calls itself a leader in correctional healthcare,” has subcontracted with Reeves County since 2002. As the owner of the prison, Reeves County has a contract with the Bureau of Prisons to hold fedeal immigrant prisoners. But rather than run the facility itself, the county subcontracts its responsibilities to GEO Group to operate and manage the prison and to PNA to provide medical and dental care. (See Medical Claims Part One) In its presentation as part of the negotiations over its current contract with the county, PNA assured the county that “as a subcontractor, PNA has fourteen years’ experience assisting operators exceed expectations.” It emphasized the “cost-effective” character of its medical services, and promised that it would “work as your partner to ensure appropriate healthcare without compromising operations.” “We are recognized for our responsiveness to the needs of our customers,” boasted PNA, referring as “customers” to the private prison firms like GEO (with which it has ten contracts) and counties like Reeves that own prisons not to the inmates it cares for. PNA included GEO Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC) among its references, and it told the county: “PNA has never had a contract canceled or been removed from a facility.” It noted that it was “proud of its record of no substantiated grievances in any facility.” The Dec. 12 prisoner protest at Reeves County Detention Center started when inmates saw the body of Jesus Manuel Galindo removed from solitary confinement. Inmates contend that Galindo did not receive medical attention for his epileptic seizures. The Galindo family says it has filed a lawsuit against the Reeves County Detention Center. David Galindo, the dead inmate’s brother, told a reporter after the second riot that started Jan. 31, “The reason they’re having riots is because their personnel is doing the wrong thing just like they did to my brother.” After the second disturbance started, an inmate called the media. The Pecos prisoner said that the protest began when prison officials placed Ramon Garcia, 25, in solitary confinement after he complained of dizziness and feeling ill. “All we wanted was for them to give him medical care and because they didn't, things got out of control and people started fires in several offices,” said the inmate, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals by officials. Lana Williams, a family friend of Garcia, told KFOX TV in El Paso that his medical neglect had been a problem since August 2008. "He's gotten to the point where he can't walk down the hall without holding on to the wall, and this has been going on and getting progressively worse," said Williams. Garcia told her was being been placed in solitary confinement whenever he complained about feeling ill. PNA’s Medical Gulag -- It shouldn’t be surprising that long-running complaints about medical cars abuses sparked the inmate protests at the Reeves County Detention Center. Six years ago the Justice Department found widespread medical abuses at another county-owned, privately run adult detention center, where the same subcontractor, Physicians Network Association, was also the the medical services provider. Concerned about civil rights violations at the detention center, the Justice Department sent a study team from its Civil Rights division to investigate the jail in May 2002 to determine if there were violations that could be prosecuted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (1997). On March 6, 2003 the Justice Department sent a letter and a long report of its findings to Santa Fe County, which owned the jail and contracted with Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a private prison firm, to operate the jail. The county had an intergovernmental services agreement (IGSA) with the Justice Department to hold detainees waiting trial who were under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. MTC subcontracted the medical services part of the IGSA contract to PNA. Summarizing its findings, the Justice Department stated: “We find that persons confined suffer harm or the risk of serious harm from deficiencies in the facility’s provision of medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, protection of inmates from harm, fire safety, and sanitation.” In its report, the Justice Department team specified 52 actions that were needed “to rectify the identified deficiencies and to protect the constitutional rights of the facility’s inmates to bring the jail into compliance with civil rights standards. Thirty-eight of the 52 identified deficiencies related to medical services. The Justice Department report concluded: “The Detention Center, through PNA, provides inadequate medical services in the following areas: intake, screening, and referral; acute care; emergent care; chronic and prenatal care; and medication administration and management. As a result, inmates at the Detention Center with serious medical needs are at risk for harm.” The Justice Department’s investigation was sparked by the suicide of Tyson Johnson in January 2002 at the Santa Fe County Detention Center. Johnson, who was awaiting a hearing on charges of stalking, was a longtime sufferer of severe claustrophobia. In a New York Times (June 6, 2004) story on the Justice Department’s investigation and MTC, Suzan Garcia, Johnson’s mother, said that had tried to contact the jail because she was concerned about her son’s psychological condition. ''I called the jail and asked to speak to a doctor, but they said they didn't have a doctor,'' Ms. Garcia said. ''When I asked to speak to the warden, they just put me on hold and then the phone would disconnect.'' According to the Justice Department’s finding and associated reports, Johnson had asked to see a psychologist, but the 580-inmate jail didn’t have a doctor let alone a psychologist or a psychiatrist. So Mr. Johnson tried slitting his wrist and neck with a razor, and when that failed, as the New York Times reported, he told the jail's nurse, Sheila Turner, “Today I am going to take myself out.” A guard, Crystal Quintana, told investigators that the nurse replied, ''Let him.'' Ms. Turner denies this, her lawyer said. As the New York Times recounted: “Ten minutes later, Mr. Johnson, 27 and with no previous criminal record, was found hanging from a sprinkler head in a windowless isolation cell where he was supposedly being closely watched.” Despite being placed on suicide watch, Johnson hung himself with a supposedly “suicide-proof” blanket inside the isolation cell. His family contends that instead of tending to his psychological problems, the medical staff neglected him and taunted him. The NYT story by Fox Butterfield described the state of mental healthcare for which PNA was responsible: “The nearest doctor on contract was in Lubbock, Tex., a two-hour plane flight away, and he visited the jail on average only every six weeks, seeing only a few patients each time, the report found. The nurse had an order in her file to spend no more than five minutes with any inmate patient, which the report said was not enough time. “There was no psychologist or psychiatrist, and although the nurse had no mental health training care, she was distributing drugs for mentally ill inmates, the report said. “The jail did have a mental health clinician, Thomas Welter, who was employed by Physicians Network Association, a subcontractor. But he never did any evaluations of mentally troubled inmates, the report said. Instead, he boasted to them about his own history of drug use, according to a recent deposition by Cody Graham, who was then warden of the Santa Fe jail. Not long after Mr. Johnson hanged himself, Mr. Graham escorted Mr. Welter to the gate and told him not to come back.” Pattern of PNA Medical Malpractice -- The Justice Department found a pattern of gross medical care deficiencies at the Santa Fe jail. Among its findings were the following: · “PNA’s intake medical screening, assessment, and referral process is insufficient to ensure that inmates receive necessary medical care during their incarceration.” · “Even when PNA staff identify inmates with serious medical needs during the intake process, they fail to refer them for appropriate care.” · “Chart review revealed that of those inmates in our sample who did receive the initial health screening, none were referred to the Health Services Unit for the medical attention they needed.” · “The grievance system does not provide an avenue for resolving problems of access to health services. The grievances we reviewed included a complaint from one inmate who was supposed to have an x-ray, but had received no response from the Health Services Unit despite having filed two grievances in three weeks.” Seven Suicide Attempts, One Completed in Seven Months of MTC/PNA -- · “As of the time of our visit, during the seven months since MTC assumed management of the facility, there had been one completed suicide and seven attempted suicides. A review of these incidents reveals that the Detention Center staff fail to respond appropriately to inmates’ indications of mental health crises and possible suicidality.” · “For example, one inmate answered several of the initial mental health suicide screening questions in the affirmative, including that he had recently experienced a significant loss, that he felt that he had nothing to look forward to, and that he ‘just didn’t care.’ He reported that he had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that he was taking an antidepressant for this condition. He also stated that he felt that he needed to see a psychologist. Despite these indicators, the screening nurse concluded that the inmate needed only a routine mental health referral, as opposed to an immediate mental health evaluation and determination whether mental health services were necessary.” · “Another incident involved an inmate who cut her wrists with a razor and was placed on a 15-minute suicide watch in the medical unit. According to the subsequent investigation of the incident, the inmate was upset because her medications were stopped. The inmate was treated for lacerations to her wrists and released from suicide watch without ever receiving a mental health evaluation or mental health clearance.” An inmate placed on watch status in a medical unit cell for his own safety due to mental illness and seizure disorder was able to cut both of his wrists with a razor blade within 5 minutes of his arrival in that cell. The only way that staff knew that the event had occurred was when blood began running down the floor from his cell." Five Minutes Per Patient -- · “The nurse practitioner’s personnel file included a memo from the Vice President of Operations of PNA instructing her to see one patient for each five minutes of scheduled clinical time. Many inmates, particularly those with acute or chronic conditions, require significantly more clinical attention to ensure that their needs are adequately addressed.” · “PNA does not test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STDs are prevalent in jail populations. Left untreated, STDs can cause brain and organ damage and damage to fetuses. PNA’s failure to screen for STDs places the inmates and the community at risk.” · “PNA fails to provide timely access to appropriate medical care for inmates when they develop acute medical needs. Medical care is unreasonably and unnecessarily delayed and, even when provided, often inadequate.” · “Even once inmates succeed in getting to the Health Services Unit, they frequently receive substandard care. We reviewed the medical records of ten inmates seen for primary care by the nurse practitioner within a one-month period. Six of the ten inmates received substandard care.” PNA’s Failure to Respond to Acute Medical Needs --  “Additional chart reviews confirmed PNA’s failure to respond to inmates’ acute medical needs. For example, one inmate reported breast lumps and lumps in her armpit, chest pain, and swelling in her legs and feet. Although a mammogram was ordered in October 2001, it had not been done by the time of our visit to the Detention Center seven months later.” · “At the time of our visit, the only physician providing supervision or care at the Detention Center was the doctor who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PNA and is based in Lubbock, Texas. As the CEO of PNA, this doctor has numerous responsibilities, including supervising the medical care at each of the facilities at which PNA provides care throughout the south and southwestern United States. This physician was visiting the Detention Center an average of once every six weeks, and saw only a few patients during each visit. While he is available by telephone for consultation, he does not visit the Detention Center frequently enough to provide adequate supervision. Given the deficiencies in care and other problems identified in this letter, additional physician supervision at the Detention Center is necessary.” No Pre-Natal Care, Improper Treatment for Seizures -- · “PNA fails to provide inmates with needed medications in a timely manner, and fails to monitor medication in inmates with serious medical needs.” · “The Detention Center fails to provide for continuity of medications for inmates upon arrival at the facility. Several files we reviewed revealed that the nurse practitioner does not continue the same medications for inmates that were prescribed for them prior to their incarceration. Sometimes the nurse practitioner simply discontinues the medication, and sometimes she changes the inmate’s prescription to older, less expensive medications which are significantly less effective.” · “PNA fails to provide adequate prenatal care for pregnant inmates. Of the four pregnant women at the Detention Center at the time of our visit, none had any prenatal visit with an OB/GYN during their incarceration documented, despite the fact that two of the women were in their third trimester of pregnancy and near term.” · “An inmate had been prescribed a medication for his seizure disorder, in addition to several other medications, and his blood levels of the seizure medication had been measured. Although the laboratory results showed that the amount of this drug in his system was not enough to achieve the intended therapeutic effect, there was no reference to this finding anywhere else in his medical record. Moreover, staff failed to respond appropriately, such as adjusting his medication. Seven days later, the inmate attempted suicide by cutting his wrists, then suffered a seizure.” Keeping it Cost-Effective -- · “PNA’s formulary does not contain effective medication for inmates with serious medical needs such as hypertension, heart failure and diabetes. In addition, the formulary includes many less expensive, less effective medications than are currently available for the treatment of some diseases.” · “Some inmates at the Detention Center are currently provided with less effective medications with greater side effects than they had received prior to incarceration, which can lead to deterioration in inmates with mental illness and end-organ damage in inmates with diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.” · “Even when staff did monitor medication levels, they failed to respond to indications that an inmate’s dosage was inappropriate. Although the laboratory results showed that the amount of this drug in his system was not enough to achieve the intended therapeutic effect, there was no reference to this finding anywhere else in his medical record. Moreover, staff failed to respond appropriately, such as adjusting his medication. Seven days later, the inmate attempted suicide by cutting his wrists, then suffered a seizure.” PNA and MTC Leave Town -- Neither MTC nor PNA stuck around Santa Fe to help the country resolve its problems with the Justice Department. Both MTC and PNA said they had to terminate their contracts because they were losing money. Soon after the Justice Department issued its findings in March 2004 on medical care and other problems at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, PNA pulled out of its contract with MTC. A year later in April 2005, MTC announced that it had “chosen to end this contract because it has not been possible to operate profitably. Under two different contracts and with two different medical providers, MTC and both medical providers have lost money.” Before the private prison companies terminated their unprofitable contracts, their personnel left town. MTC asked Warden Cody Graham to leave his job in Santa Fe, and he transferred to another MTC county jail in Gallup, New Mexico. According to a heart-rending investigative story in the Santa Fe Reporter (April 2, 2003)on the death of a jail inmate because of deficient medical care, PNA’s regional medical consultant left at the same time as the warden. That PNA supervisor was Katherine Graham, wife of the MTC warden. A story in the Albuquerque Journal (June 28, 2004) on the “tough negotiations” following “state and federal audits slamming the facility for inadequate medical services” reported, “PNA will not return if and when the county and MTC reach a new agreement, jail administrators have said.” County Commissioner Paul Duran recommended that the county would do a better job running the jail. He noted that the Utah-based MTC – a for-profit company – was not providing enough medical staffing or case managers to deal with inmate needs. “I think it’s the profit element that is the root of all these problems.” The county did take over management of the jail after MTC left, and worked with the Justice Department to rectify its findings of deficiency. Judith Greene, director of Justice Strategies, echoed Commissioner Duran’s observation. She told the New York Times, ''This goes to the heart of the problem in the private prison business,'' Ms. Greene said. ''You get what you pay for.''

November 19, 2007 New Mexican
Dickie Ortega lost his life at the hands of one man named Jesus and another named Good. And while a Santa Fe County jury's conviction of one of those men on second-degree murder and five other charges Monday provided some peace of mind, Ortega's mother said the tragic chain of events at the county jail that led to her son's death will remain a source of pain. "When they asked Dickie why he was there, he told them the truth, and it cost him his life," said Cordelia Martinez after the jury found Jesus Aviles-Dominguez guilty. "If it wasn't for doctors and medication, I don't know if I could go through this. I don't know if I'll ever get over it. It's like a nightmare." Martinez, her husband, Antonio Martinez, and her daughter and Ortega's sister, Delilah Brown, sat through every day of testimony in Aviles-Dominguez's trial, which lasted nearly three weeks. They also sat through the September trial of Daniel Good, who pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated battery involving death and two counts of intimidation of a witness in the middle of those proceedings. Cordelia Martinez said she was satisfied with the jury's verdict and thanked members for "doing their duty." "Well, at least I can put my son to rest now," she said. "He was a good and wonderful son." In addition to second-degree murder, the jury of eight men and four women convicted Aviles-Dominguez, 32, of two counts of intimidation of a witness and three counts of conspiracy. He was acquitted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, three counts of conspiracy and three counts of intimidation of a witness. Aviles-Dominguez, who had to serve only 20 more days in jail at the time of the assault on Ortega, now faces up to 52 1/2 years in prison. "Bitches," Aviles-Dominguez said to no one in particular as sheriff's deputies escorted him from the courtroom after his conviction. Other inmates who were in the pod at the county jail when Ortega, 32, was beaten to death testified that Aviles-Dominguez and Good were the co-leaders of the dormlike accommodations. Ortega, a Chimayó resident, allegedly made the fatal mistake of accusing a man he was arrested with on narcotics and receiving-stolen-property charges of being a snitch or a "rat," according to the inmates' testimony. Aviles-Dominguez and Good allegedly attacked and beat up the man Ortega accused, the witnesses said. However, another inmate stood up for the man who was attacked and said he wasn't a rat. That led to a series of at least three retaliatory beatings of Ortega — mainly at the hands of Aviles-Dominguez and Good — which became progressively more brutal, the inmates testified. Finally — according to two eyewitnesses — Aviles-Dominguez began stomping repeatedly on Ortega's head, which left him unconscious. Aviles-Dominguez and Good refused to allow one of the inmates to get medical attention for Ortega, an inmate testified. Aviles-Dominguez testified he didn't beat Ortega or the other man, and at one point tried to give them advice on how things worked behind bars. He also told jurors another inmate, Joe Coriz, stomped on Ortega's head, and Aviles-Dominguez broke up that beating. While the verdict was not what his client wanted, Gary Mitchell, Aviles-Dominguez's lawyer, said he thought the system did its job. "At the end of the day, I walk out thinking it was a fair jury, a fair prosecution and a fair judge," he said. "One can't complain about that. But with all the guys in there (when the beating occurred), we'll never know what in the Sam Hell happened." One of the big problems spotlighted by the Ortega case is understaffing at jails and prisons, Mitchell said. "You wonder where the hell were the detention officers in all of this," he added. At the time of the beating, one guard had been assigned to watch over three pods containing about 60 inmates, Sheriff Greg Solano said at the time. A second guard was assigned to man a control unit that overlooks six pods of more than 100 inmates, he said. A private company, Management Training Corp., ran the jail at the time, and a federal study had previously highlighted short-staffing as a problem. Ortega's family received a $600,000 settlement paid by MTC earlier this year after filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Prosecutors initially said they would seek the death penalty against both Good and Aviles-Dominguez. And though they later backed off those plans, state District Court Judge Tim Garcia ruled that if the penalty would have been in play, one jury would have had to decide the men's guilt or innocence while another would have decided the penalty. Good's attorney, Jeff Buckels, called the ruling "a huge fringe benefit."

August 30, 2007 The New Mexican
The mother of a Chimayo man who hanged himself in the Santa Fe County jail two years ago is suing the County Commission, the sheriff and the firm that used to run the jail. Michael G. Martinez, 39, was jailed Aug. 21, 2005, on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, assault on a peace officer, aggravated fleeing of a law-enforcement officer, possession of drug paraphernalia, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and other traffic infractions. Three days later, he was found dead, hanging from a cloth blanket tied to a light fixture in his cell in the medical ward of the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center on N.M. 14, south of Santa Fe. Sheriff Greg Solano said at the time that Martinez was put in the medical ward because he had needle marks on his arms and appeared to be in withdrawal, and he was on a suicide watch where jailers were to check on him every 30 minutes. Last week, lawyer John Faure sued on behalf of Martinez's mother, Elsie Martinez of Santa Cruz. The complaint says Management and Training Corp., which ran the country jail at the time, should have checked on Martinez every 10 minutes and searched the cell to remove “any dangerous article or clothing.” Management and Training Corp. has “maintained a custom or policy which exhibited indifference to the constitutional rights of person incarcerated ... which permitted or condoned deviations from appropriate policies,” the complaint says. By hiring the company, it says, Solano and the commission effectively violated Martinez's constitutional rights of due process and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The complaint seeks “at least $10,000” for the expenses of Martinez's funeral and burial, plus punitive and exemplary damages for “intentional misconduct, recklessness, gross negligence, willfulness and/or callous indifference, and/or because defendants' conduct was motivated by malice, evil motive or intent.” Solano and a spokesman for Management and Training Corp. in Centerville, Utah, declined comment. The firm ran the county jail from 2001 to 2005, when county government again took over operations. Earlier this year, the firm was named as a defendant in a similar lawsuit brought by the parents of Chris Roybal, who overdosed on heroin while in jail in February 2005. It alleges Roybal got the drugs from a corrections officer. The court record indicates that case has been transferred to another jurisdiction.

August 29, 2007 New Mexican
When his fellow inmates at the Santa Fe County jail asked why he was incarcerated, Dickie Ortega made an explosive statement that might have cost him his life, lawyers said Tuesday. “He said, ‘It’s because my cousin ratted me out,’ ” prosecutor Joseph Campbell told jurors during opening statements Tuesday in the trial of Daniel Good, one of two men charged with beating Ortega to death in June 2004. “There are rules in jail,” Campbell said, “and one of these rules is that you don’t rat somebody out.” Jeff Buckels, Good’s attorney, said Ortega’s statement was like igniting a can of gasoline. “This was not the dorm at St. John’s or the boys locker room at Prep,” he said. “You better believe there are rules (in jail). One you hear over and over again is that rats are taken care of.” The consequences were first meted out to Brad Ortega, the man Dickie Ortega called his cousin, though they were not actually related, Campbell said. When Brad Ortega returned to the cell pod, he was ordered into Good’s cell and attacked by at least three men, Campbell said. After the beating, the men ordered Brad Ortega, who sustained a gash on his head, to strip off his bloody clothes, throw them in the trash and take a shower, he said. Meanwhile, the men cleaned the cell, Campbell said. While Brad Ortega was in the shower, one of the 20 inmates in the pod said he knew Brad Ortega and he was “a stand-up guy” and “he knows the rules,” Campbell said. At that point, he said, some of the inmates confronted and beat Dickie Ortega, a 32-year-old from Chimayó who was being held on receiving-stolen-property and drug-related charges. Afterward, Dickie Ortega also was ordered to strip off his clothing and take a shower, the attorney said. Later, Good, 34, and another inmate, Jesus Aviles-Dominguez, 31, made Dickie Ortega and Brad Ortega fight each other, though it was not a vicious brawl, Campbell said. After that, Good, Aviles-Dominguez and another inmate again beat the two Ortegas, then forced them to again take off their bloody clothes and take a shower while the cell was cleaned, he said. Finally, Dickie Ortega was beaten a fourth time, Campbell said. That time, he was forced against a wall and stepped on while he pleaded for his life, the lawyer said. Brad Ortega, Campbell said, watched the last beating, helplessly, from the upper bunk in their cell. Buckels admitted Good “popped (Dickie Ortega) a couple times” during the beatings, but Good didn’t kill Ortega. “In fact, he tried to stop it,” Buckels told jurors. “He was trying to save him from a man named Chuy.” Chuy — Aviles-Dominguez’s nickname — was the boss of the pod in which the Ortegas had been placed, Buckels said. And during the last beating of Dickie Ortega, Aviles-Dominguez “went berserk,” Buckels said. Aviles-Dominguez braced himself with one hand on the sink and the other on the bed and stomped on Dickie Ortega’s head, he said. “The violence he dealt to Dickie Ortega was a very different kind,” Buckels said. “He bounced his head off the concrete like a basketball. It was then that people started getting very concerned that this guy was in trouble.” Dickie Ortega’s mother, who was in court Tuesday, cried and held her hands to her face when Buckels described what happened to her son. “Daniel’s not here asking for a medal,” Buckels said. “He’s a bad boy at a bad time in a bad place. He wasn’t nice to Dickie Ortega. He just didn’t kill him.” After the beatings, the two Ortegas were not allowed out of their cell, Campbell said. An inmate later alerted guards to Dickie Ortega’s unresponsive and bloody condition, he said. Dickie Ortega’s injuries included a subdural hematoma, liver and spleen damage and bruising, Campbell said. Good, a Santa Fe man with a lengthy criminal record that includes both violence and property crimes, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery causing death, two counts of intimidation of a witness, two counts of tampering with evidence and six counts of conspiracy. His trial is set to last 16 days, though the days are spread out over the month of September and won’t conclude until the end of the month. Aviles-Dominguez is scheduled to go on trial in November for Dickie Ortega’s murder and the beating of Brad Ortega. The District Attorney’s Office announced in May that it would not seek the death penalty for either man. However, state District Court Judge Tim Garcia ruled in June that if prosecutors had decided to push for the death penalty in the case, he would have one jury decide the defendants’ guilt or innocence and another decide their sentencing.

