February 13, 2023
Albuquerque, NM – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) and law firm Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace, LLC filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District Court on behalf of their client, Nickolas Milligan, who was brutally attacked while in custody at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) in Los Lunas, New Mexico.
After Milligan refused to grind paint off cell block floors without a respirator and eye protection, prison guards Cameron Watson and Jessie Diaz coerced, under threat of severe punishment, other incarcerated people to brutally attack Milligan. Although he was seriously injured, the guards denied Milligan necessary medical treatment and proceeded to cover up the beating. The ACLU-NM obtained video footage of the incident on August 10, 2022.
“New Mexico's prison guards have a duty to keep people who are incarcerated safe, not orchestrate fights among them for their own grisly entertainment,” said Jason T. Wallace attorney at Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace, LLC. “The guards’ actions are not only cruel and contrary to New Mexico Corrections Department ethics and professionalism policies but are a clear violation of Milligan’s civil rights under the state constitution.”
Many of the 5,000 people incarcerated in New Mexico routinely suffer abuse and inadequate care in the state’s overcrowded and understaffed facilities. Incarcerated people and correctional officers often report their complaints are ignored or that they face retaliation for raising concerns.
“This incident shows the urgent need for independent oversight and greater transparency in New Mexico prisons,” said Barron Jones, Senior Policy Strategist with ACLU-NM. “NMCD goes to great lengths to cover up dysfunction and mismanagement. We need objective review of all prisons in our state."
House Bill 297 Corrections Advisory Board Act, will increase safety for people who are incarcerated and for those who work in prison facilities. Legislation would create transparency by implementing independent oversight of all prisons in New Mexico and establishing a public rule making process that allows for meaningful public feedback when changes are made to our carceral system.
“The state has a responsibility to ensure people in its custody are being rehabilitated and living in safe conditions,” said Jones.
Milligan is suing the guards, the New Mexico Corrections Department, and the State of New Mexico for constitutional violations of his civil rights. Milligan was released from state custody after the incident.
The legal complaint can be found below.