New Mexico study disputes state's solitary confinement rates - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico study disputes state’s solitary confinement rates

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly one in 10 state inmates is being held in solitary confinement on any given day, and nearly all of those in isolation say they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses that they largely believe are being inadequately treated, according to a study Thursday.

The findings released by the American Civil Liberties Union were based on an evaluation of prison records and a survey of inmates held in isolation in both private and publicly operated prisons. University of New Mexico researchers who contributed to the study also based findings on a sample of the state prisons’ solitary confinement population drawn from a single day in September 2018 in which state officials said the rate of prisoners held in isolation was about 4 percent — less than half of what the study had found.

At a news conference Thursday, criminal defense attorney Matthew Coyte framed solitary confinement as an issue that poses cost and safety issues for the public, saying that segregation only worsens a felons’ mental state instead of provide rehabilitation. Coyte, who assisted with the ACLU study, has won numerous multi-million-dollar judgments on behalf of clients previously held in solitary confinement.

“We have been manufacturing mental illness for years with this form of incarceration,” he said. “You don’t want people who are incarcerated to come out worse.”

The release of the report coincides with a push by the ACLU and others for legislation that would limit who state corrections officials place in solitary confinement.

A bill sponsored by several House Democrats would prohibit corrections officers from isolating juvenile and pregnant inmates. Inmates with serious mental disabilities could not be kept in solitary confinement for more than 48 hours.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who took office in January, has yet to fill the position of corrections secretary. She has said she wants evaluations of the agency’s performance to include the use of solitary confinement and related suicide rates. She said solitary confinement “should be used in only the most extreme and narrow circumstances.”

Josh Anderson, a spokesman for the union representing state corrections officers, said the group was open to reviewing further proposals to change policies for managing the state’s prisons, but first wanted to see the corrections department adequately funded and staffed.

The department oversees 7,300 inmates in 11 prisons. It has struggled to hire and retain officers and avoid growing overtime expenses.

___

This story corrects a previous version that said the report was released Friday.

Home » Around the Region » New Mexico study disputes state’s solitary confinement rates


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Cops: 500,000 fentanyl pills found in Arizona traffic stop
Around the Region
Two women were arrested after about ... Two women were arrested after about 500,000 fentanyl pills were found in an SUV pulled over for speeding on Interstate 10 in Arizona, police ...
2
Heightened wildfire threat prompts stricter restrictions
Around the Region
Arizona's six national forests and some ... Arizona's six national forests and some local governments and land management agencies are implementing stricter campfire and smoking restrictions because of the heightened wildfire ...
3
Border agency plans vehicle pursuit policy to raise safety
Around the Region
The head of U.S. Customs and ... The head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday that he is developing a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward ...
4
Attorney: Police shot man seconds after order to raise ...
Around the Region
A lawyer for the family of ... A lawyer for the family of a 29-year-old Black man who was fatally shot last month by a Houston police officer said body camera ...
5
Search continues for Texas woman accused in cyclist's death
Around the Region
The search continued Tuesday for a ... The search continued Tuesday for a woman suspected in the fatal shooting of professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson at an Austin home. Wilson, 25, ...
6
2 wildfires in southern, western Colorado fully contained
Around the Region
Two wildfires burning in southern and ... Two wildfires burning in southern and western Colorado have been fully contained. A fire that burned over 1,500 acres (2.3 square miles) near the ...
7
Woman sought in death of professional cyclist in Texas
Around the Region
Police were searching Monday for a ... Police were searching Monday for a woman suspected in the fatal shooting of a professional cyclist at an Austin home. The body of Anna ...
8
Police investigate shootings that wound 7 in Colorado
Around the Region
Police on Monday were investigating several ... Police on Monday were investigating several shootings in the Denver area and Colorado Springs that left seven people wounded. In Colorado Springs, two juveniles ...
9
Northbound I-17 reopens in Phoenix after wreck that killed ...
Around the Region
A woman was killed early Monday ... A woman was killed early Monday in a three-vehicle crash triggered by a car that stalled out in the traffic lanes of northbound Interstate ...