May 7, 2007 AP
Two lawsuits stemming from the beating death of an inmate and a female prisoner's alleged rape at the Santa Fe County jail have been settled. Attorney Robert Rothstein, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Dickie Ortega's family, said Friday that the terms of the settlement are confidential. An agreement reached in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Veronica Sanchez also is confidential, attorney's with Rothstein's firm said. Ortega, 32, died June 5, 2004, after suffering serious head and facial injuries and a crushed larynx. He had been arrested earlier that month on charges of receiving stolen properties. His family sued in 2006, claiming that Santa Fe County and the company that formerly ran its jail _ Utah-based Management and Training Corp. _ did nothing as gang members repeatedly assaulted other inmates. Inadequate staffing, lack of supervision of inmates and lack of video monitoring contributed to Ortega's death, the lawsuit claimed. Two men prosecutors identified as gang members have been charged with first-degree murder in Ortega's death. An MTC spokesman had no comment, and a county government spokesman said county attorney Steve Ross was unavailable to address the settlement. Federal court records show the case was dismissed March 29 _ a day after a motion was filed by Ortega's family, saying the plaintiffs had "settled and resolved" all disputes in the litigation. In Sanchez's case, attorneys say the lawsuit was dismissed Friday by agreement of all parties. Sanchez had reported that she was raped by other inmates at the jail in 2004 and then strip-searched after she was brought back to the jail after a hospital exam. The lawsuit claimed the search was "utterly useless and unnecessary and constituted further humiliation and degradation." It also alleged negligence and civil rights violation. MTC and various county officials were named as defendants.

August 25, 2006 The New Mexican
Santa Fe County has interviewed four people who applied to be the new jail administrator. One high-profile candidate, however, took her name out of the hat just before interviews were slated to begin Thursday. Ann Casey, a lobbyist and Illinois jail official embroiled in controversy over her relationship with state Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, had applied for the job along with five others. Casey canceled her interview Thursday and said she no longer wanted to be considered for the job, according to Assistant County Attorney Carolyn Glick. Casey was in the news in New Mexico when the state put Williams on unpaid leave and launched an investigation. Officials looked into his relationship with the woman, including use of his work cell phone and other expenses after the Albuquerque Journal reported billing records for his state cell phone showed 644 calls between the two over five months. Williams returned to work and is on probation following what a governor's aide called "a lapse in judgment." Illinois officials also looked into the matter, but Casey remains in her position of assistant warden of programs at the Centralia Correctional Center, said department spokesman Derek Schnapp. Casey was not available for comment.

July 7, 2006 New Mexican
Santa Fe County and the private company that operated its jail until April 2005 have agreed to pay $8.5 million to thousands of people who were strip-searched while being booked into the jail during a three-year period. While the county and Management Training Corp. deny in settlement documents that the blanket strip-search policy violated the law, a class-action lawsuit filed in January 2005 claimed it violated people's civil and constitutional rights. Terms of the settlement dictate that MTC, which ran the jail from October 2001 until April 2005, will pay $8 million while the county will shell out $500,000. Lawyers Bob Rothstein, Mark Donatelli and John Bienvenu will receive $2 million, while each of the 11 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit will be paid $42,750. The remaining people who were strip searched between Jan. 12, 2002 and December 2004, when the jail changed the strip-search policy, will have 30 days from the time a U.S. District Court judge affirms the agreement to file claims. Those people — estimated in settlement documents to number about 13,000 — will receive between $1,000 and $3,500. On Thursday, two of the named plaintiffs in the suit said while they were glad the case was over, they were even happier to have had a hand in sparing other citizens the embarrassment and humiliation they suffered. “That’s the best thing,” said Elizabeth “Lisa” Leyba. “That’s the thing that makes the emotional days all right.” Said Kristi Seibold, “It feels really good. It feels like we accomplished something — something really good and worthwhile for the people.” Leyba, 34, a bartender at Catamount Bar and Grille, was arrested in September 2004 for selling a beer to an underage customer sent in during a sting. Donatelli said a bouncer at the bar was supposed to be checking identification at the door, and the check was not Leyba’s responsibility. At the jail, Leyba said a female officer ordered her to strip naked and spin in a circle, which she apparently did too fast, so the guard ordered her to do it again, slower. She then had to stand in the room naked while the officer searched for jail clothing for her, Leyba said. “It was one of the last things I expected to have happen to me,” she said. “I was humiliated. It still bothers me.” Leyba, who initially didn’t want to take part in the lawsuit, said she was motivated to do so when she thought about her two young nieces and how she might help spare them similar treatment. Seibold, 51, a local massage therapist and mother of two teenagers, was strip searched twice — once in January 2004 and again in December 2004. She was arrested for refusing to surrender her dog to authorities and for an unpaid traffic violation that turned out to have been paid. During one of the searches, the female corrections officer ran her hands up and down Seibold’s arms and legs, while the door to the room where she was being searched was left open a crack so that anyone could have looked in, she said. Seibold also was told to bend over during one of the searches, she said. “I felt so exposed,” Seibold said. “I felt so violated in that they really took their time.” Bienvenu said during his firm’s investigation of the situation, corrections officers told him there was a peep hole in the door to the room where the searches were conducted, and guards would sometimes line up for a look. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano and Kerry Dixon, the MTC warden at the time, said the searches were conducted to stem the flow of drugs and weapons into the jail. On Thursday, Solano said he hadn’t heard of the peep-hole allegations. In a news release, Harry Montoya, chairman of the county commissioners, said, “The resolution of this matter helps to put behind us lingering missteps from the privately run jail and allows the county to continue to move forward. We have new procedures to insure that our current strip search policies are constitutional.” Those policies call for strip searches only when an inmate is accused of violence, drug or weapons-related crimes. A statement from MTC was not available Thursday. Donatelli said the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear in 1993 that blanket strip searches could not be conducted at county jails based on Fourth Amendment assurances against illegal searches. Said Bienvenu: “I believe it was a deliberate policy to ignore the law.” Rothstein said the case marks the first class-action settlement on strip searches in New Mexico, though his firm is handling three such pending cases in the state.

October 13, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Bill Blank's looming presence couldn't be ignored in the back of the crowd gathered outside the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center on Wednesday morning. With a large, imposing frame and a drooping mustache, Blank listened quietly to speeches from a who's who of county officials: County Manager Gerald González, Sheriff Greg Solano and Commission Chairman Mike Anaya were among those who spoke before a representative from Management and Training Corp., the private company that has been managing the jail since 2001, handed over ceremonial keys to the facility to county officials.

October 10, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Santa Fe County's quest to turn around the historically troubled Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility is about to start its greatest test. Management of the 668-bed jail officially changes hands on Tuesday from Management and Training Corporation, which has been running the jail since 2001, to Santa Fe County. The county inherits a facility that has faced rising costs, lawsuits, unflattering audits and incidents of rape and suicide. County commissioners and Sheriff Greg Solano, along with Corrections Department director Greg Parrish, have repeatedly expressed optimism that the county can do a better job than the private management companies that have run the jail previously. Of the 148 MTC employees, Santa Fe County hired 123 to continue working under county management. Some were food service and medical contractors tied to MTC. Six quit, and eight failed county background investigations. There are still 32 vacancies out of the county's 208-staff total to be filled.

September 28, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Santa Fe County Manager Gerald González was given "emergency" powers as the County Commission on Tuesday approved a number of housekeeping measures in advance county government's takeover of jail operations next month from Management and Training Corp. According to a resolution passed unanimously by the commission, González will be able to approve contracts for goods and services worth up to $100,000 (the previous limit was $20,000), approve any contract that has resulted from competitive bids or state price agreements, hire staff without commission approval, and execute any agreement not involving expenditure of county money. The measure was necessary for county staff to finish everything that needs doing at the county jail, according to Deputy County Manager Roman Abeyta, as Tuesday's meeting was the last time for the commission to approve contracts before the Oct. 11 handover of jail management from the private operator. Also at Tuesday's meeting, a $200,000 contract with Correct Rx Pharmacy Services to provide pharmaceuticals at the jail and a $68,587 contract with Inmate Transfer Services were also approved. In addition, Neves Uniforms and Kaufmans West were approved to provide correctional staff uniforms.

September 26, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Santa Fe County officials estimate they will lose $5.9 million running the adult jail next year. The year after, the projected loss is $6.4 million. But the rising deficits, which the county has already been absorbing for years, will be only part of the burden as county officials take over management of the 668-capacity facility Oct. 11 from Management and Training Corporation, the Utah-based private contractor that has been running the jail since 2001. County Manager Gerald Gonzales has an eye toward the added bureaucracy that will be required to run what will become Santa Fe County's largest department: corrections. Virtually none of the news coming out the county's adult detention facility over the past years has been good. Rising costs, lawsuits, unflattering audits, and incidents of rape and suicide have plagued the jail. When MTC decided it would withdraw from managing the jail earlier this year, the county had trouble finding another private contractor who wanted the job, county officials said. So the County Commission decided it was time to take on the responsibility— or the burden, as some call it— of running the jail itself. Sullivan blamed the problem on a handful of businessmen who convinced the county to build a jail bigger than what was needed. The current facility was completed in 1998 to expectations on the part of the County Commission that housing prisoners would bring in revenue. "Somebody said to the county, 'If you build it, they will come. If you build a massive facility, the prisoners will come, and we will all make money,' '' Solano said. Now, a completely new set of commissioners and staff are dealing with a reality that is quite the opposite from those expectations. "The days of big profits from jails are gone, especially in Santa Fe," Solano said. Under state statute, the county is obligated to provide for the incarceration of county prisoners. According to county officials, only 272 of the 578 inmates currently in the facility are the responsibility of Santa Fe County to incarcerate. Solano, at least, doesn't see a whole lot of change coming from the Oct. 11 handover. He said running the jail has been an integral part of his job as county sheriff since he started the job in 2002, despite its being under private management that whole time. "I get named in all the lawsuits at the jail," he said. "We already deal with it to such a large extent that I think it's better we just have complete control over it anyway, because we're the ones that have to answer for it. Private companies aren't responsible to the public. We are."

August 25, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
A Santa Fe County jail inmate was found dead Wednesday afternoon hanging by a light fixture in the medical ward after an apparent suicide, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department. Michael Martinez, 39, of Chimayó, was in a medical ward at the jail at the time due to sores on his arms believed to be from drug injections, as well as for drug and alcohol withdrawal, Solano said. Solano said corrections officers at the jail were checking on Martinez in the medical ward every 30 minutes Wednesday. Earlier this year, a civil lawsuit was filed against the jail by the family of an inmate who committed suicide there March 17, 2004. The lawsuit was filed by the family of Juan Ignacio-Sanchez, 22, who was in jail on a murder charge and hanged himself with his own shoelaces in his cell, according to the suit. The suit alleges that the jail's suicide-prevention policies were "seriously deficient" and that Ignacio-Sanchez was not placed on a suicide watch upon his admission to the jail, despite a phone call from his mother, who told officials that she thought her son was suicidal.

June 23, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
About a year before homicide suspect Juan Ignacio-Sanchez hung himself with his own shoelaces in a cell at the Santa Fe County jail, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report stating that the jail's suicide prevention policies were "seriously deficient."  That's just one of the allegations in a civil lawsuit against the jail filed Wednesday in Santa Fe District Court by attorney Robert Rothstein, on behalf of Ignacio-Sanchez's father.  Among the lawsuit's claims are that Ignacio-Sanchez was not placed on a suicide watch upon his admission to the jail despite a phone call to the jail from his mother, who said she thought he was suicidal.  When a corrections officer asked her why she thought her son was suicidal, she answered "that Ignacio-Sanchez had been crying uncontrollably the night that he was arrested, was very depressed, tired and confused; and he had told the police that he was going to kill himself if he did not get help," according to the lawsuit.  Also according to court documents:    On the day of Ignacio-Sanchez's suicide at the jail, a corrections officer took Ignacio-Sanchez's shoes, but he was allowed to keep his shoelaces. "There was absolutely no valid correctional justification for allowing Ignacio-Sanchez to retain the shoelaces— particularly without the shoes," court documents said.  The lawsuit alleges that jail staff members are responsible for maintaining a "constant awareness of the activities of inmates they (come) into contact with" as part of the MTC-developed "Suicide/Self-Injury Guidelines and Procedures" at the jail.  The procedures include maintaining a continuous watch on inmates who are under a suicide watch and removing dangerous articles or clothing that are found in those inmates' cells, according to the suit.

May 20, 2005 AP
The Santa Fe County Commission has decided to take over operation of its own jail this fall when a private company that now manages the facility pulls out. Management and Training Corp. announced last month that it would end its contract early because operating the jail was not profitable. The company said it couldn't keep a medical-service provider there and lost money trying to comply with new federal mandates. The Utah-based company is expected to end the arrangement on or before Oct. 11. Santa Fe County officials view the change as an opportunity to improve the facility. "We don't feel the contractor has done what needs to be done," Assistant County Attorney Grace Phillips told the commission Thursday before it approved a tentative plan to take over the jail. Gregory Parrish, director of the county corrections department, said the county could improve the jail's tarnished public image and provide better medical care than the private company. Government operation also could lead to cooperation with the state and other public bodies that could help improve medical services and keep the jail at capacity. Because the private contractor is focused on the bottom line, Parrish said, "sometimes their operations reflect that." The company repeatedly fails to handle detailed tasks such as booking and billing and simpler responsibilities such as answering phones, he said.

May 20, 2005 AP
Santa Fe County will begin running the county's jail this fall. The County Commission decided yesterday to take over the jail operations. Management and Training Corporation said last month that it will prematurely end its two year-contract to run the jail. The company says it will pull out on or before October Eleventh. The company has said it cannot afford to continue managing the lockup. The company is being paid $42 a day per prisoner. County officials say they can run the jail for about the same cost, and they believe they can do it better. Management and Training corporation has run the jail since 2001.

May 19, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
The family of a Santa Fe County jail inmate who died in February of an apparent heroin overdose claims the drug was supplied by a guard. The family of Christopher Roybal has filed a tort claim notice informing Santa Fe County and the privately run Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center that they intend to sue over his death. Attorney Mark Donatelli maintains in the notice that the inmate got his drugs from former jail guard Amos Romero, 43, of Mora, who is himself now an inmate at the jail. Romero has been charged with twice taking money from an undercover cop in April in exchange for delivering what he thought was cocaine into the jail. The substance was actually a mixture containing baking soda and coffee creamer. He faces two counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Management and Training Corp., the Utah-based private operator of the jail, announced recently that it cannot operate the jail profitably and that it plans to bail out of its contract to run the lockup later this year. The tort claim notice asserts that, "Our preliminary investigation leads us to conclude that the death of Mr. Roybal was the direct and proximate result of the conduct of employees, officials and operators of the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center."

May 14, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
A man who was incarcerated at the Santa Fe County jail earlier this week is raising questions about whether another inmate who died at the jail was refused medication before his apparent heart attack. Jaime Escobar, 28, who was charged recently on a domestic violence petition, according to court records, said Friday that he witnessed the death of William Garrett, 62, in the jail. Garrett died of apparent cardiac arrest Tuesday morning. Escobar, interviewed Friday, said he was repeatedly denied his diabetes medication while in the jail and that after Garrett suffered his cardiac arrest, other inmates in the jail told him that Garrett had also been denied medication. Escobar also claimed that it took jail personnel about 15 minutes to respond after inmates called for help for Garrett.

April 20, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
The second private company to try and run the Santa Fe County jail at a profit -- and at the same time in compliance with the law -- is giving up on the task. Management and Training Corp. announced late last week that it will quit managing the jail when its contract is up in the fall -- and would prefer to quit sooner, if the county will allow. County Sheriff Greg Solano says it's time the county took over operations of the jail. He's absolutely right -- the jail has been plagued by ongoing and serious security, sanitation and other problems under both recent private management companies. Two years ago, the federal government pulled prisoners out of the facility, claiming county officials were indifferent to prisoner medical and mental health needs. The pullout reduced the potential profit for the management company -- federal and other prisoners are housed for fees about 30 percent higher than what the county pays to house its local prisoners at the jail. Under MTC's management, the jail won accreditation from the American Correctional Association. But a murder -- the first ever at the facility -- followed a few months later. Critics of the fad for jail and prison privatization were busy saying, "We told you so" after MTC made its announcement last week. In hindsight, they seem to have been right on two important points: The jail is far too big for local needs, and the resulting profit squeeze has translated, consistently, into understaffing and managerial laxity on the part of the private contractors. A year ago, the county passed an eighth-of-a-cent gross receipts tax increase to finance increased spending on jail operations. In response to the numerous longstanding problems, the county also put in place a citizens advisory committee to monitor conditions there. Also a year ago, the county took over management of the juvenile jail facility and appears to have done a competent job there. With a funding stream and responsible oversight in place, the county is as well positioned as anybody to take over running the jail. It should do so without delay.

April 20, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Twice in the past month, a Santa Fe County jail guard took money from an undercover officer in exchange for bringing what he thought was cocaine to an inmate at the jail, court records state. Amos Romero, 43, of the Antimo Trailer Park in Mora, resigned from his job as a corrections officer at the jail immediately after his April 17 arrest, according to Santa Fe County jail deputy warden David Osuna. Management and Training Corp., the Utah-based private operator of the jail, recently announced that it cannot operate the jail profitably and told the county it is bailing out of its contract to run the lockup.    Illegal drugs finding their way into the jail is just one of a number of problems that have beset the privately run jail in recent years.

April 16, 2005 New Mexican
Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano's push for the county to take over operation of the jail from a private company received solid support Friday from members of the law-enforcement community, who all agreed that operating a jail should be a governmental function. However, some expressed concerns that a transition could be bumpy, and others cautioned that a county-run jail is unlikely to be a cure-all for all the problems. "I agreed with Sheriff Solano that we've got to stop thinking of the jail as a profit-maker," said state District Judge Michael Vigil. "I don't think government should be contracting out something as serious as our obligation to incarcerate people." "Three different private entities have run it now and it has not worked out," he said. "Probably because the bottom line for the companies is profit." Fellow District Judge Stephen Pfeffer -- who, like Vigil, handles criminal cases almost exclusively -- agreed. "Businesses are in business for profit," he said. "Government has to stay within a budget, but I think it's a different focus." Santa Fe County first contracted out the running of its jail in 1986, when the facility was located on Airport Road, to Corrections Corporation of America. After CCA decided not to pursue the contract for the newly built, much-larger jail in 1997, the contract was awarded to Cornell Corrections Inc. The current contractor -- Management Training Corporation -- has run the facility since 2001. MTC announced Thursday it was pulling out of its contract -- set to run until August 2006 -- because of problems providing adequate medical services. Those medical services were provided by yet another contractor -- Correct Care Solutions. Solano said he'd like to see a local medical-care provider, such as St. Vincent Regional Medical Center or Presbyterian Medical Services contract with the county to provide care at the jail.

April 15, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Management and Training Corp., saying it can't operate the Santa Fe County jail profitably, has given notice to county officials that it's bailing out of its contract to run the lockup. Utah-based MTC said it wasn't getting a sufficient number of inmates at the jail and the county wasn't paying the company enough to cover costs. "Low inmate occupancy numbers and the costs of additional operating requirements have made it impossible for MTC to continue to manage the facility," said Al Murphy, an MTC vice president. County Sheriff Greg Solano said now it's time for the county to take over jail operations rather than relying on a contractor. "We have to give up the idea of the jail as a profit center," Solano said. Solano also wants local health care providers to partner with the county to provide medical services for prisoners, which the sheriff said is one of the most difficult issues at the jail. MTC took over operation of the jail from Cornell Companies of Texas in 2001. The contract was renewed last fall, but MTC spokesman Carl Stuart said the company can opt out annually. MTC is willing to run the jail for another six months to fulfill the contract but also would leave earlier if the county wants, Stuart said. Stuart said MTC expected to have an average of 600 inmates at the jail— which can hold at least 650 prisoners— but that the prisoner population has been running at an average of 540 in recent months.  Santa Fe County's own prisoners average about 300 or 320 a day, Solano said. MTC has "had problems getting inmates from other areas to make a profit," he said.  Santa Fe attorney Mark Donatelli, who recently filed a lawsuit over the jail's former policy of strip-searching all inmates, said he and others warned county officials years ago that the jail was too large "and would become an economic albatross." "And that's what it turned out to be," Donatelli said. County Manager Gerald González said MTC's announcement was not a shock. This week, Correct Care Solutions, the current medical provider at the jail, notified MTC it planned to pull out because it cannot meet medical requirements under the present reimbursement allowance. "We knew they were having difficulty with medical, so from that standpoint it was not a complete surprise," González said. Donatelli said one problem with hiring private companies to run jails or prisons is that public agencies like the county lose corrections expertise and it can be difficult to resume public management. Solano said county management would help retain jail employees because of better benefits, including the retirement plan available through New Mexico's public employee system. He noted that the county took over operations at the juvenile jail about a year ago. MTC said one of its accomplishments was winning American Correctional Association accreditation for the jail last year. But an inmate was killed in an alleged beating by other inmates in June, apparently the first-ever slaying at the county jail.

April 14, 2005 AP
The company managing the Santa Fe County Jail announced Thursday it will end its two-year contract early. Executives for Management & Training Corporation said they cannot afford to continue managing the facility at the rate of $42 per day per inmate, considering the 650-bed jail houses only an average of 450 inmates. They said the contract is not profitable and they will end the agreement in six months. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg L. Solano said Thursday the company's early departure was disappointing because it had just started just six months ago. However, the change could be an opportunity for the county to take over the jail, which has a $9.6 million budget. "We need to take control of this facility and put its destiny into our own hands," Solano said. The U.S. Justice Department, which monitors the jail's management, released a report in March 2003 alleging that county officials were indifferent to prisoners' medical and mental health needs. The county denied the allegations, but made changes to its program. Solano said he believes local medical providers would serve the jail better than out-of-state contractors. "We ought to get out of the business of running a jail for profit and just try to operate the best jail," Solano said.

April 6, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
A woman formerly employed at the Santa Fe County jail showed up in court drunk Monday to testify whether a female inmate was being denied emergency medical treatment for a life-threatening illness.  Santa Fe public defender Damien Horne said that Rose Bell-Engle, 48, a former health services administrator for the county jail, first lied to Santa Fe District Judge Michael Vigil about whether she had drunk any alcohol.  But then Bell-Engle blew a 0.09 blood alcohol level on two Breathalyzer tests administered to her at the court, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. The legal limit for driving while intoxicated in New Mexico is a 0.08 blood alcohol level. Solano said Tuesday that Bell-Engle had resigned from her job at the jail before Monday's hearing. She was employed at the jail by Correct Care Solutions, the subcontractor for medical services hired by the jail's private manager, the Utah-based Management & Training Co.

