Updated: August 24, 2020 05:07 PM
Created: August 24, 2020 02:45 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The ACLU of New Mexico is launching a class-action lawsuit against the state of New Mexico for its handling of COVID-19 at state prisons.
"It's clear to us that New Mexico has simply failed to take the steps required to protect who are incarcerated from the deadly threat of COVID-19," said attorney Chris Casolaro.
The lawsuit asks the courts to intervene at state prisons, allowing for the release of more inmates to curb the spread of the virus. The ACLU wants the court to enforce more robust health and safety policies.
'We simply could not sit by and not do something and take real action to address those concerns," said Lalita Moskowitz, staff attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico.
In May, the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected a similar petition by the ACLU, but Moskowitz said she can point to more proof for their argument now.
She points to the Otero County prison facility, which saw nearly 90% of its inmates infected with the virus.
"While our governor's order, back in April, was a fine start, it simply did not go nearly far enough to allow for social distancing and the safety of incarcerated people," Moskowitz said.
The lawsuit seeks action, not money.
"Regrettably, many who are incarcerated or who were incarcerated lost their lives -- and the point of this lawsuit is that many, many more are at risk of losing theirs," Casolaro said. "So our goal is to require action by state officials that will limit the suffering, limit the loss of life and put an end to their ongoing constitutional violations."
Following several large-scale outbreaks at state prison facilities, the state implemented widespread testing and health protocols.
The state would not comment on the ACLU lawsuit.
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