Jail's culture of abuse hurts all people - Albuquerque Journal

Jail’s culture of abuse hurts all people

“Twist her wrist until she shuts up and stops crying.” This was an order given by Sgt. Eric Allen, the vice president of the Metropolitan Detention Center employee’s union, in a brutal and nonsensical effort to make inmate Susie Chavez be quiet.

Last week the Journal published a 45 minute video of the incident on its website, and I encourage members of our community to take the time to watch it. It is a striking example of the cultural problems that exist inside our state’s largest jail, and it confirms what many people in the system have been saying for years: the jail has a flawed and unconstitutional use of force policy and it is costing us dearly.

Years of litigation have plagued MDC. As a result, the jail has reduced its population and invested enormous amounts of money in medical facilities and psychiatric care.

Yet all this investment is wasted if inmates who enter the jail are later released having been brutalized or traumatized.

According to the Journal, Chavez was arrested for attempting to steal a lollipop and a phone charger worth $15. The jail video indicates she was being disciplined for having magazine pictures on her wall. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize if you physically abuse inmates like Chavez, you are going to create a larger problem for the community in the long run.

The next time law enforcement interact with Chavez they will likely encounter someone psychiatrically worse than they encountered before. This is a self inflicted problem our society can ill afford.

Also, the cost on staff cannot be overlooked. In watching this video it becomes clear this culture of unnecessary force is tolerated by almost everyone working there, including the medical and mental health staff. Despite being taken to a modern medical unit, the abuse of Chavez continued unabated.

Only one person, (an unidentified woman with blond hair), had enough humanity to try and comfort Chavez, who was supposedly brought to the unit for medical care. She is seen trying to wipe the mace ridden hair out of Chavez’s eyes, something she couldn’t do for herself due to the fact she was in leg, hand and belly chains. Yet the unidentified woman appears worried her actions would annoy the sergeant in control.

When staff repeatedly witness the degrading treatment of inmates it effects their own mental health. Studies have shown prison guards suffer from increased risks of suicide and their families suffer higher than normal rates of domestic violence.

Looking at this video you can see why it is difficult to hire and retain qualified staff and medical professionals to work in MDC.

The culture Allen and others like him promote in this jail is corrosive to everyone who works there. What is even more disturbing are the reports he was actually in charge of “use of force” training at the time. It is therefore unsurprising that MDC has staffing problems and relies on enormous overtime bills to keep the facility going.

This video is actually an opportunity for our community. It should be mandatory watching for how not to run a jail.

Sgt. Allen and his staff have lost touch with humanity. He instructed his officers to escalate the situation rather than diffuse it. He repetitively used a spit mask to stop Chavez from yelling, but doing this to a woman who was vomiting from the effects of mace, having been tasered twice just minutes before, is a dangerous and outrageous thing to do.

Yet union President Stephen Perkins is quoted in the Journal as endorsing the actions of Allen, claiming he did nothing wrong.

After watching this video I think most people will agree the jail employees’ union needs a different leader.

A new philosophy is needed, otherwise MDC will continue to drain resources from our county budget while making our crime problems that much worse.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Jail’s culture of abuse hurts all people

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

UNM breaks ground on $43.3M nursing school building
Albuquerque News
Governor also announced $15M for nursing ... Governor also announced $15M for nursing programs across state
Judge orders lender to pay NM customers $4.3M
ABQnews Seeker
Company didn't use lawyers to file ... Company didn't use lawyers to file suits against borrowers
County may OK pepper spray for employee safety
ABQnews Seeker
According to proposal, county recognizes employees ... According to proposal, county recognizes employees 'may encounter unsafe circumstances during their ingress and egress to Alvarado Square'
New Mexico needs every worker it can get
ABQnews Seeker
Many factors lead to state’s dismal ... Many factors lead to state’s dismal workforce participation rates
Jail needs oversight of an authority, not commissioners
From the newspaper
Experts are needed to make decisions ... Experts are needed to make decisions regarding the MDC
Solar cooling an option for our increasingly hot summers
From the newspaper
I went to the Solar Fiesta ... I went to the Solar Fiesta held in Albuquerque at the UNM campus June 24. I got to check out a fleet ...
Facing victims, not prison, will change you for better
From the newspaper
I am a student at CNM ... I am a student at CNM majoring in substance abuse counseling, and a member of the "Lived Exper ...
New Mexico slips to 50th in child well-being
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's ranking in overall child ... New Mexico's ranking in overall child well-being slipped from 49th to 50th, according ...
'Courageous conversations' can transform community
NMBLC emphasizes cultural vibrancy and positive ... NMBLC emphasizes cultural vibrancy and positive development