February 26, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
A Santa Fe County Sheriff's corporal said in court Friday that a 23-year-old man has admitted to using heroin at the Santa Fe County jail on the same date that his best friend, also an inmate at the jail, died of what authorities have said is a possible heroin overdose.
Rocky Romero, 23, was in court Friday to face sentencing on charges of leading Santa Fe County sheriff's deputies on two vehicle chases last year. During Romero's sentencing, Santa Fe County Sheriff's Cpl. Vanessa Pacheco told Santa Fe District Judge Stephen Pfeffer that Romero has admitted to using heroin on Feb. 17 and at other times during the week of Feb. 14 to Feb. 18. Romero's best friend, Chris Roybal, 37, who was staying in the same dormitory pod as Romero the week ending Feb. 18, was found dead in his cell on Feb. 18. Roybal's death is being investigated as a possible heroin overdose, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. According to a news release from the sheriff's department, inmates at the jail have told investigators that Roybal was using heroin on Feb. 17 before he was found dead on Feb. 18.  During the investigation, a syringe was found behind a hollowed-out brick wall in the dormitory where Roybal was being held, according to the sheriff's department.  Solano has called Roybal's death a "suspected overdose" and added that Roybal showed no outward signs of trauma that could have contributed to his death.

February 24, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Two men who potentially face the death penalty if found guilty of killing a fellow inmate at the Santa Fe County jail last year were unusually loquacious during a court hearing Wednesday. Prosecutors called for the hearing before First Judicial District Judge Tim Garcia because they believe that court documents made available to the two defendants have been disseminated to a wider audience and could be used to "threaten the lives of witnesses and/or defendants," according to the motion. But defendant Jesus Aviles-Dominguez, who is charged in connection with the June 4 beating death of fellow Santa Fe County jail inmate Dickie Ortega, denied any such activity. He told a reporter, "We don't have no fax machines in our pods." Good said that at the time of Ortega's death, he was three days away from being released from jail. Good is now being housed at the state penitentiary. Good said that his treatment at the prison is better than it was at the Santa Fe County jail. When pressed for details about the case, Good became tight lipped. "No comment, not guilty, see you at trial," Good said.

February 19, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
A Santa Fe County jail inmate was found dead in his cell early Friday, and fellow inmates are claiming the deceased man took heroin on Thursday, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department. Chris Roybal, 37, was found dead just before 3 a.m. on Friday after a fellow inmate notified a guard that Roybal "normally snores loudly and was too quiet and something may be wrong with him," according to the sheriff's department.
On Friday, Roybal's former attorney, Sydney West, said Roybal had "a long and documented heroin problem."

January 13, 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Among the former Santa Fe County jail inmates who were forced to strip naked under the jail's former blanket strip-search policy, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday, was 49-year-old Kristi Siebold. The crime that brought Siebold to the jail? Refusal to give her dog to animal control, the civil rights lawsuit states. Another defendant in attorney Mark Donatelli's class action suit against the jail and its private management firm is David Sandoval, a 39-year-old machinist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who underwent two strip searches after being arrested on a charge of stealing a casino gambling chip, a charge he was later cleared of. Another plaintiff is a 45-year-old writer and film producer who had never been arrested before. She was taken into custody in November when a bench warrant was erroneously issued for her arrest on a charge of failing to appear for a court date, the suit says. The woman was "taken to the jail where she was ordered to strip completely naked, put her arms over her head and turn around for visual inspection," according to Donatelli. "She was then required to lift each of her breasts for additional visual inspection, to bend over and cough. This woman also, while completely naked, was subjected to an officer placing her hands on the woman's legs and genital area for a further physical examination."
Donatelli alleges that none of the plaintiffs named in his suit were admitted to the jail for violent offenses, and none were found to be in possession of any contraband after they were forced to strip nude. Donatelli estimates that hundreds of people, presumed innocent after their arrests, have likely had to endure the "horribly demeaning" experience of having to strip naked.

January 6, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A 31-year-old man who was arrested on prostitution charges on Cerrillos Road New Year's Eve has alleged that he was raped by an unknown assailant while in custody at the Santa Fe County jail early Sunday morning.

December 30, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A civil rights attorney says he will file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all individuals who were forced to strip naked under the Santa Fe County Jail's former policy of strip-searching anyone booked into the jail. Santa Fe attorney Mark Donatelli's Wednesday announcement that he plans the class-action litigation comes after the jail recently abandoned its policy of strip-searching each and every inmate during booking. Donatelli contends that it was unconstitutional for the jail to have a blanket policy of strip-searching all inmates, arguing that individuals under arrest have a right to privacy and are presumed innocent of their charges in the eyes of the law.
The jail's former practice of strip-searching every inmate during booking first came to light in September, after the Journal reported that a cocktail waitress at a Santa Fe bar was strip-searched following her arrest on a charge of selling alcohol to a minor. During an interview after her arrest, Leyba said she was forced to strip naked, "no socks, nothing," after her Sept. 4 arrest. The search was performed by female corrections officers, Leyba said. In November, Jamie Taylor, 22, of Santa Fe also came forward and reported that male corrections officers ordered her to strip naked for a search after her June arrest on a DWI charge. But Taylor said that after she protested, the male corrections officers backed off and did not go through with the search. Donatelli said there is potentially a large number of inmates and former inmates whose rights were violated at the county jail when they were ordered to strip naked.

December 14, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A woman who says she was raped by two inmates at the Santa Fe County jail while she was incarcerated there earlier this year has notified the county and the jail's private manager that she intends to sue for damages. Veronica Sanchez has alleged that she was sexually assaulted at the Santa Fe County jail in September. According to her tort claim notice, she "was raped by at least two men after being trapped inside a cell containing approximately eight to eleven male detainees." Sanchez's tort claim says after she was raped, "she was then removed and placed, alone, in a different cell, where she was left for about two hours before being transported to the hospital for an examination, during which time the various personnel who were responsible for her safety scrambled to concoct an explanation for her rape which would leave them somehow blameless," reads the tort claim notice. "Only after she became hysterical, curled up on the floor, and started kicking at the door and screaming was she finally let out of the cell and taken to the hospital by ambulance." After Sanchez was raped, the detention officer who put her in the wrong cell, "immediately denied putting her in that cell."  A medical officer at the jail also is quoted in Donatelli's tort claim as saying that a detention officer approached him at the jail the night of the rape, and told him that he "lost" Sanchez in the jail, and that "he knew he should not have had male and female detainees out of booking cells at the same time, but that his supervisor told him just to handle it on his own."

November 23, 2004 AP
The American Correctional Association says the Santa Fe County jail violated its standards by strip searching a waitress booked on a charge of serving alcohol to minors. Waitress Lisa Leyba, who notified the county earlier this month that she intends to sue, contends she was ordered to remove all her clothes and turn around in front of a female guard. Some people who have been strip searched at New Mexico jails have won settlements. For example, Diana Archuleta, a supervisor at Las Vegas Medical Center, settled a case against San Miguel County early this year for more than $80,000 after winning a summary judgment, said her attorney, Shannon Oliver of Albuquerque. State District Judge Jay Harris ruled the Las Vegas jail's policy of strip searching everyone booked into the jail is unconstitutional. Phil Davis, legal co-director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, has represented plaintiffs in several strip-search cases and has settled them all. "The law is clear that you need some kind of suspicion to strip search any inmate, particularly one brought in for a relatively minor offense," Davis said.

November 20, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A 36-year-old Santa Fe woman was mistakenly released from jail Thursday by giving a detention officer a bond receipt from a prior arrest, according to a report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department.
The woman, Connie Gonzales, was still at large Friday afternoon, and she will be additionally charged with escape from jail.

November 18, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
The Santa Fe County jail's practice of strip searching all inmates is unconstitutional, according to a tort claim notice sent to the jail by an attorney for a local cocktail waitress who says she was ordered to strip nude after her September arrest for serving alcohol to a minor. Catamount Bar & Grille cocktail waitress Lisa Leyba, 32, spent 14 hours at the jail Sept. 4, charged with a fourth-degree felony after she sold beers to two underage customers during an undercover sting operation by police.    In a phone interview Wednesday, Leyba's attorney, Mark Donatelli said, "It's hard to believe that in the middle of purported jail improvements, the county starts forcing people to take their clothes off in violation of the Constitution." "Specifically, she was taken to a room and ordered to disrobe," reads Donatelli's tort claim. "Ms. Leyba removed her clothes and stood in the middle of the room in her undergarments and socks. She was then told that this was insufficient and was ordered to take off all her undergarments and socks and to rotate so that the officer could observe her entire body." Santa Fe County jail warden Kerry Dixon, who works for the jail's private manager, the Utah-based Management & Training Co., could not be reached for comment Wednesday. During a brief phone conversation Wednesday, Dixon said he wanted to first speak with an attorney before commenting, but he did not call back and subsequently could not be reached for comment. "We have since learned that what happened to Ms. Leyba was caused by a recently implemented policy of conducting strip searches of all incoming pre-trial detainees," reads Donatelli's tort claim notice. "As I am sure you know, this categorical and indiscriminate practice expressly violates the 4th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution as well as the New Mexico Constitution." Another young woman who was interviewed Wednesday, Jamie Taylor, 22, said that a male corrections officer ordered her to strip after her June arrest on a driving while intoxicated charge. Taylor said the corrections officer claimed the female guards were busy, "so he had to do it." Taylor said that when she stood up for herself, the corrections officer backed off.  "The male guy tried to make me strip in front of him," Taylor said. "I told him I know my rights, and that if he tried to make me strip I would immediately look into filing a lawsuit."  Leyba's tort claim notice claims that the jail's policy of conducting strip searches of all pre-trial detainees "was caused in part by the joint decision of county officials and MTC to bring in an administration headed by a warden whose only corrections experience was in operating prisons housing convicted felons and not a jail housing pre-trial detainees who are presumed innocent of any crimes."

October 29, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A Santa Fe man accuses a Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy of mistaking a preexisting brain injury for intoxication and arresting him for drunken driving after a 2002 traffic crash, according to a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The suit states that Lawrence Martinez was involved in an Oct. 28, 2002, crash with another vehicle while he was headed west on Las Estrellas Road. It also states that county jail guards beat and kicked Martinez. The jail's private manager, the Utah-based Management & Training Corp., also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

October 28, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
The U.S. Department of Justice won't sue Santa Fe County, as long as it adheres to a 30-page memorandum of understanding that has taken more than a year to negotiate over management of the county jail. The agreement outlines policies and protocols covering a range of issues from health care and suicide prevention to security and staff training.
Santa Fe County commissioners approved the document Tuesday, but the federal government has yet to sign off on it. The jail has been under Justice Department scrutiny for some time. In March 2003, the federal agency released a scathing report charging that the county was deliberately indifferent to the inmates' medical and mental health needs and suffered harm or risk from the detention center's suicide prevention, fire safety and sanitation systems. Federal inmates were subsequently pulled from the facility. The jail has had other problems recently as well. Earlier this month, a woman alleged she was raped by another inmate in an area of booking where no security cameras were in place. And a 32-year-old prisoner was beaten to death by other inmates in June. The death occurred in a section of the jail the Justice Department identified as being understaffed two years ago. However, when the county renegotiated its contract with jail operator Management and Training Corp. on Oct. 1, the new contract reflected many of the Department of Justice's recommendations. As a result, the cost of operating the jail will increase this year by nearly $1.5 million, county finance director Susan Lucero said.

October 6, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
An attorney for a woman who claims she was raped by a fellow inmate at the Santa Fe County jail last week says the sheriff's department has a conflict of interest in investigating the case. The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department should not be investigating the rape report because the sheriff will be named in a resulting civil lawsuit, her attorney Mark Donatelli said Tuesday. The sheriff will be named in the suit because as the county's agent, he is ultimately responsible for what goes on at the privately run county jail, Donatelli said. Donatelli said he intends to file suit against Solano, the county and the jail's private manager, the Utah-based Management and Training Corp.

October 1, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
Officials at the Santa Fe County jail should never have allowed a female inmate to have contact with a male inmate during an incident Tuesday night when she alleges she was raped in a booking area, her attorney said.
Female and male inmates are, at least theoretically, "not allowed to mix" at the jail, said attorney Mark Donatelli. "How hard is it to have physical separation at the jail?" Donatelli asked. There are two main problems at the jail, Donatelli said— a lack of staffing and a lack of money to commit to hire and retain quality personnel. During an incident in 2001, guards allowed a female inmate into her inmate boyfriend's cell so they could have sex. This happened under the jail's former private manager, Cornell Corrections.  And in March, former inmate Juanita Martinez alleged in a lawsuit that she became pregnant in 2001 after she was raped at the jail by a guard and other inmates. Both Cornell Corrections and MTC are named as plaintiffs in that lawsuit.

September 30, 2004 Santa Fe New Mexican
A 44-year-old woman claims she was raped in the booking area of the Santa Fe County jail Tuesday night after guards left her alone with male inmates, Sheriff Greg Solano said. Both Solano and jail Warden Kerry Dixon refused to say exactly what happened. The booking area has two sections -- one where prisoners are initially brought and a second where holding cells are located, Solano said.  The alleged attack took place in the second section, where a corrections officer should always be on duty, Dixon said. "However, last night we did not (have anyone on duty)," he said. "It initially appears to me that we had some procedural errors." "I'm extremely concerned and embarrassed," said Dixon, who was hired as warden seven months ago. "Everything I've worked to do here is going to go right down the drain because of incidents like this."

September 30, 2004 Albuquerque Journal
A female inmate at the Santa Fe County jail has alleged that a male inmate raped her in the facility's booking area Tuesday night, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department.
The alleged rape occurred in the jail's booking area between 9:44 and 11 p.m. Tuesday.

August 31, 2004
A lawyer has sent a letter warning Santa Fe County and the private company that runs its jail to expect a lawsuit from the family of a man beaten to death in the facility earlier this summer. Dickie Ortega’s death in the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center resulted from a lack of adequate staffing, lack of inmate supervision, lack of video monitoring of some jail areas, inadequate policies regarding inmate classification and problems with hiring , training and supervision of corrections officers, Santa Fe attorney Bob Rothstein wrote in a Friday letter.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

August 26, 2004
The Santa Fe District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against two county jail inmates who are accused of beating a fellow inmate to death.  The inmate was slain on June 6 because they thought he was an informant, according to court records.  Attorney Mark Donatelli has said he plans on filing a civil lawsuit against the jail's private manager, the Utah-based Management and Training Corp., and Santa Fe County, for negligence in connection with Dickie Ortega's death.  On Wednesday, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who oversees the jail, said that staffing is being increased at the jail.  (ABQ Journal)

August 11, 2004
Escalating costs at the Santa Fe County jail are likely to consume new revenue from a gross receipts tax hike approved by county commissioners last month in just 21/2 to four years, commissioners determined Tuesday. "Well, that's really depressing," said County Commissioner Jack Sullivan, who crunched some numbers during the commission meeting.  If the county inmate population continues growing, and the number of inmates coming from the state Corrections Department shrinks, the county will see recurring increases of more than $1 million each year to pay its private operator, Management and Training Corp.  (ABQ Journal)

July 28, 2004
The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a tax hike to help fund operations at the county jail.  The one-eighth percent increase in the gross receipts tax will mean an additional 12.5 cents on a $100 purchase in Santa Fe County. The new tax rate will go into effect Jan. 1, 2005, unless voters petition the county to hold a referendum on the increase.  County officials estimate the tax hike will generate an additional $4 million a year, which would be earmarked for the county's correctional facilities. The county contracts with a private company, Utah-based Management and Training Corp., to run the adult jail.  The adult jail has been the subject of state and federal audits harshly criticizing medical care and security at the facility.  Also under the new proposal, the county will increase the amount of money it pays per prisoner. The new per diem rate, currently $41 per prisoner per day, will increase to $42.  There are nearly 600 inmates currently at the jail. About 400 of those are county inmates, and the remainder are prisoners housed under contract with other agencies.  (ABQ Journal)

June 28, 2004
As "tough negotiations" with Santa Fe County's private jail contractor grind on, some county officials are revisiting the notion that the county itself should resume jail operations.  County Commissioner Paul Duran thinks the county would do a better job running the jail now.  "I have always thought that the county should take it over," Duran said.  Duran expressed similar thoughts last year when the county's Corrections Advisory Committee issued its annual report. It concluded that Utah-based MTC-- a for-profit company-- was not providing enough medical staffing or case managers to deal with inmates needs.  This year's report, while noting some progress, raised the same concerns.  "I think it's the profit element that is the root of all these problems," Duran said in a recent interview.  The jail's troubles have been well-documented in recent years, with state and federal audits slamming the facility for inadequate medical services and security procedures.  MTC currently subcontracts another company, Physicians Network Association, to provide health care services at the jail. PNA will not return if and when the county and MTC reach a new agreement, jail administrators have said.  (ABQ Journal)

June 26, 2004
The Santa Fe County jail is making changes following an incident earlier this month that left one inmate dead. The jail, run by Management and Training Corp., has changed rules for prisoners.  Among them, inmates are not allowed in their neighbor's cell at any time and rules governing when inmates can enter and exit cells in three of the jail's four housing units have changed, Deputy Warden David Osuna said.  On June 6, four inmates in the jail's highest-security housing pod allegedly dragged two other inmates from a recreational area into a cell and severely beat them. Dickie M. Ortega, 32, of Chimayo died at a Santa Fe hospital after suffering head and facial injuries and a crushed larynx. His cousin, 29-year-old Brad Ortega, was injured.  Four inmates were charged with murder and aggravated battery. They are Daniel Good, 31, Jesus Aviles-Dominguez, 28, Joe Corriz, 36, all of Santa Fe, and Lawrence Gallegos, 25. There was no hometown listed for Gallegos. Aviles-Dominguez also was charged with tampering with evidence.  Along with rule changes at the jail, Management and Training Corp. said it has added two supervising corrections officers to each day shift.  (ABQ Journal)

June 12, 2004
The Santa Fe County jail pod where an inmate was killed on June 4 was staffed with a requisite number of guards-- the same number that was sufficient to win accreditation from the American Correctional Association after a February inspection, according to the county sheriff.  Attorney Mark Donatelli, whose law firm is representing Ortega's family in a pending civil lawsuit, said Friday that inadequate staffing and supervision of inmates could have contributed to Ortega's fatal beating.  Donatelli also said that ACA accreditation is "like have having a sticker on a used car that says it runs good; that's about it."  A 2002 Department of Justice report identified nine incidents of violence at the jail that can be attributed to a lack of supervision, Donatelli said.  (ABQ Journal)

January 25, 2004
Fumes from fresh paint and floor wax overpowered the smell of cigarette smoke inside the Santa Fe County jail this weekend as inmate work crews prepared for inspection.  A team of auditors will be at the jail Monday to check for compliance with corrections-industry standards. But it could be several months before the private jail operator, Management and Training Corp., learns if the facility has passed muster.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 19, 2003
Guards at the Santa Fe County jail say they found an inmate with black-tar heroin inside the jail Monday afternoon.  Albert Ponce, 28, who is from southern New Mexico, has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, according to undersheriff Robert Garcia.  Police reports indicate a guard at the jail saw Ponce and another inmate walk out of a janitor's closet at the jail Monday afternoon. Another guard reportedly patted both inmates down and found a small sheet of folded paper with the heroin inside it taped to Ponce's body under his jail-issue clothing.  It was too early to know how the heroin found its way into the jail, Garcia said, but drugs inside the facility are not uncommon.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 15, 2003
Nine months after the U.S. Department of Justice found health-care deficiencies at Santa Fe County's jail, problems remain.  The department still won't allow the jail to house federal prisoners, whose removal earlier this year cut off a source of revenue for the 682-bed adult-detention center south of the city.  Officials say solving the jail's medical-care problems will likely call for a greater investment from the county government, which already has felt a drag on its budget, and more cooperation from community health-care providers. The company that provides health services is not performing routine exams for prisoners locked up in the county-owned, privately-operated jail, and in many cases, inmates are being cared for by emergency medical technicians, who have less training than nurses, officials say.  Inmates have complained about medical care more than any other issue since the Justice Department found problems in the jail's medical-screening and treatment procedures. "The question I have to ask myself is 'Are the inmates getting adequate care?' " said Stephen Spencer, a member of a county committee charged with inspecting jail operations.  Physicians Network Associates, hired to provide medical services at the jail, says there are major hurdles to the kind of care the county wants at the facility.  Some of the difficulties reflect the area's health problems in general: Among the most burdensome is stabilizing substance abusers held at the jail for lack of a more appropriate treatment area.  Physicians Network, which subcontracts with jail operator Management and Training Corp., has medical wards within prisons and jails in Texas, Arizona, Florida and New Mexico. But company vice president Jean Brock says the Santa Fe jail is its worst and most complex site.  Physicians Network admits staff turnover has been a problem in the unit, but president Vernon Farthing said he can't keep help at the jail despite offering an hourly wage that is $7 to $10 more than he pays equally qualified nurses in a Lubbock jail.  Santa Fe County officials have been talking about improving the jail since 2001, when the federal Justice Department first announced it was launching an investigation of civil-right violations there.  Even though the agency likely got involved because of problems with the former operator, Cornell Companies, by the time it audited the jail a year later, MTC was in charge.  Another year passed before the Justice Department issued its March report calling for millions of dollars in security, medical and staff investments.  Soon, the department is expected to file a lawsuit alleging civil-rights violations and a settlement agreement that will dismiss accusations and spell out how the county will ensure proper inmate care.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

