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July 30, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and cooperating attorney Corinne Holt of Will Ferguson & Associates filed a lawsuit in the Eighth Judicial District Court on behalf of Rebecca Martinez, an incarcerated woman who suffered repeated sexual abuse at Springer Correctional Center (SCC) in 2017. The complaint was filed against Christopher James Padilla, a correctional officer who Ms. Martinez alleges sexually harassed and assaulted her while acting as her job supervisor, as well as former Warden John Sanchez, former Deputy Warden Christopher Biddle, and Security Chief Robert Gonzales, all of whom failed to protect her from the ongoing abuse. 

“Officer Padilla used his power as a correctional officer and as Ms. Martinez’s supervisor to sexually harass, abuse, and terrorize her day in and day out,” said ACLU of New Mexico attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Lalita Moskowitz. “For months on end, with no way to escape his clutches, she lived in a constant state of fear and distress. To this day, she is still suffering the consequences of that abuse.” 

In March 2017, after Ms. Martinez left her job working in kitchen services for medical reasons and no longer worked under Officer Padilla, she finally felt safe enough to report his abuse. Leadership personnel at SCC took no disciplinary action against Officer Padilla. Since Ms. Martinez first reported the abuse from Officer Padilla, at least four other women have alleged that he sexually harassed, coerced, and assaulted them while they were in SCC custody. At the date of the ACLU’s legal filing, he is still employed as a maintenance supervisor at SCC and continues to have unsupervised access to incarcerated women. 

“The trauma Ms. Martinez faced is symptomatic of a culture within the New Mexico Corrections Department of ignoring, dismissing, and tolerating sexual abuse,” said Moskowitz. “The only way to eradicate that system is to hold accountable those officers who abuse their power and those in leadership positions who embolden and enable them by failing to take action.” 

This is the second in a series of lawsuits the ACLU of New Mexico will file this year on behalf of incarcerated women who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of New Mexico correctional officers. A copy of the complaint is available below.