SANTA FE, NM - Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District Court against The New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and Western New Mexico Correctional Facility (WNMCF) on behalf of an incarcerated woman who was sexually abused repeatedly by two correctional officers at WNMCF in 2017. Lisa Ann Jaramillo was first sexually abused by her job supervisor, Eluid Stan Arguello, and later by a second officer, Michael Martinez, who knew Officer Arguello was abusing her without consequence.
“The Corrections Department and Western Mexico Correctional Facility have a constitutional, legal, and moral duty to protect incarcerated individuals, who are especially vulnerable, from violence and abuse,” said ACLU of New Mexico attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Lalita Moskowitz. “Their failure to do so has serious consequences. To this day, our client struggles with extreme emotional distress and feelings of mistrust and insecurity.”
In June 2017, the Security Threat Intelligence Unit (STIU) interrogated Ms. Jaramillo about Officer Arguello’s conduct and, in response, she reported the abuse. Rather than taking immediate actions to protect her, officers revoked her phone privileges, locked her in solitary confinement for over a week, and took away a year of good time. As of a result of the retaliation, she did not tell STIU at that time that Officer Martinez had also sexually abused her.
“Sadly, Ms. Jaramillo’s story is not unique,” said Moskowitz. “What she experienced is symptomatic of the general culture and pattern within NMCD facilities of ignoring, dismissing and mishandling allegations of sexual abuse, and of retaliating against women who have the courage to report abuse. Meeting our client’s bravery with punishment only retraumatized her and subjected her to further harm at a time when she deserved compassion and protection.”
Since 2017, at least five correctional officers at WNMCF have been charged with felony crimes for physically and sexually assaulting incarcerated women. Both of the officers who sexually assaulted Ms. Jaramillo have been charged with Criminal Sexual Penetration. In March of 2018, Officer Martinez pled guilty to Criminal Sexual Penetration in the Third Degree. Officer Arguello is scheduled to stand trial for his charges in July.
“The community gave these correctional officers power over us. Instead of honoring that power, they betrayed me, the women in WNMCF, and our community,” said Ms. Jaramillo. “They caused so much pain all because they thought they were above the rules. I trusted them and they violated me in the most personal way possible."
This is the first in a series of lawsuits the ACLU of New Mexico will file this year against NMCD facilities for failing to protect incarcerated women from sexual abuse. A copy of the complaint is available below.