« Day of Service: Santa Fe County Democrats to Volunteer for Health Care | Main | Carpe Diem: NM Senator Dede Feldman to Serve on White House State Legislators for Health Reform Group »

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ACLU Files Suit Against Private Prison in Clayton, New Mexico

Today, the ACLU of New Mexico sued the Geo Group corporation and several employees of New Mexico’s newest private prison in Clayton, New Mexico alleging violations of the rights of seven inmates to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Click for a copy of the complaint (pdf).

According to an ACLU press release, the lawsuit stems from a December 10, 2008 incident at the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in which all seven inmates were locked in a cold shower room with little or no clothing for five hours. When the inmates were showering, the prison had gone on “lock-down” because of a disturbance in another area of the prison. Some of the seven inmates were almost to their cells when they were forced back in the shower room.

While locked in the shower, prison personnel teased and taunted the inmates for the five hours. One female prison guard also videotaped them, laughing and dancing at the inmates, all of whom were male. Tear gas used to control the disturbance elsewhere in the prison drifted into the shower room. One of the inmates who suffered from asthma requested to be let out of the shower room to get his inhaler because of the gas, but his request was ignored by guards.

Claiming they couldn’t find the keys, after five hours the guards forced the inmates to crawl out of the shower through a filthy, cinderblock-size hole in the shower wall. Several of the inmates developed skin conditions because of the incident, which went untreated for weeks by the prison.

“New Mexico has one of the largest percentage of inmates housed in privately-run prison facilities in the country,” said Bryan J. Davis, a Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico. “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.”

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the private prison company and its employees. The case was brought by Bryan J. Davis of Davis & Gilchrist, P.C., an ACLU-NM Cooperating Attorney; George Bach and Brendan Egan, ACLU-NM Staff Attorneys; and Phil Davis, ACLU-NM Co-Legal Director.

June 17, 2009 at 04:41 PM in Civil Liberties, Prisons, Corrections | Permalink


Thank goodness for the ACLU. I see it took the prisoners several months to get information about the incident past the prison censors. (December 10, 2008 to June 17, 2009)

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Jun 18, 2009 6:17:57 AM

Even worse, it sounds like the guards saw or read about how we treat "WOT" prisoners, or were fans of "24."

This is sick. I blame Cheney. Et al.

Posted by: bg | Jun 18, 2009 10:23:14 AM