The two people who died in custody of the Metropolitan Detention Center within 10 days of one another this month have been identified as 20-year-old Jesus Olivas Ramirez and 43-year-old Tanya Martinez.
On Jan. 13, Olivas Ramirez was found unresponsive while jail staff were organizing out-of-cell time for inmates in a living unit, said Bernalillo County spokeswoman Tia Bland.
Ten days later, on Jan. 23, Martinez died.
“(Martinez) went into medical distress and responding MDC staff initiated rescue efforts and called for emergency medical services,” Bland said. “Unfortunately, rescue efforts were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced deceased at 11:14 a.m. There is not an apparent cause of death at this time.”
The jail’s Office of Professional Standards and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office are investigating, which is standard procedure, Bland said.
Olivas Ramirez had been in jail since Dec. 25, 2021, on vehicular homicide charges. According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, he had been speeding in a white Camaro and T-boned a Ford SUV. He was being held pending trial.
Attorney Ryan Villa, representing incarcerated people in the McClendon settlement agreement, which lays out reforms at the jail, said he had heard from other inmates that Olivas Ramirez had been given a dose of methadone early that morning and then had been found unconscious or dead hours later.
The jail has a methadone program to treat opioid use disorders.
As for Martinez, Villa said his clients have told him that she was detoxing from fentanyl when she died. He said he had heard that Martinez was in a cell — rather than on a plastic cot in the middle of a large room amidst other inmates — but he is still working to confirm that.
There have been 20 deaths at the jail since the beginning of 2020 and about half of them occurred when inmates were detoxing from drugs or alcohol. Three of the four deaths last year were among those who were detoxing.
“It’s extremely concerning because we know that a lot of people go to jail because of issues related to drug use and the drug of the day is fentanyl,” Villa said. “Detoxing from fentanyl requires special care and observation and if it’s not done correctly it can lead to death.”
Martinez had been arrested on Jan. 20 and charged with burglary of a vehicle, a fourth-degree felony, and misdemeanor larceny. According to a criminal complaint, she took loose change from an unlocked car. She was supposed to have a first appearance before a judge but it was reset for medical reasons, according to court records.
Villa said he suspects Martinez would have been released from jail, given that she was not facing a violent charge.
“We’re getting very concerned about this cycle of folks who have opioid use disorders getting arrested for a non-violent crime and they can’t even get to court to get released because they are dying before they get that opportunity,” Villa said.