September 6, 2003
Two years ago, two former guards at the Santa Fe County jail placed a handcuffed Tony Sanchez in now-convicted killer Ivan Lara-Sanchez's cell.  The guards placed the two in a cell together despite their knowledge that they were enemies, according to a lawsuit filed by Sanchez on Wednesday.  "Lara-Sanchez immediately attacked and brutally beat Tony Sanchez, inflicting serious, permanent injuries," reads the suit. The two former guards who placed Sanchez in Lara-Sanchez's cell knew that Sanchez's jail classification form listed Lara-Sanchez as Sanchez's "sworn enemy," according to the suit.  Attorney Mark Donatelli, who represents Sanchez, said Friday that, before the Sept. 6, 2001, beating, a rumor had already spread around the jail that Sanchez had informed on Lara-Sanchez.  At the time, Lara-Sanchez was in jail awaiting trial for the strangling and beheading of Kathleen "Kat" Lopez in her Don Diego home.  Police had arrested Lara-Sanchez after getting a tip on his whereabouts from a confidential informant, according to police.  Lara-Sanchez was later convicted of Lopez's murder and is serving a life sentence.  The purpose of the classification form signed by Sanchez when he was admitted to the jail "was to alert all employees that Lara-Sanchez posed a threat to Tony Sanchez and that they should be separated at all times," reads the suit.  The former jail operator, Cornell Corrections, is listed as a defendant in the suit, in addition to the two guards. Santa Fe County is also listed as a defendant.  Donatelli said Sanchez was placed in Lara-Sanchez's cell after Sanchez had a disagreement with former guard Dominic Baca over where Sanchez should be placed. Baca is no longer employed at the Santa Fe County jail, according to a jail official.  "Tony said Dominic Baca did it intentionally," Donatelli said. As a result of his beating, Sanchez suffered "lacerations to his eye and face, injuries to his head, neck, upper back, lower back, hand and wrist, and was found to be in 'severe' pain," the lawsuit states.  Sanchez continues to suffer from the injuries, including a herniated lumbar disc, leg and back pain, vision problems and headaches, according to the suit.  Baca could not be reached for comment Friday.  A spokesman for Cornell Corrections could not confirm whether Baca was still employed by Cornell.  Cornell spokesman Paul Doucette said he does not believe an inmate would be placed into a cell with another inmate while one was in handcuffs.  "As a matter of policy, that would just never happen," Doucette said.  The Utah-based Management and Training Corp. took over operations at the privately run jail in October 2001, after Santa Fe County decided not to renew its contract with Cornell. Under Cornell, the facility experienced a series of problems, including a death by heroin overdose, a minor disturbance among inmates, and lawsuits alleging that male and female inmates were allowed to intermingle and that a jail employee sexually abused an inmate.  Donatelli said that, as far as he knows, Baca was not disciplined for placing Sanchez in Lara-Sanchez's cell.  At the time of the attack, Sanchez was in jail on a probation violation, Donatelli said.  In February 2002, Lara-Sanchez attacked Sanchez in Santa Fe District Judge Stephen Pfeffer's courtroom, spitting at Sanchez before he was restrained by Santa Fe police detectives who had escorted him to court.  Sanchez was in court for a sentencing on two counts of burglary, aggravated burglary and escape from jail.  Donatelli said Sanchez is out of jail and has turned his life around since his conviction.  (ABQ Journal)

September 2, 2003
Santa Fe County’s private prison operator has 30 days to come up with a corrective-action plan to address issues raised in a recent audit by the state Department of Corrections, the department announced Friday.  Corrections Secretary Joe Williams said workers who inspected the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center two weeks ago found that Management and Training Corp. has made strides in improving security at the jail since the state threatened to remove its inmates from the facility earlier this summer.  But Williams wants the Utah-based operator to work harder at complying with contractual obligations regarding programs and services, he said in a written statement Friday.  Williams said the jail needs to improve its classification and grievance procedures, discipline, record-keeping and inmate programs such as education and recreation. The state contracts with Santa Fe County to jail 142 medium-security Department of Corrections inmates for a daily fee of $55.30 per inmate. The department also has inmates in three other privately run jails in the state. Santa Fe County’s facility rated poorly in a security audit performed in July, when inspectors found problems  with tool inventory, key control and booking procedures.  The more recent audit showed improvement in these areas but identified other problems at the jail.  Department spokeswoman Tia Bland said the county is not providing all the educational services it agreed to provide.  For example, she said state inmates are supposed to have an employment-readiness program called SOAR, or Success for Offenders After Release, but MTC has not instituted one.  The facility also has not provided enough slots for vocational computer training or compiled the proper progress reports for its adult basic-education program, Bland said.  (The New Mexican)

August 27, 2003
More than 50 Santa Fe County workers demonstrated in front of the County Commission Tuesday asking for more than a 1.5 percent increase in wages and benefits.  Finding additional funds to offer more than a 1.5 percent increase, which would cost the county about $234,000, may be a challenge because of the county's current situation with the Santa Fe County Detention Center, Commissioner Mike D. Anaya said. Because it is handling fewer inmates than anticipated and because county inmate expenses have exceeded budget projections, the county increased its spending at the detention center in this year's budget from $5.3 million to $7 million. The expenditure accounted for half of the county's total budget increase of $3.4 million.  (ABQ Journal)

August 21, 2003
Rising costs at the Santa Fe County Detention Center took a large chunk out of the county's budget and are now affecting the county's next contract with its union employees.  Talks between negotiators for Santa Fe County and union officials representing 250 county employees have broken down because of differences over raises and benefits.  Late Tuesday night, county employees who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1782 overwhelmingly rejected the county's latest offer of a three-year contract that would give employees a 1.5 percent raise the first year, said Robert Chavez, the union's chief negotiator.  Chavez said the offer is well below the national pay-raise average.  "The union employees want to be made a priority," Chavez said. "They are the ones who get the job done for the county. This has been hard on them. Morale is very low."  Helen Quintana, the county's chief negotiator, said the offer is fair. She said the county right now is strapped for cash because of jail costs and employees were given salary increases and lump sum bonuses in January.  Quintana said the county's offer that was rejected is the best it can do because of its current situation at the jail.  "Right now, we are at impasse until we get the help of a mediator," Quintana said. "Until we know what our costs are going to be at the jail, it's difficult to make more of a commitment in our offer."  As the county retains a mediator, Chavez said he is organizing union members to speak out on the issue during the County Commission's meeting Tuesday.  Because of a loss in inmate revenue while county inmate populations have exceeded budget projections, the county has increased its spending at the jail in this year's budget from $5.3 million to $7 million. The expenditure accounted for half of the county's total budget increase of $3.4 million.  The jail is no longer housing U.S. Marshals Service inmates, a loss of $960,000 annually, and the county's inmate population has averaged 365 per day instead of the targeted population of 330 per day. The county pays its private contractor, Management & Training Corp., $40 per inmate per day.  (ABQ Journal)

August 14, 2003
The family of Tyson Johnson, in a federal lawsuit filed Monday, claim that instead of tending to his psychiatric care during a 17-day stay in the Santa Fe County jail, staff there neglected and even taunted him to end his life.  The 26-page document, filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe on behalf of Johnson's mother and his two young children, details the 27-year-old man's last days, during which he repeatedly pleaded for help.  The lawsuit claims those cries fell on deaf ears. Johnson ended up hanging himself the morning of Jan. 13 with a "suicide proof" blanket inside a padded cell, despite being placed on a suicide watch.  "Instead of giving him medical help, they put him in a cell, which was a death trap," said Jeffrey Haas, who is representing Johnson's family, along with Mariel Nanasi.  Defendants in the lawsuit include Santa Fe County; its private jail contractor, Management & Training Corp.; and Physicians Network Association, which provides health care at the county Adult Detention Center off N.M. 14.  "This is serious in the sense of a callous disrespect for his life," Nanasi said of the case. "They didn't do anything, and they let him die. There were multiple times they could have intervened.  (ABQ Journal)

August 5, 2003
A former inmate at the Santa Fe County jail has filed a lawsuit claiming he was subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment" when he was forced to breathe the secondhand smoke of other prisoners' cigarettes.  The county jail's former manager, Cornell Corrections, is named as a defendant in the suit. A spokesman for Cornell said Monday he could not comment directly on the lawsuit because he hasn't seen it.  Ethan E. Roberts, who filed the suit last week in Santa Fe District Court, claims that because of his exposure to environmental tobacco smoke as an inmate at the county jail, "he has now lost a major portion of his lung capacity and can be expected to become fully disabled."  According to the lawsuit, inmates at the Santa Fe County jail, "smoke cigarettes in their cells and living areas in an unrestricted manner."  Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said in a recent interview that he would like the county to change the jail's smoking policy and make it a smoke-free facility, both for inmates and guards.  Solano said that in addition to cutting down on the health risk to inmates and employees, adopting a no-smoking policy also might cut down on the amount of illegal drugs that is brought into the facility, because inmates will instead focus on trying to smuggle in cigarettes.  Solano could not be reached for comment on Roberts' lawsuit Monday, but he has said that the County Commission would ultimately need to approve any smoking ban at the jail.  Roberts, now an inmate at a federal penitentiary in Big Spring, Texas, was housed at the Santa Fe County jail from April 16, 1999, to June 8, 2000, according to the lawsuit.  An official at the Federal Correctional Institution in Big Spring could not be reached for comment Monday to explain why Roberts is in prison.  Roberts says in his lawsuit that four days after his arrival at the Santa Fe jail, he has placed in a 10-by-8-foot cell with a prisoner who smoked about 15 cigarettes a day. Subsequent bunkmates included inmates who smoked a pack a day; three packs a day; and 12 to 15 days, respectively, according to the suit.  Roberts claims in the suit he had not smoked cigarettes for over seven years prior to being admitted at the Santa Fe County jail. After about 75 days of exposure to high levels of secondhand smoke, Roberts started smoking one to five cigarettes a day to "ward off the withdrawal symptoms," according to the lawsuit.  When Roberts complained to medical staff at the facility about medical problems he suffered due to the secondhand smoke, they were indifferent, according to the suit.  (ABQ Journal)

July 27, 2003
Jail guards or civilians who help bring illegal narcotics into the Santa Fe County jail might wind up spending time there as inmates. And inmates who bring drugs in will be caught and face a longer list of criminal charges. That's the message Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano hopes to send after he announced that 12 defendants either face or will face criminal charges as a result of an ongoing six-month investigation into drug smuggling into the Santa Fe County jail by a task force headed by Lt. Marco Lucero. Six defendants have already been arrested and charged in connection with the operations, including one former jail guard. The former guard, Gilbert Perea, 21, is charged with one count of bringing contraband into a place of imprisonment. The undercover investigation will continue in the weeks and months to come, Solano said. "We get reports on a weekly basis of drugs being in the jail," Solano said. The ease with which inmates in the jail can obtain drugs led Lucero to compare it to a candy store. "The drugs on the inside are just outrageous ... the availability," Lucero said. Solano said that the continuing investigation "is just the beginning" and will "target everybody," including jail guards, inmates and civilians. Other names released by Solano on Thursday in connection with the sting operation are Manuel Gabaldon, 19, and Joseph Martinez, 18, who are charged with leaving a balloon of heroin, a balloon of psilocybin mushrooms and 8 grams of high-grade marijuana near a picnic table on jail grounds earlier this month.  Carolina Lovato, 19, was arrested and charged with a count of trying to bring contraband into the jail after a February incident, when she was intercepted at the McDonald's at Cerrillos Road and Don Diego Avenue. She was caught with two balloons of heroin, which she later said were intended for an inmate at the jail, according to the probable cause statement for her arrest. Perea was arrested in May, after a sheriff's deputy obtained information that Perea would be attempting to bring contraband into the facility. Perea was searched when he came in for work after the deputy got the tip. "He immediately stood up reaching into his pants," reads the probable cause statement. The deputy found a condom containing marijuana, heroin and cocaine inside Perea's pants. Perea later told deputies that he received about $100 cash for bringing in the drugs, according to the statement. "He then began to converse about his personal, financial problems and how he was in debt to the Wal-Mart department store in Las Vegas, New Mexico," reads the statement. In addition to the civilians trying to bring drugs to the jail, six inmates have been charged or have charges pending as a result of the investigation. An inmate at the jail who was arrested, Isaac Valencia, 21, was nabbed during a search after he returned from a medical furlough in May with nine balloons filled with marijuana hidden in his rectum. A confidential informant tipped off authorities that Valencia would be bringing drugs into the jail. Solano said proper searches of inmates for drugs when they return from the outside on work-release programs or furloughs is a major issue when it comes to stopping the flow of illegal narcotics into the jail. Inmates are supposed to be strip-searched after returning from work-release programs, but Solano said that when he came in as sheriff in January, that was not always the practice. "I have to rely on (jail employees) to do their jobs," but, "I'm going to be monitoring them," Solano said. Solano said he is making stopping drugs from entering the jail a major priority, and he even has his own set of keys to the jail so he can monitor the facility unannounced. Investigative methods used by the sheriff's department as part of the operation included monitoring inmate telephone calls, surveillance, the recruitment of confidential sources and undercover operations. The investigation, which included members of the Region III Narcotics Task Force, was initiated in February, well before a July announcement by state Corrections Secretary Joe R. Williams that the jail's contractor, the Utah-based Management and Training Corp., had 30 days to clean up security problems found at the jail. If the company doesn't fix the problems, Williams said he may move to terminate a $2.8 million contract to house state inmates, 144 as of his July 11 announcement. Solano said Thursday that initially, no jail officials were told about the investigation into drugs at the jail, and later, only the warden and a single MTC investigator were told, so as to keep word from getting out among guards who might be interested in smuggling in contraband. Lucero said he considers the operation a success thus far and added that he believes it has made it more difficult for inmates to get illegal drugs. Lucero added that some of the methods for obtaining information on who was bringing drugs in the jail are "untraditional," but he refused to elaborate. "It's something that hasn't been done in quite a while," he said.  (ABQ Journal)

July 22, 2003 
Friends and families of inmates at the Santa Fe County Detention Center were kept from visiting the prisoners Sunday because the jail was short of guards.  Warden Steve Hargett said visitors weren't allowed at the jail because two correctional officers unexpectedly had to take an inmate to the hospital. One guard had already called in sick when the medical emergency occurred, which left too few guards to supervise visits, he said. Visits resumed Monday.  Hargett, who works for contracted jail-operator Management and Training Corp., said he hopes the continual short-staffing problems at the jail are almost over.  Saturday and Sunday are typically the busiest visiting days at the center, which is why Hargett said he'll be working this week to adjust schedules and make sure extra guards are on duty on weekends.  MTC has had trouble keeping the jail adequately staffed. The concern was raised in a report issued this spring by the federal Department of Justice.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

July 12, 2003
New Mexico Corrections Secretary Joe R. Williams left little room for doubt: Santa Fe County, and by extension its private jail contractor, has 30 days to clean up security problems at the county's adult detention center. Otherwise, Williams said, he may move to terminate a $2.8 million contract to house state inmates, 144 as of Friday, at the county jail. A crew of 10 state inspectors descended unannounced Wednesday on the county lockup, operated by Management & Training Corp., on N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe. "I was not pleased with what we found," Williams said at a press conference at the state corrections office Friday. None of the problems posed an imminent threat to anyone's safety, he said. The state security audit came four months after a critical report from the U.S. Department of Justice that detailed overall problems at the jail, including inmate medical care. County Sheriff Greg Solano has said he's been working with DOJ to remedy those problems short of litigation. He expressed as much or more displeasure Friday than Williams. "I met yesterday with the vice president of MTC, Al Murphy, as well as the warden, Steve Hargett, and I laid down the law," Solano said. "We will take care of these issues, we will take care of them within this 30-day period... "  (ABQ Journal)

July 11, 2003
More bad news arrived Wednesday at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center, where a surprise state inspection discovered "serious security issues," according to the state Corrections Department. County Sheriff Greg Solano and Corrections Department spokeswoman Tia Bland declined Thursday to specify the problems found in the unannounced audit. Corrections Secretary Joe R. Williams and Solano plan to address the media today, Bland said. She said the security issues involved did not present immediate threats to the health or safety of any inmates. A July 4 escape from the McKinley County Detention Center prompted state interest in security there and at the Santa Fe County jail. The state contracts with both counties to house state prisoners, 144 in Santa Fe County, Bland said. Bland would not comment on whether the state inmates would be moved out of the county facility. A private contractor, Utah-based Management & Training Corp., has operated the jail on N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe since fall 2002. MTC also manages the McKinley County facility. "A few options are on the table, but with our inmates there we have to have an active role," Bland said Thursday by phone. "We need to figure out a way to work with Santa Fe County and have them fix what those problems are, or look at other options." The county jail has been a persistent headache for not only the sheriff's office but the county commissioners. The U.S. Department of Justice in March released a critical report of conditions there, citing 51 changes that should be made. The U.S. Marshals Service, which also contracted to lodge inmates at the county jail, pulled its prisoners along with release of that report. Reports of poor medical attention, drug overdoses and sexual assaults of female inmates have plagued the facility, which until last year was run by Cornell Corrections. Talk of the county resuming operation of the jail itself has cropped up at the County Commission and at the sheriff's office recently.  (ABQ Journal)

July 9, 2003
If anyone thought private prisons would go away after Gary Johnson left the governor's office, they're in for a disappointment.  "Private prisons will remain a part of the state-prison landscape," said Corrections Secretary Joe Williams, who previously worked for the Florida-based Wackenhut Corporation as warden of the prison in Hobbs.  The state also houses 140 inmates at the controversial Santa Fe County jail, which since 2001 has been operated by a Utah-based private company called Management and Training Corp.  MTC took over the jail contract from Cornell Companies Inc.  Williams told the Legislative Finance Committee last month that more inmates might have to move into the Santa Fe and Torrance County jails due to overcrowding at state prisons.  Williams acknowledges the Santa Fe facility is a jail designed for short-term inmates, not a prison designed for convicts serving longer sentences. He sees the jail as a "holding center" to house new inmates temporarily until they are assigned to a long-term facility.  But the roster of state inmates at the Santa Fe jail includes some longtime inmates. Those close to the end of their sentences probably will stay in the jail, Williams said.  State inmates in the jail have complained about inadequate medical treatment and education programs and staff shortages, which they say create an unsafe environment.  Inmates at the Santa Fe jail have to pay as much as 30 percent more for mail-order canteen items -- food products, personal-hygiene supplies and personal property such as radios -- than do inmates at state prisons, some say.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

July 2, 2003
The adoptive parents of a former Santa Fe County jail inmate who died there at age 19 of a drug overdose in July, 2001, have sued the jail's former private manager, the county and others associated with the facility.  Santiago Martinez of Chimayó was admitted to the jail around September 2000, on charges of heroin trafficking, drug paraphernalia possession and other charges, according to the suit. Martinez "had a very serious substance abuse problem or substance abuse addiction" at the time he was placed in the jail's custody, the suit says. The lawsuit alleges that Cornell Corrections, Santa Fe County and former County Sheriff Ray Sisneros, among other defendants, did not conduct appropriate medical screening for Martinez to identify and treat Martinez's drug problem. All of the defendants contacted by the Journal, including a spokesman at Cornell Corrections, Santa Fe County Attorney Stephen Ross and Sisneros, declined to comment Tuesday. "How can I comment on something I haven't seen?" Sisneros said. He said that under terms of a county contract with former jail manager Cornell, the firm agreed to handle tort claims filed against the jail while under its management. The county chose not to renew its contract with Cornell when it expired in 2001. The jail is now managed by another private contractor Management & Training Corp. At the time of Martinez's death, he was in the administrative segregation unit, which "is supposed to be the most secure and protected environment" in the jail, the suit states. Inmates there are confined to their cells 23 hours a day, and are supposed to be monitored and scrutinized for possession of controlled substances, according to the suit. The defendants named in the suit, "allowed the administrative segregation unit at the detention center to be understaffed for its functions and its responsibilities." Shortly after Martinez's death, former Sheriff Sisneros said in an interview that investigators believed Martinez was given heroin and a syringe while he was out of jail for a court appearance before his death.  The suit alleges Martinez died of a morphine overdose. Martinez had a court appearance the day before he was found dead, according to the suit. The suit says Martinez was not properly searched before re-entering the jail after the court hearing. Sisneros said during the 2001 interview that investigators believed Martinez hid his drugs in a body cavity. The lawsuit alleges Cornell, the county and Sisneros "allowed a dangerous, and unsafe and unhealthy condition to exist on the physical premises" of the jail. Martinez did not have the "proper forms, procedures, and information" to "obtain access to substance abuse programs or treatment" while he was in the segregation unit, the suit states. Steven Farber, the attorney for Martinez's family, said Tuesday that drugs need to be kept away from people in the jail who have serious substance abuse problems. "If you're not treating people, it's clear that if it's (drugs) available, they'll attempt to get it," Farber said.  (ABQ Journal)

July 2, 2003
A Santa Fe woman's Tuesday morning escape from a work crew comprised of female jail inmates emphasizes the need for identifying inmates at risk of flight and not allowing them to participate in the program, the Santa Fe County sheriff said. Linda Lucero, 54, escaped at around 9:30 a.m. from a county work crew cleaning the roadway in the area of St. Francis Drive and Sawmill Avenue, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said. She was captured around 1:15 p.m. the same day, Solano added. On Monday, Santa Fe District Judge Michael Vigil had sentenced Lucero to three years in prison for failure to comply with the conditions of her release on a prior conviction on counts of fraud, forgery and conspiracy. "At that point, she really should not have been on the work crew," Solano said. Jail officials on Tuesday were not aware that Lucero had been sentenced to prison, Solano said. She apparently did not tell anyone at the jail, he added. Lucero's attorney, Stephen Aarons, said Tuesday that Vigil had given her the option of being sentenced to a 90-day drug treatment facility, but she began to argue with the judge, saying she didn't want to go to a treatment facility. "I told her to shut up," Aarons said. Vigil complied with Lucero's wish to avoid drug treatment, sentencing her to three years in a women's prison. Lucero then proceeded to cause a loud disturbance in the courtroom, Aarons said. "She was literally dragged out of court writhing and screaming, feet first," Aarons said. Solano said that earlier this year, the jail implemented a work crew program for female inmates. Lucero qualified for the program and was placed on the list, but in the future, there will be a procedure for taking inmates' names off the approved work crew list if they are subsequently given prison sentences, he said. The jail only recently implemented a work crew program for female inmates because of a Department of Justice report that said the jail needed to create more work opportunities for women, Solano said. Lucero was convicted in 2002 of fraud of more than $250, conspiracy and forgery. As part of her plea agreement, she also admitted to a previous bank fraud conviction, according to court records. As part of her plea, Lucero agreed to pay restitution for two forged checks and 27 worthless checks. Lucero's probation was revoked, and she was arrested and held without bond after a November 2002 incident, when she failed to comply with the conditions of her release and absconded from electronic monitoring, according to court records. (ABQ Journal)

June 22, 2003 
More changes at the Santa Fe County jail — where a new warden has been in place since April — are on the way, said Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who has taken a leading role in county oversight of the privately run jail. The changes are slated in the wake of a scathing March report by U.S. Department of Justice investigators, who were harshly critical of jail conditions, including medical care for inmates. The DOJ's requested changes in how the jail is run include staffing increases that would result in an additional $750,000 in jail operations costs, Solano said. Officials with the DOJ in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment Thursday. Solano said he's not sure if it's a coincidence that the sheriff's department's new office complex is located directly across from the county jail off N.M. 14 but that being so close helps him keep watch over the facility. "I'm glad it was done that way," Solano said of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department's moving into its new location in a $4.1 million public safety complex last year. "I can just walk across the street and go in and monitor the jail." Solano said he makes frequent visits to the jail to make sure things are running smoothly. Solano also said that since January, there have been more "shakedowns" of jail employees and jail visitors to crack down on contraband. "I really take an ownership in the jail," Solano said. Solano said that if problems at the jail cannot be fixed under MTC's management, he would not recommend that another private company manage the jail and that it should instead be back in the hands of the county. But, Solano added, "We're still giving MTC the benefit of the doubt and allowing them to show that they can run it, and run it well." Prior to MTC's management of the jail, it was managed by another private company, Cornell Corrections. The county chose not to renew its contract with Cornell in 2001. During the first fiscal year under MTC, the county lost around $800,000 on operations at the jail, the county announced at the end of 2002. (ABQ Journal)

