Cyberattack leads to jail lockdown, violations - Albuquerque Journal

Cyberattack leads to jail lockdown, violations

A sign in front of the Metropolitan Detention Center in March 2020 announcing that inmates are not allowed to have visitors. The jail cancelled inmate visits last week because of a ransomware attack. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Bernalillo County filed an emergency notice in federal court last week because a ransomware attack made the Metropolitan Detention Center unable to comply with terms of a settlement agreement in a years-running lawsuit over jail conditions.

The county last Wednesday announced its offices and systems were the victims of a cyberattack, affecting a wide variety of county government operations. Most county buildings were closed until further notice.

As a result, the county-operated MDC has been unable to access its cameras since the attack, which is one of the reasons it has fallen out of compliance in the McClendon v. City of Albuquerque lawsuit, which centers on jail conditions.

The attack has limited how much time inmates can spend out of their cells, and also reduced their access to telephones and tablets, according to the filing. The county also has been unable to gather data required as a condition of the settlement agreement. No visitors have been allowed.

The county said in the filing that its inability to access cameras is one of the more concerning aspects of the cyberattack, which has caused the facility to be on “lockdown” since Wednesday.

“This means inmates, even inmates in general population, are temporarily limited to their cells,” Taylor Rahn, an attorney for the county, wrote in the filing. Tia Bland, a county spokeswoman, said technicians over the weekend had some success getting MDC cameras working. She said jail officials are optimistic for more progress on Monday.

She said county headquarters at Alvarado Square will have limited public access beginning at 8 a.m. Monday.

Local courts, also affected by the attack, have designated new spaces for defendants.

A space was set up at Children’s Court in Albuquerque with secure laptops so defendants can speak with their attorneys at hearings in state district court. Metropolitan Court is designating more space for defendants at the courthouse and considering moving some proceedings to a nearby building, according to a news release from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“I sincerely appreciate our criminal court bench, as well as Metropolitan Court Chief Judge Maria Dominguez, all of our justice partners and the New Mexico Supreme Court emergency response team for working quickly to enact plans to allow criminal proceedings to continue in the face of this unforeseen event,” Second Judicial District Court Chief Judge Marie Ward said in a prepared statement on Friday.

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