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Security camera video shows two correctional officers watched, but did not intervene, as four inmates attacked another – kicking and punching him multiple times – in the intake facility of the prison in Los Lunas last month.
The footage of the August beating was released by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Wednesday.
Barron Jones, senior policy strategist with the ACLU, said the video from the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility raises “troubling concerns about the well-being of people in the custody of the New Mexico Corrections Department.”
He said the lack of action by the two officers contradicts the Corrections Department’s ethics policy that requires officers to protect the rights of those in custody, as well as the inmate’s constitutional rights.
“In the U.S. Supreme Court case Farmer v. Brennan, the court ruled that it is a violation of an incarcerated individual’s rights under the Eighth Amendment when a prison official knows that an incarcerated person faces the risk of harm and does nothing to mitigate it,” Jones wrote in a statement.
Carmelina Hart, the Corrections Department spokeswoman, said the incident is under investigation. She did not answer questions about what correctional officers should do if they see inmates fighting or what injuries the inmate who was beaten received. None of the inmates was publicly identified.
Central New Mexico Correctional Facility has the capacity to hold 1,231 people, Hart said, but its current population is 642. She said the security staff vacancy rate is 22.5%.
A prison incident report states that, on Aug. 10, correctional officer Capt. Cameron Watson told fellow officer Capt. Jesse Diaz that an inmate was refusing to work. He had been tasked with grinding floors in the cells.
The officers reported that the inmate said, “I’ll go to the cell with you and beat your ass.”
“As soon as (redacted) said that inmates (redacted) rushed down the stairs and began to beat up inmate (redacted),” the report states. “Inmate (redacted) went to the floor and I was giving (sic) directive for inmates to stop they did comply.”
The inmates were all checked by medical and one told Diaz that “he was not going to let an officer get hurt because he respected the officer for doing his job.”
However, Jones said the video does not appear to show that the correctional officer was in any danger. He said the inmate who was beaten seems to be “completely unprepared for the attack once it begins.”
“Neither the captain nor the corrections officer attempted to stop the more than 30-second-long attack,” Jones said. “Once it is over, the four incarcerated men walk away. Neither guard appears to render medical aid to the victim.”