June 18, 2003
A 39-year-old jail guard has been placed on paid administrative leave after an inmate alleged Saturday he sexually assaulted her.  The guard hasn't been charged with a crime, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said. The investigation will probably take a long time, Solano said.  The inmate told police the guard touched her intimately Friday. She also said the guard sexually assaulted her outside the jail, Solano said Monday.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

June 17, 2003
An inmate at the Santa Fe County jail told police she was sexually assaulted by a male jail guard at the facility last week.  The woman alleged Saturday that the guard touched her intimately on more than one occasion, including Friday, at the jail, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said.  The woman's charges follow a damaging report about the jail by the U.S. Department of Justice this spring that preceded the firing of the jail's warden and his second in command. The federal report accused jail managers of violating the constitutional rights of inmates.  The Sheriff's Department will investigate the inmate's rape allegations, Santa Fe County Sheriff's Maj. Ron Madrid said. The guard has not been charged with a crime.  After reporting the assault Saturday, the inmate was seen by a nurse at St. Vincent Hospital this weekend, Solano said.  (ABQ Journal)

June 11, 2003
The City of Santa Fe will pay Santa Fe County more money to house its prisoners under an agreement approved by the County Commission on Tuesday.  The new agreement resolves a conflict that has brewed between the city and county since August 2001, when the last contract lapsed.  Between then and now, officials could not agree on the conditions to house inmates at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, said county jail monitor Greg Parrish.  Under the new contract, the city will pay the county $65 a day for each inmate arrested by city police.  The county jail houses inmates from 16 different jurisdictions, some that pay a set daily rate and some that have individual payment contracts.  Currently, those counties, cities and pueblos that have a contract with Santa Fe County pay rates of between $49 and $82 per day for each inmate, but Parrish said all the contracts need to be renegotiated to match the costs Santa Fe County is incurring.  The county has to pay the jail's private operator, Management and Training Corp., about $40 per day per inmate, he said.  "The contract with the City of Santa Fe should be the model for the other contract negotiations," Parrish said.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

June 4, 2003
With the troubled Santa Fe County detention center receiving the only increase in county funds this year, county officials were forced to get creative in order to hire additional staff. Despite every county department making budget cuts because of the upcoming, tight fiscal year, the commission funded about $300,000 worth of new positions through additional cuts and reallocating existing funds. The county plans to increase spending only at the detention center off N.M. 14. The jail fund is increasing from $5.3 million to $6.6 million. The detention center is losing revenue because federal inmates have been pulled out of the center while the number of county inmates has risen, Lucero said. The U.S. Marshals Service pulled its inmates from the facility after a Justice of Department report released in March questioned the medical services inmates are being provided at the jail. That move cost the county an estimated $960,000. County officials said they're working to correct the problems with its private contractor, Management & Training Corp., highlighted in the report. (ABQ Journal)

May 24, 2003
While the new warden of the Santa Fe County jail is getting acquainted with the facility, the former warden is back in familiar territory as head of the prison in McKinley County.  Management and Training Corp., the company that runs both facilities, placed then-Warden Cody Graham on administrative leave from the Santa Fe jail this spring. The action came just three weeks after the Department of Justice issued a report that criticized many facets of the jail's operation.  The same day Graham was placed on administrative leave, MTC appointed vice president Al Murphy as interim warden at the jail. Steve Hargett was named permanent warden in mid-April replacing Graham.  In March, the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department looked into allegations that Graham was involved in a pyramid scheme, charges that Solano said were not accurate.  "What he was involved in was some kind of home-business opportunity, like a get-rich-quick thing. Even though it operated somewhat like a pyramid scheme, it did not seem to meet the statute requirements for a criminal charge of a pyramid scheme," he said.  Several jail employees complained that Graham tried to talk them into investing in the business, Solano said. The sheriff's department informed MTC of the investigation, and they acted on it as a personnel issue, he said.  The warden even used the jail once to hold a membership meeting for investors, she said.  Graham had worked at the McKinley County Correctional Facility for about two years before coming to Santa Fe, and Stuart said that county's commissioners asked the company to bring him back.  (Santa Fe New Mexican) 

May 22, 2003
Because many of the problems at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center are linked to staffing issues, the new warden is looking to fill his ranks immediately by holding a job fair next week.  Starting pay for a corrections officer is $10.50 an hour and although the job is demanding.  The jail is authorized by the county to have a security staff of 108 people, but there are a dozen vacancies and five corrections officers are away on military leave.  That means jail workers now pull 12-hour shifts and are often  asked to work overtime.  Many corrections officers who work at the Santa Fe facility live in Las Vegas of Mora and ride buses to work each day.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

May 26, 2003
Santa Fe County officials say rising cost at the county jail, low investment returns and slow economic growth are putting a squeeze on the county budget for 2004.  Interim finance director Susan Lucero said she thinks the county's budget crunch is a reflection of the national scene but compounded by local factors such as the jail and water-supply problems.  County officials met with federal officials last week to settle what improvements are needed at the jail.  This spring, the department issued a report that recommended changes in nearly every area of jail operations, from booking to meals and mental-health programs.  The federal report has caused financial trouble for the jail.  A few weeks after the report was released, the U.S. Marshals Service pulled about 100 inmates from the facility.  The agency paid a high daily rate to the county for caring for its inmates, so loss of the federal prisoners substantially affected the jail's bottom line, Lucero said.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

May 22, 2003
Santa Fe County officials are meeting this week with attorneys from the Department of Justice to discuss conditions at the county jail and determine a course of action that could cost as much as $2 million in additional annual jail-operation costs.  The federal department issued a report this spring that was highly critical of the jail and recommended 53 actions to improve conditions it said violate constitutional rights of inmates.  The Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center has been operated for the county under contract since 2001 by a Utah-based private company called Management and Training Corp.  After the scathing justice-department report, MTC fired Warden Cody Graham and his second-in-command-, Major Greg.  Company officials and subcontractors such as Physicians Network Associates of Texas, which provides medical services for the jail, have worked with the county to craft a response to the justice-department report.  They began negotiations Tuesday, Hargett said.  While the exact terms of the agreement are still in negotiation, Gonzalez said the county could end up spending an additional $500,000 to $2 million on top of the $6 million it already spends on the jail each year.  Among the justice department's criticisms of the county jail:  Inmates did not receive adequate physical or mental-health  screening on admittance to the jail or appropriate care and supervision during their stay.  The facility did not have clean and sanitary conditions including adequate laundry and bedding.  Inmates did not have lawful access tot he courts or for redress of grievances within the facility.  Inmates and staff were not ready for an emergency fire evacuation, and there was not enough fire extinguishers.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 22, 2003
Santa Fe County officials decided to "take the high road" at the county jail and fix problems pointed out by recent Department of Justice reports rather than dispute them.  A three-page written statement on the jail issued Monday by County Manager Gerald González says county officials might decide to revisit some issues in the future.  Most of the disputed issues concern the medical portion of the investigation, González said.  For example, the doctor who investigated the jail's medical services said the jail should always use name-brand drugs instead of cheaper, generic drugs, González said.  "It's beyond my expertise," González said, but even doctors might argue over whether it is always necessary to use name-brand drugs.  González's statement comes after four Justice Department consultants visited the jail last May and investigated the quality of medical, mental health and security services at the jail. One consultant also studied the way jail officials treated women inmates.  Their reports, which alleged human rights violations in the jail's medical services, became available in March.  The findings lead jail officials to fire the warden and his second in command.  Since then, county officials have discussed taking over the jail contract from Management and Training Corp., the Utah-based company that runs the jail.  González said Sheriff Greg Solano and county jail monitor Greg Parrish have been in daily contact with MTC officials to try to fix problems at the jail.  Solano and Parrish also have inspected the jail to make sure MTC officials are fixing the problems, González said. He said county officials would continue to look at taking over the jail contract, which expires in October 2004.  Carl Stuart, head of communications for MTC, said the company has already fixed many of the problems mentioned in the Justice Department reports.  The federal department issued MTC a list of 53 measures the company needed to fix, and 38 of them had to do with medical or mental-health issues.  González said county and MTC officials plan to meet with Justice Department officials again in May to discuss the company's progress.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 22, 2003
The Santa Fe County Detention Center has another interim warden in place as county officials attempted to avoid a Department of Justice lawsuit over a scathing report the federal agency released last month regarding conditions at the jail.  As Steve Hargett starts his 90-day interim period, the veteran corrections officer looks forward to working with the county to address the issues raised in the 34-page Justice Department report.  Those issues include questionable medical care and other inadequate services provided by private contractor Management & Training Corp.  U.S. Attorney General could file suit against the county and Management & Training Corp. as early as Friday to force the county to correct identified problems.  Since the report became public, the county demanded Management & Training Corp. respond point-by-point to the report and indicate what corrective measures had been taken or were being taken to deal with the complaints.  (ABQ Journal)

April 17, 2003
Armed with a recent Department of Justice report that is critical of the medical care provided to inmates at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, Suzan Garcia continues to seek answers in the January 2002 suicide death of her son, an inmate at the facility.  Since January, Garcia has been trying to get MTC to release documents and specific information about the suicide as part of a probate case to deal with Johnson's estate. The family has hired attorneys Jeffrey Haas and Mariel Nanasi to handle the matter as well as a looming civil suit. Along with settling Johnson's estate, the lawyers are using the probate case to gather information for the lawsuit. Garcia said that throughout her son's incarceration, she tried to get the private contractor, Management & Training Corp., which runs the county jail, to get her son psychiatric help. She said she made repeated calls to the warden; the only call she ever received from jail administration was to tell her Johnson was dead. The Albuquerque woman also said her 27-year-old son showed signs he was suicidal by slashing his wrists and throat two days before he was found dead. She also contends corrections officers beat him, sprayed him with pepper spray and taunted him instead of getting him help after the incident. Leading up to March, not much information had surfaced about Johnson's death until the DOJ released its report March 6 of its investigation of the jail. In the report, federal investigators are harshly critical of the medical care provided inmates there and conclude certain conditions violate inmates' constitutional rights. Because of the report, county officials are exploring whether to take over the facility when its contract ends with MTC next year. On Wednesday, the lawyers filed a motion with Santa Fe District Judge Barbara J. Vigil to compel MTC to produce Johnson's jail records, reports and materials regarding his death, including photographs, surveillance videos and supervisors' logs. The lawyers claim Johnson wasn't transferred to a hospital for psychiatric help because of cost.  (ABQ Journal)

April 17, 2003
The mother of a man who hanged himself at the Santa Fe County jail last year plans to sue the company that runs the jail because she feels her son's death was preventable.  Suzan Garcia of Albuquerque said she called Management and Training Corp. officials almost every day during Tyson Johnson's 17-day stay at the jail to try to get him mental-health help.  "I knew every day he needed help," Garcia said. "He needed someone to talk to, but there was no one to talk to."  Despite her pleas, Johnson's two suicide attempts in the jail and repeated statements that he was going to kill himself, jail officials did not get Johnson the help he needed, Garcia said.  Instead, inmates who were near Johnson when he died contacted Garcia and told her that jail guards taunted Johnson, saying things like, "Is that the best you can do?" after he unsuccessfully tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists.  Garcia said jail officials didn't let her speak with the warden until after Johnson died. When the warden got on the phone, he told her Johnson had died that morning, she said.  "I knew in my heart something was wrong that morning," Garcia said. Johnson died Jan. 13, 2002.  Johnson, 27 at the time of his death, lived in Albuquerque, Garcia said. He worked part time at a gas station and also sold paintings and woodcarvings he created. He left behind two children, Akira, 5, and Colorado, 7.  Police arrested Johnson in Santa Fe after a domestic incident and charged him with four felonies, Garcia said. His bail was in the neighborhood of $200,000, and he could not afford to get out of jail.  Jeff Haas, a lawyer from El Prado who is representing Johnson's family with fellow El Prado lawyer Mariel Nanasi, said Department of Justice reports support the family's contention that jail officials could have prevented Johnson's suicide.  Four Department of Justice experts visited the jail last May to investigate medical, mental health and security issues. One expert also studied how jail officials treated female inmates.  The reports on security and mental-health issues talk about Johnson's death and say he was on a 15-minute suicide watch, but the log ended at 6:15 a.m. the day he killed himself. Guards discovered Johnson at 9:40 a.m., the reports say.  Johnson hanged himself with a ripped-up blanket, Nanasi said. He attached it to a fixture near the ceiling of his cell.  Haas said the reports are significant because Johnson's family members and the state medical examiner's office both have had trouble getting a copy of the log from MTC.  Medical-examiner officials were unavailable Wednesday afternoon for comment on the case.  Family members have not sued the company yet, Haas said, but tried to subpoena documents from the company in March. So far, the attempt has been unsuccessful.  The state District Court in Santa Fe is handling Johnson's estate because the probate judge had a conflict, Haas said, and the family subpoenaed the documents through that case.  Haas and Nanasi said that although they plan on filing a civil rights case against MTC on behalf of Garcia within the next two years, they are waiting to receive more information before they do so.  Carl Stuart, head of communications for MTC, said the company does not comment on potential litigation.  Stuart said all he can say is that company officials are reviewing paperwork connected to the case. Garcia and Cezily Moreno, Johnson's sister, both said the jail warden told them he had checked the log and it was up to date at the time of Johnson's death.  Garcia said she does not remember the warden's name. The warden at the time was Cody Graham, whom MTC officials fired from the facility about a month ago after reports of civil-rights violations at the jail.  The Department of Justice reports say Johnson died after receiving inadequate mental-health intervention at the jail.  An MTC document responding to problems pointed out in the Justice Department reports says the company has since stopped using Johnson's cell to house suicidal inmates. The federal reports said the cell was dangerous because guards could not easily see inside from outside the cell and because it had a fixture and a grate to which inmates could tie a noose.  A year 2000 report from the Center on Institutions and Alternatives and the Justice Department's National Institute of Corrections states that jail suicide rates are nine times higher than the rate for the general population.  Jail suicides occur at a rate of 107 per 100,000 inmates, the report states.  Most jail-suicide victims are young, white, single, first-time, nonviolent offenders, the report says.  The victims often have a substance-abuse history and hang themselves with bed clothing in isolated jail housing within the first 24 hours of arrest, the report says.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 14, 2003
A federal Department of Justice report on mental-health issues at the Santa Fe County jail says officials need to vastly improve mental-health treatment and suicide prevention measures at the jail.  Dennis F. Koson, a Florida psychiatrist and expert on inmate mental-health issues, wrote the report for the DOJ as a part of a larger investigation into how the facility is run.  The report states that one inmate with a history of mental illness didn't receive his medication for five days, and after 10 days at the jail he cut his wrists.  While the man was on suicide watch, guards discovered the man had cut his wrists with a razor blade after blood started running out from under his cell door, the report states. The report says the man used the razor blade after officers apparently failed to properly search the inmate.  At the time Koson visited the jail, the facility did not have an on-site psychiatrist, and inmates relied on a counselor or a nurse-practitioner to prescribe psychotropic medications, the report states.  "This staffing pattern is grossly inadequate for the mental-health needs of this facility," Koson wrote.  (Santa Fe New Mexican) 

April 14, 2003
The Department of Justice gave officials working for the company that manages the Santa Fe County jail a list of 53 practices they needed to change.  Four consultants visited the jail for the DOJ last May and investigated the jail's medical services, mental-health services, security procedures and treatment of women inmates.  The summary report was particularly critical of the jail's medical facilities - saying inadequate treatment amounted to civil-rights violations - but the summary report and detailed reports from the consultants pointed out other problems as well.  A report on security said some jail guards were expected to watch more than 120 prisoners at a time and recommended more guards. Stuart said the company has also made great strides increasing those numbers, although he did not have exact figures.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 11, 2003
A female inmate at the Santa Fe County jail says there’s one annoyance she hasn’t escaped in jail - cleaning up after men.  Loretta Ortega, 35, of Santa Fe, an inmate for more than three months, said jail administrators have moved her twice, both times into dirty sections of the jail previously inhabited by male inmates.  And both times, Ortega and other women inmates have had to clean up after the men. “I have stated on my grievance forms that we are inmates, not Merry Maids,” she said.  Ortega said when she entered the jail in January she was in a section that had been inhabited by women inmates for a while. It was nice and clean, she said.  But a few weeks later, jail administrators moved the women into another section - one where men had lived - and the women cleaned it and painted the walls, Ortega said.  “It was very nasty,” Ortega said. “They had urinated on the walls and lit fires.”  On Wednesday, jail administrators moved the women back to the two sections they had occupied when Ortega first entered the jail, and Ortega feared another mess.  Carl Stuart, communications director for Management and Training Corp., the company that runs the jail, confirmed the women inmates have moved twice, but only to better accommodate space at the jail.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 5, 2003
A recent report by U.S. Department of Justice investigators is harshly critical of the medical care provided to prisoners at the Santa Fe County jail, concluding that "certain conditions at the Detention Center violate the constitutional rights of inmates."  The report contends inadequate care cost a diabetic inmate his sight and that other prisoners failed to get adequate care for head trauma, pregnancy and mental problems leading to suicide. "We have made tremendous improvements," said Jean Brock, senior vice president of Lubbock, Texas,-based Physicians Network Association.  Brock said her company had only been on the job at the Santa Fe County jail a couple of months when the DOJ team visited. Another company, Correctional Medical Services, previously had the contract for medical care.  "It's a completely different facility now," Brock said.  A spokesman for Management and Training Corp., the private company that runs the jail and subcontracts with PNA for medical care, said MTC couldn't comment on the specifics of the DOJ report "because it may become a point of litigation."  Carl Stuart of MTC did say that "management practices by the previous operator" of the jail Cornell Companies of Texas, which was replaced as county's jail operator in the fall of 2001 "prompted the investigation."  The report provided several examples where specific but unnamed inmates encountered health care problems.  A diabetic patient who lost his vision had to go six weeks before he was sent to an ophthalmologist, who immediately referred him to a retina surgeon, the DOJ found. The inmate had to wait nearly another two weeks before the jail took him to the surgeon, who asked for permission to operate immediately.  "Nonetheless, the inmate did not receive the surgery for another 10 days," the report says. "Although this inmate's blindness could have been prevented had he received appropriate care, the delay in treatment caused him to lose his vision permanently.  Some of the other case histories in the report include:  * An inmate who reported a history of head trauma at intake and who displayed numerous symptoms, including bowel dysfunction, difficulty balancing and weakness to his left side, wasn't sent to the emergency room for nine days.  "This denial of treatment resulted in the worsening of the inmate's condition," the report says.  * An inmate who committed suicide by hanging himself with a strip of blanket in January 2002 after threatening or trying several times to kill himself wasn't adequately observed on a suicide watch.  * An inmate went eight months without receiving an adequate assessment for glaucoma, despite repeated requests. "If this inmate has glaucoma, he may become blind unless he receives treatment," the report said.  * A mammogram was ordered for an inmate who reported lumps in her breasts and armpit in October 2001, but the mammogram still hadn't taken place when the DOJ team went to the jail seven months later.  The report also blasts the jail on other issues, including fire prevention, sanitation and hygiene. The report says that some inmates went as long as three weeks after entering the jail without being given underwear.  DOJ also found that the county was not providing inmates with sufficient access to legal assistance or a law library, and that the grievance system for inmates was inadequate.  County correctional services manager Gregory Parrish said the county and jail managers have been working on correcting the deficiencies since last May.  "We are continuing to do that to make sure health care at the jail is up to the standard the county expects," Parrish said. He said DOJ representatives met with jail managers last week and "we gave them a document explaining all the corrective actions" taken so far.  The county announced in May that DOJ was investigating at the jail after a number of sexual assault and drug violation allegations had surfaced in the previous year.  The report said DOJ didn't find an "ongoing pattern or practice of sexual misconduct" at the jail, but did say the reporting and investigative systems for such matters was flawed.  The county is addressing the concerns raised in the report with MTC officials, County Commissioner Jack Sullivan said.  "It's now on our front burner," he said. "I was quite surprised when I read the report."  Commissioners said most of the problems raised in the report have been addressed by MTC. Sullivan also said the commission is looking into whether the county needs "to provide additional money for medical personnel or whether it is poor performance on (MTC's) part."  Sullivan said the report is not enough justification for the county to take over the jail but supports examining the issue.  (Albuquerque Tribune)

March 26, 2003
Mounting problems at the Santa Fe County jail, including the dismissal this week of its top two officers, prompted County Commissioner Paul Duran to suggest re-examining the jail operating contract Tuesday.  Management & Training Corp., the private Utah-based jail contractor, placed Warden Cody Graham and Maj. Greg Lee on paid administrative leave Monday based on county concerns about the treatment of female inmates. County Attorney Steve Kopelman wrote MTC Feb. 17 of female inmates' complaints they were denied adequate medical attention, clothing and items of hygiene.  County correctional service manager Gregory Parrish called Graham's and Lee's removal "a positive move by MTC in addressing the issues we are concerned about."  Nonetheless, the commission Tuesday heard more bad news about the detention center, which lead Duran to suggest the county itself resume the jail operation. The three-year contract with MTC expires Sept. 30, 2004.  "Even if we break even, it's worthwhile," he said.  The County Commission moved $740,000 out of a $3 million general-fund surplus Tuesday to cover jail cost overruns and also received the annual Correction Advisory Committee report.  "The report is frightening," Commissioner Harry Montoya said. The seven-member advisory committee reported MTC is not providing enough case managers to deal with inmates and needs to improve inmate visitation and medical staffing. The committee is also troubled by correctional staff turnover.  "The evidence is building that the county should take over the facility," said committee member Mitch Buszek.  MTC spokesman Carl Stuart said Graham and Lee will not be returning to Santa Fe but could land jobs at other company facilities.  In February, Kopelman wrote MTC that female inmates in January had complained they were not given adequate personal hygiene items, toilet paper, clothing or medical attention. The women also indicated they were given one set of detention uniforms but not the required two sets of underclothing and socks, the letter states.  The women complained to their case managers but nothing was done and they were threatened with lockdown for complaining, the letter states.  MTC sent two high-ranking officials from its Centerville, Utah, corporate office — Al Murphy, vice president of correction operations, and Jay Bodman, correction operations manager — to operate the 672-bed jail on N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe while replacements are sought, Stuart said.  For the fiscal year ending June 30, the county budgeted $4.7 million for jail operations, based on an average county inmate population of 330 per day at $40 per inmate. But the inmate population has averaged about 365 per day, resulting in $640,000 in additional costs, said county finance director Katherine Miller.  The county also has lost about $100,000 in revenue because other agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, failed to send enough inmates to keep the jail full, Miller said.  The turnover issue cited in the advisory committee report troubles county officials most; it calls into question the amount of training the corrections officers have.  "We don't want to have employees who are interested in making a living for a short amount of time," Duran said.  At a county-run facility, corrections officers would receive county wages and benefits and would have opportunities to move to other county departments, including the Sheriff's Department, Duran said.  Sheriff Greg Solano said he needs time to study whether the county should take over the jail. But he's encouraged by the changes MTC has made, he said.  (ABQ Journal)

