An Albuquerque woman who spent time in the juvenile detention center in 2015 filed a civil lawsuit last week alleging that she was beaten by another inmate in an attack orchestrated by a jail employee.
Rachel deSantiago, 36, who was then a youth program officer at the JDC, is facing criminal charges in connection with the incident. A Bernalillo County spokeswoman confirmed that deSantiago no longer works for the county. Both deSantiago and the county are named as defendants in the suit filed in state District Court.
Shantel Serrano, who was 17 at the time of the April 2015 attack, says she filed grievances against deSantiago and retaliation followed. She alleges deSantiago placed her in solitary confinement and threw her food on the floor before arranging the beating.
“People who are in custody are an extremely vulnerable population, especially juveniles. And unfortunately it is not uncommon for corrections officers to abuse their power,” said Serrano’s attorney, Carey Bhalla. “And it’s just something we have to monitor as a society.”
According to the lawsuit, on April 24, 2015, deSantiago ordered another inmate to attack the teen while she was in the bathroom. DeSantiago watched, making sure the attack began, before turning her back, doing nothing to stop it. The teen was hit in the head and face more than a dozen times.
A criminal complaint filed against deSantiago alleges that she arranged the attack “because of the numerous problems (the girl) was causing within the unit.”
Her work partner, according to the complaint, said deSantiago made comments that week that “suggested” she planned the attack and that deSantiago “admitted” that she didn’t attempt to separate the girls, deputies said.
Asked for comment, Bernalillo County spokeswoman Tia Bland said only that deSantiago was no longer a county employee. The lawsuit argues that the county was negligent in its hiring and retention of deSantiago.
Online court records show there is a warrant out for deSantiago’s arrest following her failure to appear for a court hearing in the criminal case in late March. She faces charges of child abuse, conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It’s not clear who is representing her in the civil case.
Serrano is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.