ACLU presses New Mexico to better protect inmates from virus

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says more needs to be done to protect inmates in the states’ jails and prisons. The organization sent a letter to Governor Michelle Luan Grisham over the rising number of coronavirus cases in correctional facilities.

They’re calling for aggressive testing and sharing those results regularly releasing inmates who don’t pose a danger to society and temporarily suspending sentences for some parole violations like drug use. Many prisons have become virus hotspots because of how easily it can spread in an enclosed environment.

“Months ago, we warned that if certain steps were not taken, coronavirus would ravage New Mexico jails and prisons, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now,” said Peter Simonson in a press release Tuesday, executive director at the ACLU of New Mexico. “Incarcerated people — who have no autonomy, no agency to decide their fate — are in fear for their lives and depending on the governor to take bold actions to protect them. We hope this time she heeds our recommendations.”

In the letter, ACLU recommends the governor implement plans to:

  • Continuously and aggressively test for COVID-19 in all facilities.
  • Release people who do not pose a risk to society, including people with non-violent convictions who are 12 months from their parole date, people incarcerated on technical violations of parole, and people eligible for medical and geriatric parole.
  • Quickly promulgate a policy to temporarily suspend any incarceration to jail or prison for technical parole violations such as failing a drug test.
  • Issue regular reports detailing how many staff have been tested and at which facilities; how many incarcerated people have been tested and at which facilities; the number of tests that have returned positive, negative, and/or inconclusive; the number of staff and incarcerated people on quarantine and from which facilities; the number of hospitalizations and from which facilities; the number of people who have died from the virus and at which facilities they had been held.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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