March 26, 2003
Santa Fe County advisory committee report says the county's jails need better visitation facilities, more medical staff and a reduction in staff turnover, among other improvements.  Steve Marvin, vice chairman of the Corrections Advisory Committee delivered the committee's annual report Tuesday to the County Commission.  Marvin said the adult jail, run by Management and Training Corp. of Utah, needs to hire more inmate case managers.  MTC has only three case managers, Marvin said, and each one handles 150 inmates. Cornell Companies Inc., the company that ran the jail before MTC took it over in October 2001, had twice as many case managers, he said.  Marvin said the committee also suggests the company provide more space for visits.  The committee's report says MTC officials have suggested remedying the situation by providing video visitation, but the committee is against that because research shows that recidivism is reduced by frequent in-person visits with relatives.  The report also says the adult jail needs more nurses and should have a physician visit the jail two days a week instead of one.  MTC spokesman Carl Stuart said MTC is bound by the county's contract stipulations, and if the county wants changes, officials should ask for them.  "They are the final bosses," Stuart said. "We serve them."  The committee said the juvenile jail's disciplinary approach might be too confrontational for juveniles, and committee members would like more information. Cornell runs the juvenile facility.  The report also says the juvenile facility has no attending physician since the U.S. military called Dr. Michael Patterson to duty. The report recommended the jail find a replacement doctor.  The committee also said in the report that both the adult and juvenile facilities should reduce staff turnover.  Cornell officials said they had not heard of the suggestions until Tuesday and wanted to examine them further before commenting.  Marvin said MTC has already fixed some problems at the jail. For example, MTC former phone contract only allowed four calls to the same number each day, Marvin said. The contract usually wasn't a problem, Marvin said, except when inmates wanted to call their lawyers at the Public Defenders Office.  MTC has remedied the problem, he said.  The committee also suggests the community establish a bail fund for use by inmates who can't afford even a low bail amount, Marvin said. He knew of one inmate who spent nearly nine months in jail because he couldn't afford to post $250 bail.  Overall, the committee concluded the jails are working well, Marvin said.  "I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of," he told commissioners.  The commission established the committee about a year ago because of concerns the county's privately run jails needed community oversight. This was the committee's first report.  (The New Mexican)

March 26, 2003
The company that manages the Santa Fe County jail removed the warden and his second in command this week because of complaints about unsanitary conditions County commissioners, meanwhile, said Tuesday that they are seriously considering taking over direct management of the 670-bed jail south of Santa Fe. Jail monitor Greg Parrish said the county wrote to Management and Training Corp. officials in February about inmates' complaints that they were denied basic needs such as toilet paper, clothing and medical care. Female inmates complained they were given only one uniform. When it was dirty, they either had to wash it themselves or wait until they were given another uniform, the letter says. When Parrish asked jail officials about the problem, they said there weren't enough clothes to go around, the county states in a letter to the management company. Parrish then asked jail officials to order more clothing, which they did. Jail officials threatened to lock down female inmates when they complained, the letter states. "These concerns did not just occur overnight," County Attorney Steven Kopelman wrote in the letter. "Rather, the problem evidences a deterioration of services over a period of time." The company removed Cody Graham, who had been warden since MTC took over the jail contract from Cornell Companies Inc. in October 2001, and Major Greg Lee, who was second in command at the facility. The company replaced Graham with Al Murphy, MTC vice president in charge of corrections, as interim warden. The company replaced Lee with Jay Bodman, a jail major. Parrish said the company hopes to name permanent replacements in about a month. MTC spokesman Carl Stuart said the company has placed Graham and Lee on paid administrative leave, and they will not return to the Santa Fe jail. Stuart said the company has not decided what Graham or Lee's future will be with MTC. Graham came to Santa Fe from Gallup , where he ran the 300-bed McKinley County Adult Detention Center for MTC. He came with about 20 years of corrections experience and had worked for MTC for about two years. Regarding sanitary conditions at the jail, Stuart said MTC takes pride in the quality of conditions at the company's facilities. In response to recent changes and a report from the county's Corrections Advisory Committee that suggested other changes at the jail, county officials at Tuesday's County Commission meeting talked seriously about taking over management of the jail. "I think it's something we need to pursue vigorously," County Commissioner Paul Duran said. County Manager Gerald González said he would research what it would take to manage the jail and make a presentation to the County Commission . County Finance Director Katherine Miller said there would be financial pros and cons if the county took over jail operations for the first time since the mid 1980s. Private management companies have to pay a gross-receipts tax and also have corporate overhead, Miller said, and those are expenses the county would not face. However, MTC does not provide employees with certain benefits, such as retirement pay, Miller said. Since the county would provide retirement, that would drive up the county's costs. "There are a lot of pros to both sides," Miller said. "It's a matter of looking at our current ability to run it ourselves." The county has about 480 employees, Miller said, but if it took over the jail, the county would add 130 employees to the payroll. Miller said it would take time for county officials to make the decision. Duran said he thinks the county would get more professional applicants if the county took over operations and provided benefits. Human-rights violations also would decrease under county management, he said. "Even if we broke even," Duran said, "it would be worth it." (The New Mexican)

February 26, 2003
Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said some inmates, if they can't make bail, end up spending as many as 400 days in jail because of Santa Fe's backlogged courts.  The county pays between $50 and $60 each day an inmate is in the jail, Solano said, and with 300 county inmates, that amount adds up.  Solano said he looked at a list of county inmates recently and determined about 40 of them had spent too much time in jail.  Solano said the jail already hires case managers to help inmates, but the case managers work for the jail contractor, Management and Training Corp., not the county.  Since the case managers work for MTC, they do not have the same goals as the county, Solano said. MTC is a for-profit company.  (Santa Fe New Mixican.com)

February 5, 2003
Santa Fe city police are asking the City Council for an extra $355,000 to pay the rising cost of housing inmates at the Santa Fe County jail.  Santa Fe Police Chief Beverly Lennen said that cost is higher than was anticipated for the current fiscal year.  The reason?  City inmates are being sentenced to longer jail time.  (ABQ Journal)

December 29, 2002
A woman who became a hostage of bank robber Byron Shane Chubbuck after he escaped from a prison transport van in December 2000 is suing over the incident. Stephanie Angus alleges in the complaint that Cornell Corrections of Texas Inc., then the operator of the Santa Fe County Detention Center, and the Santa Fe County Commission violated her civil rights by allowing Chubbuck to escape. The lawsuit was filed in Bernalillo County District Court on Dec. 19. Chubbuck, who had obtained a handcuff key from a fellow inmate, used it to free his handcuffs, waist chains and leg shackles, then kicked out a steel-barred window grate about 4:45 p.m. Dec 21, at Second and Montańo NW, according to earlier reports. After his escape, he jumped fences in a nearby neighborhood and got Angus, in a maroon Bronco, telling her that he needed help. The lawsuit says Chubbuck forced Angus to "transport him via surface streets of Albuquerque for over two hours," when he allowed her to be released. She drove him to Coors and Alameda and dropped him off at a Wendy's restaurant. Cornell and Santa Fe County negligently breached their duty to the public by failing to protect it against dangerous individuals such as Chubbuck, the suit says. Chubbuck's escape has also spawned another lawsuit. A family caught in the line of fire during Chubbuck's eventual recapture Feb. 7, 2001, filed suit in federal court in May 2002 against Cornell and the city of Albuquerque. Francisco and Sara Holguin were asleep in their home on Anaheim NE that night when city police rammed with their vehicle a car Chubbuck was in, shot out the tires and shot at Chubbuck. A bullet tore through the family trailer, inches from their heads, according to that lawsuit, which is pending. (Albuquerque Journal)

December 29, 2002
The city's share of inmates spending time in the Santa Fe County Detention Center is escalating, and city officials worry their current budget won't bear the load.  The city was billed for 605 inmate "days" at the jail for September 2001, while 1,522 inmate days were attributed to the city's jurisdiction in September of this year, according to Santa Fe Police Deputy Chief Beverly Lennen.  The city hasn't paid any money this fiscal year to the jail, which is owned by the county and run by private contractor Management & Training Corp., because county and city officials are negotiating a daily rate for city inmates.  (Albuquerque Journal)

December 24, 2002
Operations at the Santa Fe County Detention Center lost close to $1 million in the past fiscal year and the county is on pace to lose more money in the upcoming year.  Because of an increase in inmate population and a loss in jail revenue, the county budget for jail operations ended $800,000 in the red between June 30, 2001, and July 1, 2002.  "We don't control the expenditures of the jail, because we can't control the population of the jail," said county finance director Katherine Miller. "We have had better years.  The deficit is significant."  Miller said the county lost revenue in spring 2001 when the U.S. Marshals Service pulled its inmates from the county jail after the former jail contractor, Cornell Cos., became the target of an investigation by the county sheriff. As a result, the county turned to another company to manage the 670-bed facility, but not before the U.S. Marshals Service, which pays the county $65 per inmate per day, decreased its inmate population at the jail from 120 to as few as 65.  (Albuquerque Journal)

December 5, 2002
On Tuesday, the County Commission declined to vote on reviving an independent housing authority or implementing a program designed to transport inmates stranded at the Santa Fe County Detention Center.  The five-member board tabled the two issues until February to allow newly elected commissioners Harry Montoya and Mike D. Anaya and Sheriff Greg Solano to participate in the debate.  The commission also decided to allow Solano to find a solution to the problem of people walking along the highway once they are released from the detention center, which is located off N.M. 14 two miles south of Interstate 25.  "Either way we look at it, it will cost us money," Duran said. "They are not dogs. You can't take them out there and drop them off."  The commission wants to stop released inmates from walking from the remote facility because N.M. 14 is a two-lane, narrow highway with traffic that travels at high speed.  Sullivan said he is concerned that someone released from the jail will be hit by a vehicle.  (ABQ Journal)

December 4, 2002
The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday failed to agree on a plan for reducing the number of released jail inmates who walk along N.M. 14 after they are freed from the Santa Fe County Detention Center. But sheriff-elect Greg Solano said he and the jail's operators have come up with an idea to partly address the problem: give former inmates some of their own money back in cash, so they can pay for their own rides into town. Currently, those who had money when they were locked up get their money back in the form of a check. The jail is operated under contract by Management and Training Corp. of Utah. County corrections manager Greg Parrish estimated that about three of the 35 to 40 inmates released daily have no one to pick them up and either no way to get home or no home to go to. The jail is several miles south of town, and the closest bus stop is more than 4 miles away at the Santa Fe Premium Outlet stores. Solano said part of the problem is that inmates are released without any cash, even if they brought a wallet full of it with them into the jail. The current policy leaves some released inmates stranded on a lonely stretch of road, Solano noted at Tuesday's commission meeting. "What can you do with a check in the middle of Route 14?" he asked. Commissioner Jack Sullivan said the released inmates also represent a public-perception problem. "There are two things the public sees about (a jail). Breakouts and people walking along the road." (The New Mexican)

October 26, 2002
Santa Fe County's profitable deal with the state Department of Corrections to house state inmates at the county jail has left a neighboring county out in the cold. Santa Fe jail officials have notified Bernalillo County that their inmates must be out of the Santa Fe jail by the end of the month, said Harry Tipton, Bernalillo County jail director. Tipton said along with the Santa Fe jail, Bernalillo County inmates have been transferred to jails in Valencia and McKinley counties. It has cost the Bernalillo County about $400,000 to house inmates in other counties, he said. Currently, Bernalillo County officials are discussing transferring more inmates to McKinley County, he said. The Bernalillo inmates have to leave the Santa Fe month, said Gregory Parrish, director of county correctional services. The county and the state reached a three-year agreement to house at least 135 inmates at the jail. The deal will generate about $460,000 a year for Santa Fe County. (ABQ Journal.com)

October 10, 2002
Santa Fe County stepped forward Tuesday to help the New Mexico Department of Corrections alleviate a a shortage of beds for inmates across the state.  Starting Oct. 21, the Santa Fe County Detention Center will house New Mexico Department of Corrections inmates, which will provide the county with a steady stream of revenue.  State inmates will ultimately account for a quarter of the detention center capacity, said Gregory Parrish, director of county correctional services. To house the state inmates the county will pay MTC, the private company that runs the center, $43.30 per inmate, an increase of $3 over what the county already pays per inmate.  The additional cost will cover medical services and programs mandated by the state for the inmates, Parrish said.  The balance will go to the county, expected to be about $460,000 a year, he said.  That will be used to pay off the debt to construct the detention center and also be used to improve and maintain the facility, he said.  With the inmates at the center, the state will also require MTC to provide enough guard personnel within the cellblock, said County Attorney Steven Kopelman.  (ABQ Journal)

October 10, 2002
The state's medium-security prisons are overcrowded by about 400 male inmates, some of whom are being housed in day rooms, New Mexico Corrections Secretary James Burleson said Wednesday. Most of the overcrowding is at the medium-security, minimum-security and minimum-restrict prisons at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas, Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces and the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe. Santa Fe lawyer Mark Donatelli on Wednesday blamed the overcrowding on the department's failure to implement alternative sentencing laws already on the books. The corrections department, he said, is going to waste taxpayer money by moving nonviolent inmates into county jails and private prisons. Lawrence Trujillo, a Legislative Finance Committee prison analyst, said that not implementing the reintegration program, locking up more offenders for technical parole violations and sending more petty criminals to prison have contributed to inmate overcrowding. Trujillo said the private prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa, which have contracts with the state, are filled to capacity with state and other inmates. At present, the Torrance County Correctional Facility, another private prison, is housing more than 200 of the state's medium-security inmates to relieve overcrowding. Trujillo said the Torrance County private prison is planning eventually to replace state inmates with federal inmates because the federal government pays $79 per inmate per day, while the state pays $53 per inmate per day. (ABQ Journal)

September 26, 2002
With a little more than a month before the upcoming election, different philosophies are starting to emerge among the candidates seeking the offices of Santa Fe County sheriff and magistrate judge. On Wednesday night, Democratic nominee Greg Solano and Republican Roy Dennis expressed their views on how to operate the sheriff's department. Issues Solano and Dennis disagree on include the operation of the county jail and ways to attract and keep deputies. With the county jail operated by a private company, the 38-year-old Solano said it is time the county rethinks its position. The former Santa Fe police officer said the jail staff lacks proper training because of constant turnover. He said he is also worried about drugs being brought into the facility. "We need to take a look at taking it back," Solano said. (ABQ journal)

August 26, 2002
More than 140 inmates at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center were placed on lockdown following an alleged assault of a correctional by two inmates Sunday afternoon.  Correctional Officer Felipe Romero was taken to St. Vincent Hospital after he was kicked and punched by two federal inmates about 1:15 p.m.  Parrish said the lockdown, which confined inmates to their cells, would stay in place until jail officials met with representatives of Management Training Corporation, which has been hired by the county to operate the center.  "We will meet with the contractor (this) morning to determine what corrective actions need to be taken," Parrish said.  (Journal North)

May 17, 2002
A family caught in the line of fire when Albuquerque police shot and wounded bank robber and federal fugitive Byron Shane Chubbuck last year is suing the city over the ordeal and a private corrections company for not watching him more closely. Lawyer Dennis Montoya filed the suit in federal court May 6, alleging city police were negligent and that they violated the civil rights of Francisco and Sara Holguin and their children by endangering them when they recaptured Chubbuck on Feb. 7, 2001. Chubbuck — dubbed "Robin the Hood" by the FBI for proclaiming the loot he took in heists in 1998 and 1999 would go to the poor — had been on the lam following his escape from a prisoner transport van in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 2000. After a manhunt, the robber was tracked to a mobile home near the Holguins' trailer in the Northeast Heights. The Holguins also are suing Houston-based Cornell Corrections Inc. for negligence, alleging it should have been more cautious because it knew Chubbuck had a propensity for violence and escape. The company operated the Santa Fe County Detention Center, where Chubbuck was housed and the van. (Albuquerque Journal)

May 8, 2002
Investigators from the Department of Justice arrived at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center on Tuesday to begin investigating alleged past civil-rights violations. Although jail officials do not know much about the allegations, they say they think the alleged incidents took place before Utah-based Management & Training Corp. took over the county-jail contract from Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. on Oct. 1., said Greg Parrish, county correctional-service manager. After receiving complaints about jail operations, the county replaced Cornell as the jail contractor, hired Parrish to oversee jail operations for the county full time, and appointed members of a citizens' Correctional Advisory Committee, Duran said. (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

February 19, 2002
A former Santa Fe County jail guard was given a deferred probation sentence Monday for intimidating a witness and tampering with evidence, according to the district attorney's office. Carlos Dean, who was found not guilty in November of forcing a disabled inmate into a sex act, will have no record of the sentence if he completes his probation successfully, said Assistant District Attorney A.J. Salazar. Salazar said the 60-day psychological evaluation of Dean conducted between his trial and Monday's sentencing recommended incarceration, but state District Judge Stephen Pfeffer decided probation would suffice. Dean could have received up to 13 years in prison after he was accused of forcing a 40-year-old inmate to perform oral sex on the guard in the inmate's jail cell in 1999, bribing the inmate to keep quiet about the incident and washing the inmate's prison jumpsuit because it had semen on it. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

February 9, 2002
A man charged with stabbing and beheading a Santa Fe woman in October 2000 spat in a fellow inmate's face Friday during a court appearance that got out of control. Both Lara-Sanchez and the man he spat at, Tony Sanchez, were in handcuffs for their court appearances, and no one was injured during the melee. According to a tort claim filed in October 2001 by Sanchez's attorney, Mark Donatelli, Sanchez was placed in the same cell as Lara-Sanchez at the Santa Fe County jail in September 2001 despite the fact that they were known enemies. Lara-Sanchez subsequently badly beat Sanchez, who was still in handcuffs, Donatelli alleged. "Mr. Tony A. Sanchez was placed in the cell with his hands cuffed toward the back, the cell door was closed and Ivan Lara-Sanchez immediately attacked and beat Mr. Tony A. Sanchez," reads the tort claim. Cornell Corrections, the company that used to manage the jail, and Santa Fe County should have known that Lara-Sanchez posed a threat to Sanchez, and steps should have been taken to keep them apart, according to Donatelli's tort claim. Donatelli said in a phone interview Friday that the two are enemies because of an ongoing criminal investigation, but he declined to elaborate. Donatelli said he would investigate Friday's incident and added that the jail's new management, officials at the Utah-based Management & Training Corporation, should have known Sanchez and Lara-Sanchez's history. "It's hard to believe that they got put together again," Donatelli said. (Albuquerque Journal)

December 11, 2001
The Santa Fe County jail has fired two former corrections officers in the mistaken release in late October of a prisoner accused of rape.  Greg Parrish, county correctional services  manager, said in early November that jail officials had obtained a release order for a Javier Gonzales accused of shoplifting, but the wrong inmate was let go.  "Two employees of (Management Training Corp.) were dismissed," Parrish said.  "It doesn't appear that there's any criminal intent involved."  Parrish was hired by the county to act as a liaison with the privately run jail after Utah-based Management and Training Corp. assumed its management in October.  (Albuquerque Journal)  

November 25, 2001
Paula Arrietta-Boyce said her ulcer bled for two months during the time she was incarcerated at the Santa Fe County jail. But corrections officers and medical staff repeatedly ignored her requests for help.  "I'd be in pain and I'd actually vomit blood," the 34-year-old mother said.  Eventually, she said, the jail's medical unit gave her medicine.  "When you go to medical, you have to have a stinking fit so they give you some help," the former inmate charged.  Difficulty obtaining medical care was one of the leading complaints of inmates during the time Cornell operated the adult detention center on N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe.  Under Cornell, inmates also complained about lack of toilet paper, being kept in segregation for too long, sexual harassment and lack of access to the facility's law library -- a room with plastic lawn chairs and portable shelves holding a few books.  District Judge Michael Vigil said that getting medical treatment for inmates was a constant struggle. He was forced to contact authorities on several occasions to confirm that inmates were receiving needed treatment.  But Vigil said he felt the company wanted to try to cut its costs.  County Commissioner Javier Gonzales said the county was aware of the problems but found it difficult to hold Cornell accountable because it "didn't have as tight a contract as we should have."  Santa Fe County Sheriff Ray Sisneros, who had oversight responsibility for the jail while running his department, agreed that the contract lacked teeth to "hold Cornell's feet to the fire."  He added that the warden "had to take something from me very strongly because I could make life difficult for him, but still, the warden didn't answer to the sheriff. The warden answered to corporate."  "It was really their duty to get (inmates) to medical treatment," public defender Scott Reidel said. But he said Cornell's solution was to tell inmates, "Get your lawyer to get you a medical furlough."  The bottom line was more important to the company than inmates' problems, Donatelli declared.  In May, 54 inmates at the jail complained in a letter to Cornell that they did not receive enough toilet paper even though the jail promised them a roll each Monday and a second roll the following Friday.  Sixty-six federal inmates housed at the county jail also filed a grievance last May. Their letter demanded more access to the law library and more legal resources. "We need law materials to help us work with our cases," the letter stated.  They also complained about the shortage of toilet paper.  Cornell also suffered from various management problems, including billing mistakes, low morale, understaffing and high turnover. One warden lasted only three months. The last, Lawrence Barrerras, spent a lot of his time negotiating contracts for Cornell at other facilities.  "That's when (Undersheriff) Benjie Montano and I saw stuff go wrong," Sisneros said. "It was very difficult for him to run the facility when he  wasn't there."  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 14, 2001
A 40-year-old developmentally disabled man told a jury Tuesday that a former Santa Fe County jail guard forced him to perform a sex act while he was an inmate at the jail in April 1999.  The former jail guard, Carlos Dean, 25, warned the man afterward not to tell jail officials, the man testified.  Dean is charged with criminal sexual penetration, threatening a witness and tampering with evidence.  After the attack, another former inmate, John Christenbury, said he heard the attack and reported it. Christenbury also said he heard a man crying during the attack.  Questioned by Maj. Anthony Romero of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department after the incident, Dean admitted masturbating in the cell, cleaning the mess and washing the man's clothing, the affidavit said. However, Dean denied going into the inmate's cell or having contact with him, according to the affidavit.  (Albuquerque Journal)

