FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Wednesday, June 17, 2009
CONTACT: Brendan Egan, Staff Attorney, ACLU-NM (505) 243-0046
Albuquerque—The ACLU of New Mexico sued the Geo Group corporation and several employees of New Mexico’s newest private prison today, alleging violations of seven inmates’ right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit stems from a December 10, 2008 incident 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.
###The mission of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is to maintain and advance the cause of civil liberties within the state of New Mexico, with particular emphasis on the freedom of religion, speech, press, association, and assemblage, and the right to vote, due process of law and equal protection of law, and to take any legitimate action in the furtherance and defense of such purposes. These objectives shall be sought wholly without political partisanship.