MDC thievery just latest case of incarceration corruption
December 14, 2020
The Journal recently reported that a supervisor at New Mexico’s largest jail, the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), stole thousands of dollars from inmate accounts. For those who work in criminal defense, this story comes as no surprise. Almost anyone who has worked with incarcerated clients has heard stories of “missing” money or “lost” property when people go through the jail system. These stories are not confined to MDC – they have been occurring throughout the state in jails and prisons for decades.
What is surprising about this particular story is that someone has finally decided to care about it. State auditor Brian Colón should be applauded for launching an investigation after receiving a complaint. Importantly, Colón recognized the inmate population is “marginalized” and particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse. However, what Colón failed to make note of is how this kind of corruption also victimizes the taxpayer...
40 years later, the system is not all right
February 9, 2020
The Department of Corrections has not learned from the horrific lessons taught by the 1980 riot. Staff shortages, rolling lockdowns, excessive use of solitary confinement and corruption still plague our prison system.
In a recent series of Journal articles, the president of the Correctional Officers’ Union warned that the same issues present before the 1980 riot still exist today. Former Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel summarized the policies of the last 30 years as “containment,” which has encouraged violent social groups – gangs. Marcantel candidly explained that inmates leave the system “more violent than when they entered.”...
Bernalillo County jail has its own ‘I can’t breathe’ case
June 10, 2020
Knowing that the pressure on your back is choking the life out of you is truly a most frightening way to die. Knowing this force can stop if the officer chooses to stop. Knowing that other officers can see you are dying and are doing absolutely nothing to help. “I can’t breathe” is all you can manage to say.
While I could just as well be referring to George Floyd, I am not. Vicente Villela died last year at the hands of an officer while incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Albuquerque. A video of Vicente’s restraint by officers circulated online after his death, all too similar to the video of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Both show unambiguously excessive uses of force that defy explanation...
More prison time won’t cut violent crime
November 8, 2015
The horrific shootings in the last few months have generated calls for reform of our criminal justice system. Although change is necessary, we need to implement new policies based on what works rather than what feels good.
The community’s knee-jerk reaction demanding the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time is a path we have been down before and it hasn’t worked.
According to an Albuquerque Journal article published in January of this year, New Mexico has the second highest violent crime rate in the country. This unenviable statistic is nothing new...
New jailhouse courtroom needs more thought, input
September 12, 2015
The New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, NMCDLA, is deeply concerned with Bernalillo County’s intention to build a jailhouse courtroom.
Apparently, the county is in the advanced stages of planning this project and has earmarked a considerable amount of funds to see it through. Our members cannot help but feel a little disappointed that such a significant development in our community’s criminal justice infrastructure is moving forward without any input, or any attempt to seek input, from the criminal defense bar or the public...
Editorial: Solitary wrong solution for NM inmates and taxpayers
March 1, 2015
Throwing people into the “hole” can be inhumane, and it can be costly to the taxpayers.
A misdemeanor DWI charge landed Jerome Gonzales in the Otero County lockup in 2012. Roughly two months later he was diagnosed as psychotic as a result of his stint in solitary confinement, according to his attorney.
In essence, “he walked in without any symptoms and they watched him behave in (a) most inhuman manner for two months” without providing any mental health treatment, attorney Matt Coyte says...
Jail crowding serious, fixable
February 2, 2014
Most of us realize we live in a country with the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation in the world. But until recently we did not know that Bernalillo County has 68 percent more people in jail than the national average.
That’s right, central New Mexico is an embarrassing pocket of unjustifiable mass incarceration. Another interesting statistic: we have 25 percent fewer people on probation or parole than the national average.
These statistics, and others like them, tell a very interesting story for anyone willing to listen, but for those who run Albuquerque’s jail it is an unpleasant thing to hear