November 8, 2001
As police continue to look for escaped Santa Fe County Detention Center inmate Javier Gonzalez, officials at the jail say they have taken the first steps toward making sure a similar incident never happens again.  Management and Training Corp. officials have reassigned staff members and have assigned a new lieutenant to the booking department to make sure employees follow procedures correctly.  MTC took over the jail-operations contract from Cornell Companies Inc. on Oct. 1.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 6, 2001
Lest anyone wonder why public-safety officials love private prisons, Santa Fe County Jail's latest foul-up should make matters clearer.  Last week, the privately operated jail had two Javier Gonzalezes behind bars.  One, a New Mexican, had been accused of shoplifting. The other, a citizen of Mexico, was charged with the rape of his fiancee's 13-year-old sister.  The one accused of shoplifting was due for release. The other faced a March trial -- and more than seven years in prison if convicted.  So which one was given his street clothes and his walking papers by the private entrepreneurs in charge of the jail? And which one, if he has an ounce of sense, hightailed it south of the border?  A couple of days later, the presumably blushing private entrepreneurs in charge of the jail's locks let the right guy go.  But here's the beauty of the deal for Sheriff Ray Sisneros and Under-sheriff Benjie Montano: They simply blame the system.  "Obviously," Montano said, "someone didn't do their job." Who? An outfit from Utah with the innocuous name of Management & Training Corp. is the jail's new operating contractor. The company's designated warden, Cody Graham, assures Santa Feans that "we have the proper policies and procedures" -- so no changes are needed. Such assurance seems pretty blithe when you consider that no one had bothered to mug the guy accused of shoplifting, so photo comparisons couldn't be run before releasing the rape suspect -- and when common sense would demand double- and triple-checking identities before sending inmates on their merry way.  The new jail contractor has been on the job here only a month after replacing Cornell Corrections Corp. -- so count on management and training to blame Cornell for freeing an accused felon.  The buck should stop with the Sisneros-Montano team, which has run the sheriff's office for more than a decade -- but they're stepping down after next year's election.  Among the many aspirants to succeed them, at least one candidate should come out for county operation of the jail. And if only one does, he or she should have a head start in the race to be our next sheriff.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

November 2, 2001
In a case of apparent mistaken identity, Santa Fe County jail officials on Monday mistakenly released the wrong Javier Gonzales, a Mexican national charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in Espanola. Santa Fe County Undersheriff Benjie Montano said Thursday that someone at the jail should have verified they were releasing the n right Javier Gonzales. "Obviously, someone didn't do their job," Montano said. Utah-based Management & Training Corp. took over jail operations from Cornell Corrections in October. (Albuquerque Journal)

October 24, 2001
Santa Fe may stop paying to house city inmates in the privately run Santa Fe County jail and send its prisoners elsewhere, unless a lower rate can be negotiated, City Manager Jim Romero said Tuesday. Romero said city councilors are frustrated with the rates the county charges to hold city inmates. "The council feels that the costs are extremely high," Romero said. Romero said another issue the city has had to contend with in recent years is over-billing and billing mistakes made by jail management when Cornell Corrections ran the facility. On Oct. 1, the Utah-based Management & Training Corp. took over management of the jail from Cornell Corrections. County Finance Director Katherine Miller said Monday that under Cornell's management, the jail didn't swiftly correct persistent billing problems that resulted in complaints from Santa Fe and outside law enforcement agencies that said they were being overcharged. City Finance Director Kathryn Raveling said over-billing by the jail was "a significant problem." The city even went so far as to devote a full-time city police employee to correct over-billing mistakes. (Albuquerque Journal)

September 7, 2001
Incoming Santa Fe County jail warden Cody Graham says increased training for corrections officers will help reverse problems at the jail when the Utah-based Management & Training Corp. takes over in October.  "If we can get the staff back to basics on security and some training, then these problems will go away," Graham said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning.  Under the current contract with the Texas-based Cornell Corrections, the jail has experienced a series of problems, including a death by heroin overdose, a minor disturbance among inmates and lawsuits alleging male and female inmates were allowed to intermingle and that a jail employee sexually abused an inmate.  Cornell withdrew from the competition for a new contract this summer, saying the company couldn't effectively run the jail and turn a profit based on what the county wanted to pay.  (Albuquerque Journal)

August 16, 2001
After four hours of public comment, contract tweaking and deliberation, the Santa Fe County Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to award the contract to run its adult jail to the Management & Training Corp., a Utah-based private corrections firm.  Company representatives were at the county chambers to answer the commission's questions.  The corporation will take over operation of the jail Oct. 1, one day after the contract of the current jail operator, Cornell Corrections Inc., expires. Cornell, a Houston-based concern, on Tuesday withdrew its bid to continue running the jail, citing financial loses it experienced at the jail here.  The county said it chose Management & Training in part because of the company's emphasis on rehabilitation through education.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

August 15, 2001
Cornell Corrections Inc. withdrew its application Tuesday to continue running the Santa Fe County's adult jail for the next three years, saying it had experienced financial problems operating the facility. Paul Doucette, a spokesman for the Houston-based company, said Cornell had lost a significant amount of money running the jail. Doucette said he did not know the exact amount.  Santa Fe County Manager Samuel Montoya said Cornell's decision to withdraw its bid would not change his decision to recommend a new jail operator.  Montoya is expected to recommend to the commission at a special meeting at 10 a.m. today that it choose the Utah-based Management & Training Corp. as the new operator of the county's adult jail on N.M. 14. The contract will be for $33 million and last for three years.    Montoya said he will recommend that Cornell continue to operate the Santa Fe Youth Development Center on Airport Road.  A news release indicated Cornell's decision to withdraw was premised on the facility's ongoing financial underperformance, which has resulted in operating losses at the detention center.  Doucette said the adult jail now has 122 employees, including senior staff.    Most of the guards and other lower-ranked employees came from the previous contractor, Corrections Corporation of America.  (AP)

August 1, 2001
A former Santa Fe County jail guard pleaded guilty Tuesday to helping three federal inmates escape the facility four months ago for $3,000.  Lawrence Candelaria, 44, of Las Vegas, N.M., admitted in federal court he gave the inmates a hammer, a chisel and hacksaw blades they used to saw the metal bars and crack the window of one of the cells of the jail.  The jail is privately run by Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc.  Candelaria, who was fired shortly after his arrest in April, also admitted letting one of the inmates use his cell phone to call for a ride.  The inmates still have not been apprehended.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

July 18, 2001
Police say Marcos Cordova engaged in sexual intercourse several times with a female inmate at Santa Fe County Jail.  A former Santa Fe County jail guard was behind bars Tuesday charged with having sex with a female inmate on numerous occasions while he worked there.  Police arrested Marcos Cordova, 39, of Santa Fe on a district-court warrant Tuesday.  The warrant stemmed from an indictment released Monday.  Cordova is being detained at the facility where he used to work in lieu of a $25,000 cash or surely bond.  According to a report from the department, one of the incidents occurred either March 9 or 10, when male guards allegedly let female and male inmates commingle in the same cell -- also against state law.  Deputies investigated the incident, but never filed any charges.  However, two jail guards, who were not named, were terminated about two weeks later, and one was placed on administrative leave without pay.  A woman who had been jailed on a federal drug charge said in May she was molested by guards at the Santa Fe County Jail and raped by an unnamed guard.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

July 4, 2001
Officials suspect heroin overdose killed Santiago Martinez, 19, inside jail's segregation unit.  The inmate, Santiago Martinez, of Chimayo, received the drugs when he went to Santa Fe's state district court for a hearing, said Steve Gonzales, spokesperson for the Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. -- the private contractor that runs the problem-riddled jail. Martinez's mother, Tessie Martinez, said her son had told her he had been in the segregation unit for about 20 days for an incident involving a food tray that had been blamed on him.  Inmates in segregation are locked down in a cell for 23 hours a day and are only let out for an hour, officials have said.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

June 21, 2001
Santa Fe County Manger Samuel Montoya said he will recommend that the contract for the adult jail be taken away from Cornell Corrections Inc. and given to a Utah-based company that emphasized education and rehabilitation.  If the recommendation is followed, Cornell would continue to operate the juvenile facility, known as the Youth Development Center, Montoya said Wednesday. The two private corrections companies competing against Cornell are Correctional Services Corp. of Florida and Management & Training Corp. of Utah.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican) 

June 13, 2001
A lack of enthusiasm over three recent offers to operate the Santa Fe County jail for the next three years has local officials considering another option operating the jail themselves.  The bids received from three companies sought more money than county commissioners budgeted to operate the Santa Fe County Detention Center, County Manager Samuel Montoya said.  Officials will approach the interested companies to try to get their prices down, Montoya said during Tuesday's County Commission meeting, while also exploring whether the county could take over operations.  Officials said bids exceeded the county's budgeted amount by roughly $2 million.  Neither bid figures nor the proposed jail operating budget were divulged Tuesday.  "I think we should just do it, take it over and hire a good warden," Duran said.  "Someone's making money at it.  They're not doing it because it's fun to do."  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 12, 2001
The attorney for a Las Vegas, N.M., woman has filed a claim alleging the woman was raped by an employee of the privately run Santa Fe County jail while she was an inmate and that a former guard also tried to rape her.  The claim by Mary Lucinda Valdez, 23, follows a federal suit filed earlier this year by three women who were locked up at the jail claiming the former guard, Marcus Trujillo, sexually abused them.  According to the claim filed for Valdez by Taos attorney Stephen M. Peterson, she was a federal prisoner at the jail from April 2000 through March 13, 2001.  The claim, filed earlier this month, names Santa Fe County, Texas-based Cornell Cos., which operates the jail under contract with the county, Trujillo, and the unidentified employee as potential defendants of a lawsuit.  Valdez was interviewed by Santa Fe County sheriff's detectives about the complaints, which lead to further harassment by another jail employee who was related to her alleged attacker, the claim says.  Valdez was then moved to a facility in Sandoval County by the U.S. Marshals Service, which her attorney said may lend credence to her claims.  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 11, 2001
Carmen Jaramillo says she feared she would be raped or worse on March 10, when she claims guards at Santa Fe County privately run jail forced her and five other female prisoners to intermingle with male inmates.  Jaramillo, 37, of Santa Fe, said a male prisoner at the jail run by Texas-based Cornell Companies told her it had been a long time since he had been with a woman.  He told her she was attractive and "kissed and fondled" her, Jaramillo said.  Jaramillo's attorneys, Cliff McIntyre and Edward Chavez, said they plan to file a civil rights lawsuit against Cornell and two guards on behalf of Jaramillo and two other women who were in the jail on the night of the alleged incident.  Paul Doucette, a spokesperson for jail operator Cornell Companies, acknowledged Thursday that male and female inmates had mixed on March 10 and 11.  Chavez believes the corrections officers didn't unlock the gate separating female and male prisoners by accident.  "The women were housed in a men's area; that in itself is a violation of law," McIntyre said.  Starting pay for a new guard is $9.50 an hour, Doucette said.  In recent months, the jail has faced a series of problems, including an escape, flooding, a minor disturbance among inmates and a lawsuit alleging a jail employee sexually abused a woman while she was detained there in 1999.  (Albuquerque Journal)

April 17, 2001
Police charged a Santa Fe County jail inmate, a convicted murderer, in connection with this past weekend's jail scuffle because he allegedly threw an empty gas canister at the deputy warden's chest.  Joe "Buzzard" Everisto Gurule, 44, was charged Monday after he threw the can at Deputy Warden Wilfred Romero during Saturday night's incident at the privately run Cornell Companies Inc. jail. This was the second weekend that a part of the jail has been on lockdown because of an incident there. Inmates were participating in Easter festivities at the jail before the incident occurred about 10 p.m., when they were supposed to go back to their cells, Cornell spokesperson Paul Doucette said.  Inmates were forced back into their cells about midnight and helped clean up after throwing food trays, books and signs, he said.  About 60 inmates--some of whom were involved in last summer's Rio Arriba County jail riot--took part in Saturday's incident and were placed in lockdown.  (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 14, 2001
One of the three federal inmates who escaped last weekend from the Santa Fe County jail promised a guard $3,000 to smuggle in hacksaw blades and let them use his cell phone to arrange a getaway, court documents say.  U.S. Marshals arrested Lawrence Candelaria, 43, of Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday and charged him with aiding or abetting escape.  The inmates used a hacksaw, hammer and chisel to break a window and saw through a metal bar while Candelaria turned on exhaust fans to drown out the noise, an affidavit states.  The jail is privately run by Cornell Companies, Inc., of Houston.  Other guards helped the inmates obtain the tools to escape, one escapee had told Candelaria, according to the affidavit.  (Santa Fe New Mexican) 

April 13, 2001
A Santa Fe County jail guard has been arrested on charges that he was to be paid $3,000 to help three federal inmates who escaped from that lockup Saturday.  Lawrence Candelaria, 43, of Las Vegas, N.M., is charged with aiding and abetting an escape.  Court documents obtained by The Journal said the investigation revealed Candelaria allegedly smuggled in three hacksaw blades and gave them to one of the inmates, let one of the inmates use his cellular phone to arrange Saturday's escape, and created diversions while the inmates cut and pounded their way out.  The investigation also revealed that the night of the escape, Candelaria was working in the control booth and allegedly turned on exhaust fans at Tijerina's request as a diversion as the inmates sawed and pounded away, according to the affidavit.  (ABQ Journal)

April 11, 2001
The weekend escape of three federal inmates from Santa Fe County's jail is giving local government officials financial jitters.  The U.S. Marshals Service on Monday considered moving its inmates out, acting U.S. Marshal Tom Bustamante said.  The federal contract is a lucrative, but needed, benefit for the county government's $22 million jail.  At $65 a day for each inmate, the feds pay Santa Fe County about $4 million each year to house convicts and defendants awaiting trial.  Bustamante and other officials met with Cornell representatives Monday to determine the severity of problems at the jail.  The prevailing problem, Bustamante said, is that inmates who stay locked inside for more than a year stand a good chance of creating problems -- be it abusing guards or escaping.  Inmates who stay confined in the same jail for months on end "start to develop relationships," Bustamante said.  Had the decision come down to transfer all of the federal prisoners, the Marshals Service would have faced another question -- where to send them?  Every other New Mexico jail with which the Marshals Service has contracted has experienced similar problems, Bustamante said.  "Cornell is not the only facility where we've had problems," Bustamante said.  (ABQ Journal)

April 11, 2001
Builders of the $22 million Santa Fe County jail assured officials before it opened more than two years ago that an inch-thick window in the jail would withstand up to 20 minutes of pounding with a sledge hammer, Sheriff Ray Sisneros said. Three inmates broke the window with a hammer and a metal punch to escape Saturday, jail officials have said. The jail has "a serious design flaw that shouldn't have happened," Sisneros said Tuesday.  The jail was built by an Austin, Texas, construction company, Landmark Organization Inc. Santa Fe County contracted with Houston-based Cornell Companies to build and operate the jail, and Cornell subcontracted with Landmark for construction. The U.S. Marshals Service, which leases 170 of the jail's beds for federal prisoners, announced it was moving 19 inmates who have been jailed there for more than a year.  Senior Warden Lawrence Barreras said Tuesday the action was prompted by Saturday night's escape.  (AP)

April 10, 2001
Santa Fe County jail officials said Monday a staff member probably gave three escaped inmates the tools to break out.  The officials also called the jail one of the most problem-riddled correctional facilities run by Cornell Companies.  The facility has no alarms, and a 14-foot chain-link with barbed wire serves as a parameter fence, not to detain inmates.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

April 10, 2001
Jail staff was probably involved in the weekend escape of three federal inmates from the Santa Fe County Detention Center, an incident Cornell Companies Vice President Gary Henman said Monday was the "most serious introduction of escape tools" in his 38-year career in corrections.  "We can't pass the buck here," Henman said at a morning news conference.  "It's definitely a problem of our internal facility." Authorities continued Monday to hunt for the escapees and the means by which they obtained the tools they used to saw their way out of the county jail Saturday night.  (ABQ Journal)

April 9, 2001
An investigation into the escape of three federal inmates from the privately run Santa Fe County Detention Center late Saturday focused on how the prisoners got access to the tools they used in their breakout, authorities said Sunday.  Saturday's escape was the latest in a series of publicized problems at the county lockup, which also serves as a holding facility for federal prisoners.  Santa Fe County Sheriff Ray Sisneros said his office was taking the lead in the investigation and was working with the U.S. Marshal's Service and Cornell Cos. to determine how the escapees obtained a hacksaw, a hammer and a metal punch.  "It's obvious that they had help of some kind," said Sisneros.  "We always look at the possibility of an inside job, but we don't know yet."  Saturday's was the first escape from the county jail since Cornell assumed operation three years ago, but it's not the first escape by a federal prisoner in the company's custody.  Byron Shane Chubbuck, a convicted bank robber, escaped from a Cornell transport van Dec. 21 in Albuquerque on his way back to the Santa Fe County jail after a court hearing.  (ABQ Journal) 

April 4, 2001
Since it opened three years ago, Santa Fe County's privately run jail hasn't exactly been a trouble-free operation.  Early on, there were complaints from defense attorneys and others about possible civil rights violations at the jail, which is run by the Texas-based Cornell Companies.  Safety also was an issue at one point there were complaints that violent, hard-core criminals were housed with people held for minor or nonviolent crimes.  For most of the past three years, the city of Santa Fe has been squabbling with county and Cornell officials over the cost of housing city prisoners at the jail.  In December, the County Commission forked over a half-million-dollar increase in Cornell's budget an adjustment apparently connected to the ongoing dispute over how much public agencies should pay for prisoner housing.  But the city has decided to send its prisoners somewhere cheaper.  County officials, who under state law are required to keep close tabs on privately run jails, have not been particularly zealous in pursuit of this duty.  Last year, a state district judge had to order a grand jury review of jail operations because the required county report on jail conditions was months overdue.  Just recently, there have been allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of guards, and of sex between inmates.  And in the past month, one jail guard has been arrested for trying to smuggle a Baggie of marijuana into the jail and another was arrested for beating an inmate.  In view of the seriousness of the most recent incidents and the upcoming decision about who will run the jail for the next three years it's about time the county took a hard look at the jail and the company that has been running it.  Santa Fe County Sheriff Ray Sisneros has started the task.  Last week, Sisneros confirmed that he has assigned a detective to the jail full-time to investigate conditions there.  A national organization that reviews private prisons and jails is scheduled to make a visit soon, too.  Such scrutiny may lead to improvement.  A just-appointed citizens oversight committee can't hurt, either.  The committee will begin its task in the fall, after the County Commission has chosen a new jail operator from the three companies, including Cornell, that have submitted bids.  County officials have been saying they may be ready to award the bid as early as next month.  But under the circumstances, the commissioners should be in no hurry.  To be fair to the three companies, including Cornell, they should postpone any decision on the bid until the investigation and accreditation reviews are completed.

April 1, 2001
Workers for the Texas-based firm that hopes to continue operating the Santa Fe County jail for another three years are the target of a full-time investigation for criminal wrongdoing.  County Sheriff Ray Sisneros, who monitors the jail, confirmed Thursday he has assigned one of his detectives to the Santa Fe County Detention Center on a full-time basis.  The investigation was prompted, Sisneros said, by two events in the past month: allegations that one guard tried to sneak a Baggie of marijuana into the jail, and another guard was arrested and charged with beating an inmate.  The jail operator, Cornell Companies, formerly Cornell Corrections, is in the final leg of its three-year contract with Santa Fe County.  The requirements for Cornell guards, known as "detention officers," are similar to their counterparts in the state Corrections Department.  Training, however, differs somewhat.  The Corrections Department puts its applicants through a 7-week-long academy, which some other private correction firms in the complete, state officials said.  Cornell puts its applicants through two weeks of classroom instruction and another two weeks of supervised on-the-job training, Cornell Spokesperson Paul Doucette said.  Cornell does not send its trainees through the state corrections academy.  (Privateer News II and AP)

April 1, 2001
Allegations of a drug smuggling attempt and an inmate beating have prompted the sheriff to launch a criminal investigation into activities at the privately operated Santa Fe County Detention Center.  Sheriff Ray Sisneros has assigned a detective to the center on a full-time basis.  Sisneros is particularly suspicious of allegations that a guard tried to sneak a small bag of marijuana into the jail and the arrest of another guard who allegedly beat an inmate.  The jail is operated by Cornell Companies of Houston.  In addition to the investigation, County Manager Sam Montoya has asked jail management to improve training for guards.  ( AP)

March 22, 2001
A Santa Fe County jail guard has been fired for allegedly agreeing to take $70 to sneak a bag of marijuana into the 
Cornell run jail for an inmate. (AP, March 22, 2001)

March 21 ,2001
Three women locked up last year at the Santa Fe County jail have filed a federal lawsuit alleging a "malicious and sadistic" guard sexually abused them. The women sued Trujillo, Senior Warden Lawrence Barreras and Cornell Cos. of Houston formerly known as Cornell Corrections, which operates the jail under a contract with the county. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for pain and emotional distress. Romero alleges in the lawsuit that Trujillo touched her genitals and asked her for sex. Gallegos alleges he asked her to show her breasts, which she did twice, and that touched her genitals under her clothes. Martinez alleges Trujillo attacked her in a section of the booking are not visible to surveillance cameras. Trujillo remains employed by the jail, and there have been no other allegations of misconduct against him, Doucette said. Meanwhile the Sheriff's Department is investigating whether jail officers let female inmates into the same cell with her boyfriend, also an inmate on March 10 and 11, and whether other inmates had sex at the jail. Gilliland said two guards have been fired in the last few weeks. He would no release their names or say whether they were fired in connection with the allegations. (AP)

March 10, 2001
A man who pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of a homeless man in October was incorrectly released from jail Thursday by Cornell Corrections Inc., which runs the Santa Fe jail. Santa Fe police fear that the man, Luis Lopez-Cota, 24, may flee the area. "We were notified late Friday evening and learned he was released," said santa Fe Deputy Police Beverly Lennen. "We are working with Cornell staff and the district attorney's office to determine why and how he was released." Lopez-Cota pleaded guilty to murdering Cruz Montez Montoya, 34, in October in an outdoor drinking spot near the Santa Fe rail yard. Police said Lopez-Cota is considered dangerous and people should not approach him. (The New Mexican)

March 6, 2001
Former guard Christopher Grule found himself on the wrong side of a cell door Friday after his arrest on charges he beat an inmate who was later stitched up at the hospital, according to a Santa Fe County sheriff's report. According to court documents, Gurule used his body to push Chatman into a cider-block wall in the jail's booking area, where Gurule was working as a booking officer. Gurule held Chatman against the wall and the slammed his head into it, giving Chatman a 1 1/2-inch cut to his right eyebrow, the document state. "The injury bled excessively," court documents state." Gurule forced Mr. Chatman to the concrete floor, lying onto his stomach. Gurule then stomped his foot into the center of Mr. Chatman's back approximately two three times. While on the floor, Chatman pleaded with Gurule because he couldn't breathe, but Gurule continued to apply pressure to Chatman's back, the documents indicate. Chatman was handcuffed behind his back.  Another detention officer, Muriah  Townsend, reported telling Gurule to release his hold on Chatman, whom Townsend reported as having difficulty to breathe, court document state. Jamie Neal-Barone, another Cornell employee who saw the attack described Gurule as aggressive. (Albuquerque Journal)

February 09, 2001
One of the heads of the Santa Fe County Jail was the guard who bank robber Byron Shane Chubbuck accused of brutality and corruption. Chubbuck accused Romero of abusing inmates and selling Chubbuck a handcuff key he used in a Dec. 21 escape from a prison transport van. (Albuquerque Journal)

