New Mexico correctional officers see increase in inmate violence

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LOS LUNAS, N.M. — New Mexico correctional officers are processing another act of violence against one of their own. The department confirms an inmate at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas attacked a guard and doctor inside the prison last week.

“We know we’re going into work not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” said J. Montano with the 3422 Correctional Officer Union.

Union leadership said the risks are only getting higher with inmate violence.

At the facility in Los Lunas, Douglas Cornell tried to attack a doctor on the way to an appointment. New Mexico State Police confirmed he used a sharpened toothbrush. The escorting corrections officer stepped in and took the brunt of the attack. The officer was later taken to the hospital.

Cornell is serving time for kidnapping, aggravated battery and child abuse. Now, more charges are on the way.

In March, an inmate stabbed a pregnant female officer at the state prison in Grants.

Union leadership said incidents like this are becoming more significant because of lack of staffing.

“We’ve lost an extraordinary amount of officers and there’s just nothing being done to really compensate for what we’ve lost,” Montano said.

He said it’s an issue that is plaguing jails and prisons statewide.

“The pay is not the only aspect we look at, it’s the staffing, it’s the treatment of employees, it’s the decency that the department has for us, and right now, the department is not taking care of us,” Montano said. “It’s definitely one of our lowest points of morale that we’ve ever had.”

According to the union, at this point, three out of five people they talk to are looking for a new job – so the hope is that the department finds a way to turn morale around soon.

KOB 4 reached out to the state for a response on these concerns. The Department of Corrections public information officer said they’re grateful to the correctional officer for doing what his years of experience trained him to do in that situation – to keep it from escalating.