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Federal detainees protest quarantine

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of federal detainees protested at a private prison on Wednesday, reportedly growing frustrated over their time in quarantine.

According to a spokesman for CoreCivic, the private company that runs the prison, six U.S. Marshals Service detainees at the Cibola County Correctional Center northwest of Grants were involved in the uproar.

The facility has almost 300 cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The detainees who protested had been on medical quarantine for 14 days, which was scheduled to be lifted Thursday if no one displayed symptoms.

Spokesman Ryan Gustin said detainees “blocked the pod door, covered the windows and cameras, and refused to comply with verbal directives provided by facility staff in protest of their COVID-19 medical cohort/quarantine status.”

He said attempts to de-escalate the situation were unsuccessful so the staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly known as pepper spray.

“After the deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff,” Gustin said.

Gustin said no one was injured in the incident and medical staff reviewed all six inmates involved in the protest.

As of Thursday, the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan has 297 cases of COVID-19 – surpassing all other federal facilities in the state. Gustin did not respond to a question about how many inmates are in the facility.

The Otero County Prison Facility, which holds both federal and state inmates, has a total of 751 cases and the Otero County Processing Center, which holds detained immigrants, has 159 cases.

Gustin said the Cibola County Correctional Facility conducted mass testing of staff and detainees the week of July 20 and most of the inmates that tested positive were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

He also pointed to other measures the facility had taken to slow the spread of the virus, including separating high-medical-risk inmates, suspending social visitation, providing face masks and other personal protective equipment to all staff and detainees, and encouraging hand washing and other good hygiene.

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