December 27, 2001
Federal law officers hunting for escaped bank robber Byron Shane Chubbuck say they have received some solid tips that lead them to believe he is still in the Albuquerque area. Tom Bustamante the acting U.S. Marshal for New Mexico, said the U.S. Marshals Service also is checking with law agencies across New Mexico to determine if Chubbuck has committed any new crimes. Chubbuck escaped from a prisoners transport van just before 5 p.m.. Thursday at Second Montano NW. Bustamante has said--Chubbuck who dubbed "Robin the Hood" by the FBI. He used a key to free himself from his restraints. An investigation into how Chubbuck got the key is still continuing. Chubbuck was being housed at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, and escape took place as he and some other federal prisoners were being returned to Santa FE after court hearings in Albuquerque. As Chubbuck bolted from the Cornell Corrections Inc. transport van, Bustamante said, the two private guards in that van chased him and fired several shots with  their duty handguns. Chubbock injured his right hand during or after the escape, but authorities aren't sure if the wound was caused by the gunfire. (Albuquerque Journal)

December 23, 2000
A convicted bank robber dubbed "Robin the Hood" used a key to free himself from his restraints before escaping from a prisoner transport van, a federal law enforcement officer said. He freed himself from his restraints, kicked out a window in the van and ran away. Authorities said at least one of the two guards in the transport van fired at Chubbuck after the escape. (Albuquerque Journal)

November 22, 2000
Late reporting by Santa Fe County officials on conditions at the local jail has led to a District Court grand jury tour of the facility. Chief District Judge Michael Vigil, who said Tuesday he has grown tired of reminding Santa Fe County lawmakers to inspect their jail twice a year, asked the sitting grand jury to determine if local inmates were receiving proper medical and nutritional treatment. "I have to remind all the county governments of their responsibilities, "Vigil said, referring to Santa Fe and other area jails. "They have failed to do timely reports." Some of the loudest concerns have been voiced by Commissioner Duran, who has called for public oversight of the jail and noted in the county report that holding cells were overcrowded. He also said inmates in solitary confinement are not receiving adequate representation. "Occasionally, we still have problems getting people released in a timely matter." (Albuquerque Journal)

October 16, 2000
City council planned to create oversight board to examine problems at jail has met opposition from county commissioners. City councilor Frank Montano, a critic of the jail, says residents routinely complained to him about the conditions at the jail. (AP)

October 10, 2000
In an effort to "take the mystery out of our operations" Cornell launched a public-relations program the company calls a "bold  new communications initiative." What were they hiding? Recently the county announced it was putting out to bid the jail contact. Shortly after opening the jail became the subject of intense criticism from lawyers and judges for allegedly taking too long to release inmates, for  allegedly mishandling inmate medicine and for not allowing attorneys to meet with inmates. Earlier this year Santa Fe councilors blasted Cornell for allegedly overcharging the city. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct.11, 2000) 

Questions are raised about Cornell's operations of the detention center by human rights, civil rights and equal rights advocates.  One inmate didn't have toilet paper for 12 hours in his holding cell at least two times. (Santa Fe New Mexican, August 29, 2000)

Santa Fe County Juvenile Detention Center
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Management and Training Corporation (formerly run by Cornell)

March 22, 2004
Sixteen-year-old Heather was at the end of her rope. She couldn't leave the house without being followed by her probation officer or her mother. The therapy, supervision and detention time she was assigned after repeated runaway attempts made her feel crazy. She grew more angry, more rebellious.  So she ran away again. This time making it to the East Coast, where she spent most of her teenage years living on the streets, alternately shooting heroin, smoking crack and thinking about coming home.  If she hadn't been afraid of getting put back in the system in Santa Fe, she would have made the hard trip back to real life sooner than she did. She's now 21, living at home with her mom, attending college, holding down a full-time job and visiting a counselor when she can't quite wrap her mind around it all.  But Heather, who didn't want her real name published, believes a different approach by the juvenile-justice system could have helped her sooner.  People, like her, with a turbulent youth might have better odds of staying out of serious trouble if officials in Santa Fe County succeed in diverting more teenage offenders before they grow into adult criminals.  Dozens of teens are booked into the county's juvenile-detention center each month for relatively minor offenses, such as shoplifting, to crimes as serious as murder. Instead of leaving the care and rehabilitation of wayward youngsters to a private company -- like Santa Fe County has done for more than 20 years -- the county is playing a more direct role and is looking at different ways to deal with juvenile delinquency.  The county's takeover of daily operations doesn't mean immediate, drastic change. But officials say some changes are on the way that could reduce the number of youths who spend time in lockup and offer young offenders more interaction with the community.  The former county jail on Airport Road is a place no one likes to refer to by that name anymore. The j-word is practically banned from the building, whose sign out front declares its formal name as the Santa Fe County Youth Development Program.  Cornell Companies began its tenure running the program with an in-your-face style that many referred to as their "boot camp" model. Over the years, however, the focus has shifted to less abrasive treatment.  The people who are housed there are no longer called prisoners or inmates. They are residents, clients or kids. They don't sleep in cells but have quiet time in their bar-doored rooms. The people watching over them on the inside aren't guards, but life-skills workers.  Despite the sign and the jargon, the barbed-wire perimeter allows no mistaking -- it's still a jail. These adolescents, however, are increasingly viewed as in need of programs and not punishment.  "Children are still-developing human beings, and society owes children an opportunity to become healthy adults," said Judge Barbara Vigil, who handles juvenile-delinquency cases for the state's 1st Judicial District. "The juvenile system is a system that takes this role very seriously. We're trying to modify behavior so they become law-abiding citizens."  Shifting focus After Cornell decided not to continue its contract this summer, Santa Fe County officials said they could save money and offer more alternatives by running the facility themselves rather than contracting with what would have been a third consecutive private operator.  So about 60 people who had worked for the program under Cornell became county employees, a handful of sheriff's deputies and a county administrator made offices in the building, and the county reclaimed all responsibilities at the facility.  Cornell, a nationwide private-prison operator that also ran the local adult jail for several years, employed boot-camp tactics at the youth detention center for roughly the first four years it ran the program, according to program director Chris Sanchez. The strict regimen and confrontational style was not well received by the community and didn't seem to make great strides with teenagers.  Heather was in and out of the lockup during those years as she struggled with a drinking problem that was out of control by the time she was 15.  "I was pretty scared. It startled me that I had ... even gotten myself into that place," she said. "Every time I went there I was terrified. ... (Jail workers) would get in your face and scream until they made you cry or you would scream back.  "I just kept to myself and kept my mouth shut, but I'd watch these other kids get ripped to shreds. It just didn't seem helpful to me."  (The New Mexican)

January 30, 2004
Santa Fe County has taken charge of its own juvenile-detention program, launching a county Corrections Department that could signal a shift in philosophy for dealing with young law-breakers.  Cornell Companies had run the youth lockup for about five years before turning over operations to the county early Thursday morning. The company said this summer it would not seek to renew its contract because high overhead and a low population made it unprofitable.  After only one company bid on the new contract, the County Commission voted to have county workers operate the facility instead of farming out the work to the private sector.  (The New Mexican)

January 8, 2004
About 60 people who currently work at the Santa Fe County Youth Detention Center will have a chance to become county employees when the government takes over the youth jail from a private contractor later this month.  Cornell Companies announced this summer it would not renew its contract to operate the 128-bed facility, which it has operated for about five years. Last month, the County Commission voted not to contract another private operator.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

December 19, 2003
After a 20-year hiatus, Santa Fe County will take over its juvenile detention center at an annual cost of $4.2 million.  On Tuesday, the Santa Fe County Commission by a unanimous vote approved a measure to allow Sheriff Greg Solano to oversee the jail. The move puts an end to the county's practice of hiring a private firm to operate the facility.  As part of the cost to take over the jail Jan. 29, the county plans to partner with Bernalillo County, which will consult and give direction on how to operate the facility at a cost of $100,000. Bernalillo County also assists Valencia County with its facility, said County Manager Gerald Gonzalez.  "This is to help the youth of Santa Fe County and the regional area," Commissioner Mike D. Anaya said. "It's our responsibility as the county to operate this facility."  The county chose to take over the jail because the county's current contractor, Cornell Companies Inc., will stop running the facility on Jan. 28.  The company is ending a three-year relationship with the county because of money. Cornell officials claim the company has lost money because the facility has not been full. Cornell also did not want to renew its contract because the county was seeking to increase the rent.  (ABQ Journal)

December 19, 2003
How the Santa Fe County Juvenile Detention Center is operated on Jan. 28 could be decided today by the County Commission.  The five-member commission will be presented with three options for running the 57-bed juvenile center once Cornell Companies Inc. pulls out Jan. 27.  Options include closing the facility, hiring another private contractor to run it or having the county take over the facility, County Manager Gerald Gonzalez said.  "We have a time deadline associated with that facility because the current operator's contract ends in January," Gonzalez said.  Gonzalez said he is hopeful the elected officials will make a decision on how to best operate the facility. The commission meets at 1 p.m. today in the commission chamber.  "It's critical we get a decision (today)," he said.  As of Monday evening, Gonzalez said his staff had not yet completed the final details of each option or the cost associated with each alternative. He said a full explanation and costs of each option would be presented to the commission during the public meeting.  Gonzalez said county staff has been researching the options for about a month. In that time, the county has also solicited bids for a private contractor to operate the facility.  This work had to be done because Cornell Companies Inc. notified the county in August it would terminate its contract to run the juvenile jail. The company has operated the facility for the past three years.  Cornell is ending the relationship with the county; it is claiming it has lost money because the facility has not been full. Cornell also did not want to renew its contract because the county was seeking to increase rent.  If the commission decides to close the facility, Gonzalez said the county would then look at other facilities in nearby counties where juveniles could be sent.  The closest juvenile centers are in Valencia County and in Tucumcari, he said.  The commission could also choose to hire another private company to run the facility. Gonzalez said Correctional Services Corp. has submitted a proposal to the county to operate the facility.  The third option is for the county to operate the facility itself. Currently, the county does not run any of its detention centers. The adult jail is operated by Management & Training Corp., a Utah firm.  (ABQ Journal)

November 15, 2003
Santa Fe County has a little more than two months to find a new company to operate its juvenile detention center.  Earlier this month, the county opened up its process to find a company to replace Cornell Companies Inc. The firm notified the county it will terminate its contract at the end of January.  Greg Parrish, county correctional service manager, said the county is in the process of taking bids from companies interested in operating the facility. Companies interested in running the jail need to submit a plan to the county by 3 p.m. Dec. 9.  "We are under a time crunch," Parrish said. "We need to move forward very quickly and get a new operator on board."  Cornell's decision to terminate its contract with the county happened two years after the Texas-based company stopped operating county's adult jail.  Cornell notified the county in August that it would terminate its contract to run the juvenile jail. The company has run the youth facility for three years.  Cornell is terminating its contract— to the surprise of county officials— because the company is losing money, said Paul Doucette, Cornell vice president.  The bottom line is also why Cornell in August 2001 decided to no longer operate the county's adult jail. Doucette said the 670-bed facility never operated at capacity and Cornell exited a three-year contract for the adult jail at an overall loss.  In the past two years, Doucette said Cornell has experienced similar results with operating the 57-bed juvenile center.  "The population at the facility has not been full," Doucette said. "The rent was going to be so high next year that it was going to be tough to sustain the programs we offer at the jail."  Before Cornell decided to end its contract, the company attempted to negotiate a new contract with the county with the hopes of getting a better deal on the rent, he said.  Doucette said the county was unwilling to negotiate a lower lease agreement and that led to the decision to terminate the contract. Doucette would not reveal the price the company was trying to negotiate.  The county pays a daily rate to Cornell for each youth, but the contract requires Cornell to pay $25,000 in rent each month and waive the daily fee for 8.25 beds per month.  (ABQ Journal)

September 3, 2003
A former corrections officer at the Santa Fe County Youth Development Program who pleaded guilty to raping a juvenile inmate will be released on house arrest and must undergo additional psychological evaluation before sentencing, state District Judge Michael Vigil ruled Tuesday.  John Robertson, 39, pleaded guilty last week to two felony sex crimes for having intercourse with a 16-year-old girl at the facility.  Vigil said he ordered the additional report because an existing evaluation on Robertson did not test extensively enough to determine whether he is a sexual predator or a pedophile.  Robertson had worked as a corrections officer at the county's adult jail for more than two years before moving to youth facility, where he worked for about a year and a half before the incident, according to Paul Doucette, vice president for public affairs with private jail-operator Cornell Companies Inc.  Doucette said Cornell did a background check on Robertson that did not indicate a past history of any kind of offense.  (Santa Fe New Mexican)

September 2, 2003
A former corrections officer at Santa Fe County’s youth jail pleaded guilty Friday to criminal charges for having sex with a juvenile inmate at the facility this spring.  John Robertson, 39, is scheduled for sentencing at 4 p.m. Tuesday in state District Court in Santa Fe pending Judge Michael Vigil’s review of a psychological evaluation. Assistant district attorney Barbara Romo said Robertson could be sentenced to up to six years in prison for criminal sexual contact and attempted criminal sexual penetration of a minor.  Robinson told police he had a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old girl who was in his keep at the Santa Fe County Youth Development Program on March 31, according to court records. Romo said the former guard had the encounter in the female unit of the jail’s detention wing. A nurse-examiner later that day found evidence of sexual intercourse, court records show.  (The New Mexican)

August 31, 2002
Santa Fe County could lose up to $300,000 under an amended contract to run the Santa Fe County Youth Development Program, but county officials say the risk is worth it to keep Cornell Companies Inc. on board. County Finance Director Katherine Miller said the number of juveniles at the facility has decreased from an average of about 100 a day last year to about 70 a day this year, making the jail less profitable. Cornell officials told county officials they weren't making enough money and wouldn't renew the contract in October unless the county renegotiated, Miller said. Under a contract amendment approved by the County Commission on Tuesday, the county will decrease the amount of money it charges Cornell to lease the facility. In return, Cornell will house 81/4 inmates for free every day and will only charge the county $100 a day for every inmate over that number, Miller said. The difference works out to $300,000 in Cornell's favor, Miller said, but there is a chance the county will be able to recoup that money. The agreement also includes a provision that says the county will receive 25 percent of all the money Cornell receives in excess of $4.2 million a year, Miller said. In March, Cornell laid off 14 employees because the inmate population was down 40 percent, Miller said. (Privateer News)

August 19, 2003
Cornell Companies Inc. has decided against seeking renewal of its contract to run Santa Fe County's juvenile jail.  "We've been negotiating with the county for some time, and it was obvious we weren't going to be able to reach an agreement," Paul Doucette, vice president of public affairs for the Texas-based company, said Monday.  Cornell, which has managed the jail for about five years, sent a letter to the county last month saying it would let its contract expire at the end of October.  Cornell has been struggling with high overhead costs and a small population in the jail, Doucette said.  The amount of rent the company paid the county was not justified by the number of prisoners in the jail, he said.  The county pays a daily rate to the company for each youth, but the contract requires Cornell to pay $25,000 in rent each month and waive the daily fee for 8.25 beds per month.  The county wanted more free beds for the same amount of rent, and Cornell sought to maintain the current agreement or decrease the number of free beds, said Stephen Ross, county attorney.  (AP)

August 14, 2003
A 19-year-old federal inmate at the Santa Fe County juvenile jail is under investigation for threatening a 14-year-old male inmate "with physical harm" in order to get oral sex, according to a report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department. The investigation was initiated after staff members at the jail observed the suspect and the alleged victim in a room together without authorization, according to the report.  Solano said it is not uncommon for adults who were sentenced to spend time at the juvenile jail before their 18th birthday to spend time there as an inmate. However, adults who spend time at the juvenile jail after they turn 18 must have a judge's permission to do so, Solano said.  (ABQ Journal)

June 20, 2001
A security consultant will visit the Santa Fe County juvenile detention center to assess Monday's escape by a 17-year-old, who climbed over a 20-foot, barbed wire-topped fence, a jail official said Tuesday.  Gary Miller, senior division director for Cornell Companies, said Tuesday that the security consultant will determine whether the juvenile jail needs to be made more secure, or whether Monday night's escape is an aberration.  Houston-based Cornell Companies operates both the Santa Fe County juvenile jail and the adult jail.  (Albuquerque Journal)

June 19, 2001
A 17-year-old prisoner escaped from the Santa Fe County juvenile detention center around 6:40 p.m.  Monday by climbing over a 20-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department.  Montano said Haws apparently climbed the fence in an outdoor area of the detention center known as a "bullpen" when the guards weren't looking.  "When the staff turned its back he climbed over the top and took off," Montano said.  Paul Doucette, a spokesperson for Cornell Cos., a Texas-based company that runs the juvenile jail, said the fence manufacturer touts the fence as "unclimbable" and claims a university climbing team could not scale it.  (Albuquerque Journal)

April 6, 2001
A San Miguel County woman and her daughter have sued the privately run Cornell Youth Detention Center in Santa Fe alleging an employee at the center sexually abused the younger woman while she was detained there in 1999.  The lawsuit alleges Campbell violated Maria Carreon's civil rights by subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment.  Campbell kissed, bit and sexually touched her in her cell, the lawsuit says.  The lawsuit also alleges that Cornell failed in its training and supervision of personnel at the juvenile facility and that both county commission failed in their responsibility toward inmates there.  But as result of Carreon's complaint in 1999, Campbell was investigated and fired for non-criminal misconduct unrelated to Carreon's complaint, spokesperson for Cornell Paul Doucette said.  Cornell Corrections' operations of the adult jail, an operation separate from the juvenile facility, is already under scrutiny by Santa Fe County Sheriff Ray Sisneros.  (Albuquerque Journal) 

Santa Rosa, New Mexico
TransCor/CCA
October 13, 1999
A convicted murderer from North Dakota en route to Oregon used a handcuff key smuggled in his shoe to unlock his handcuffs, climb through an air vent and escape from a secure transport van operated by TransCor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corrections Corp. of America. Although the escaped occurred around 4:00 a.m., it wasn’t reported to police until 3:00 p.m. - 11 hours after the fact. (Albuquerque Journal, 10/14/1999)

Smith's Food and Drug
Bernalillo, New Mexico
Priority One

November 19, 2003
A woman with developmental disabilities was unfairly targeted as a shoplifter at Smith's Food and Drug, and her mother was slammed to the floor after coming to her aid, a lawsuit says.  The same guard at an unlicensed security firm targeted the women more than a week later when they tried to fill a prescription at a different Smith's store, the lawsuit alleges.  The Smith's store manager at Carlisle and Menaul NE where the first incident occurred referred questions to corporate offices and to Priority One, the allegedly unlicensed firm that provides store security. But the manager, Roger Flenniken, said shoplifting is a problem at the store and one that management takes seriously.  (AQBQ Journal)

Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Aramark

June 19, 2012 Albuquerque Journal
The food services contractor employee who was caught trying to bring drugs to a Las Cruces inmate was arrested this afternoon, officials said. Candace Holmes, 20, an Aramark employee, was arrested at about 1:30 p.m. without incident, according to a news release from the Corrections Department. She was caught attempting to smuggle 26 grams of cocaine and 46 grams of heroin into Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility. She was allegedly working with 31-year-old Frank Morales Jr., who Holmes said was her fiance. Police said she voluntarily surrendered the drugs on Friday. Holmes is charged with two counts each of trafficking, conspiracy to traffic and bringing contraband into a prison facility, the release said. She is being held at the Dona Ana County Detention Center.

Torrance County Detention Center
Estancia, New Mexico
CCA

November 25, 2011 KOB News 4
A Torrance County Detention Center corrections officer is facing drug charges after Albuquerque police said they caught him smoking heroin in a car with another man. However, this is not Stephen Trujillo’s first run in with the law. According to his criminal history, Trujillo, 21, was charged with marijuana possession in 2010. That charge was later dropped but based on the criminal complaint against Trujillo – a corrections officer at the Torrance County jail – it appears this latest heroin charge may stick. According to the criminal complaint Trujillo and Tony Astorga we're spotted in a car smoking heroin in a parking lot near Zuni Road and San Mateo Boulevard on Thursday. "In the process of making contact with them both were trying to hide the heroin, once he spoke to them further and got them out of the car, they both admitted to smoking the heroin," said APD Sgt. Robert Gibbs.

February 5, 2009 Mountain View Telegraph
The Torrance County Detention Facility has complied with federal recommendations, said Warden Robert Ezell. Those recommendations were in the "Report on Rape in Jails in the U.S." The report contains a list of so-called "best practices" for correctional facilities based on eight days of hearings by a three-member panel involving seven jails, including the Estancia facility, thousands of pages of documents and 62 witnesses. The hearings were prompted by a special report by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. That original report found that the Torrance County facility recorded the highest incidence of rape among the correctional facilities surveyed. When the sample was taken, 241 inmates were in custody and 185 inmates were sampled. Of those sampled, 67 inmates responded and four other inmates were given a placebo survey. The Torrance County prison is owned and operated by the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America. In an interview last Thursday, Ezell said the facility has complied with suggestions made in the report by the Review Panel on Prison Rape. In a footnote in the report, the prison was said to have "responded constructively." "After the hearing on Torrance, (the facility) approved the hiring of up to 15 additional correctional officers for Torrance … Ezell testified that (the facility) had approved funding for additional video cameras and windows into several blind spots," the report states. Ezell said the prison has authorized the purchase of additional cameras and has added some windows. The facility has not hired any new officers. According to the warden, inmates were transferred out of the Estancia facility because the state opened a new prison in Union County. "That left me with a bunch of empty beds because I haven't found a customer to fill those beds. So we haven't hired any new correctional staff. But I have a higher staff-to-inmate ratio right now then if I was fully full. Yes, we haven't hired new officers, but my population is down and I don't have a need for them now," Ezell said. The 216,000-square-foot facility has a total of 910 inmate beds and about 211 employees who work in a variety of areas including security, said Ivonne Riley, quality assurance manager. Ezell said the prison currently has about 425 inmates. The town of Estancia benefits economically from the number of inmates housed at the prison. Deputy Town Clerk Linda Warren said that Estancia collects gross receipts based upon the service the jail provides. "And that service is housing inmates," Warren said. Warren was unable to say what percentage of the town's overall gross receipts is from the prison facility. "I don't have a way of giving you those numbers because of confidentiality laws with the state Taxation and Revenue Department," Warren said. Findings from the report will be reviewed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which is responsible for recommending national standards. "We've hashed over the report. I'm not going to get involved and make any comments. That's behind us. I will gladly talk to you about what's going on now. "One of my goals is to be low-key and below the radar screen. And so far so good," Ezell said.

October 9, 2008 Mountain View Telegraph
The Torrance County Detention Facility, owned and operated by Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, has a rate of sexual victimization four times higher than any other prison in the country, according to a Department of Justice audit. According to the audit report released in June, there was a 13.4 percent rate of sexual victimization at the prison compared with the national average of 3.2 percent. And even though officials with the state or Torrance County aren't necessarily to blame for the high rate, both still get a black eye from the audit results. During a hearing in Washington, D.C., last week before the Review Panel on Prison Rape, officials with the prison and CCA said all the right things to assure things will be fixed. Steven McFarland, chairman of the panel, said he had doubts. "This is a for-profit prison," he said. "The bottom line is shareholder profit, not limited recidivism and eliminating assault. The issue is keeping contracts." However, the state pulled 210 of its inmates out of the prison at t