Springer Correctional Center officer accused of sexually abusing inmate

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An abuse of power, that’s what a lawsuit filed this week claims happened at the Springer correctional facility. The lawsuit says a corrections officer at the all women’s prison sexually abused an inmate for nearly a year.

KOB 4 spoke with the victim’s attorney about the complaint.

"Our client feared for her physical safety, she feared for her well-being in this environment,” Attorney Levi Monagle said.

Monagle filed the lawsuit Wednesday against the New Mexico Corrections Department and Corrections Officer Gabriel Maestas.

Monagle said his client was sexually abused multiple times while incarcerated.

"Once the abuse began, it was not difficult for it to continue and be perpetuated,” he said.

Monagle claims Maestas threatened the inmate to have sexual relations with him.

"As time wore on, he began to make sexual advances and began to say, ‘It’s the nature of a prison facility that a corrections officer can make your life better, or I can make your life worse.’"

The complaint reports Maestas would take the plaintiff, “to so-called ‘hidden places’ where the abuse would go on undetected."

Maestas reportedly warned she "could get in a lot of trouble if anyone found out what was going on."

For months, she remained quiet until she was transferred to another facility in Grants where she reported what had allegedly taken place.

"Once our client made those reports, investigations were conducted. Her claims were substantiated and found to be credible."

The document from the state confirms the allegations were substantiated and Maestas was no longer employed at the facility. However, it also said no criminal charges were filed against him.

"I wish I could say I was surprised. I mean, certainly it’s a charge that could easily be brought,” said Monagle. "If you have substantiated allegations, this seems like it would be the easiest case to charge."

Monagle anticipates this case will go before a jury.

KOB 4 reached out to the New Mexico Department of Corrections and a spokesperson confirmed Maestas was a worker at the Springer Correctional Facility and resigned while he was under investigation. When asked about the lawsuit, they said they do not comment on active litigation, and they take allegations of this nature very seriously.

Now, this is far from the first lawsuit filed against the Springer Correctional Facility.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, since 2018 there have been 8 lawsuits filed on behalf of 11 women.

The facility is set to close within the next few years. Officials said it’s not because of the allegations and lawsuits, but because the inmate population is decreasing and the building is too expensive to maintain.