Recent MDC inmate death is jail’s fifth in six months

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque family had to make the difficult decision to take a loved one off life support on Thursday.

The incidents that ultimately killed the man, John Sanchez, happened while he was an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center, according to a jail spokesperson.

Sanchez is the fifth MDC inmate to die this year – that’s five deaths in less than six months.

The people who died are 20-year-old Jesús Olivas, 43-year-old Tanya Martinez, 64-year-old Chris Moya, 30-year-old Destiny Baca and Sanchez, who was 34.

“It’s sad. It’s heartbreaking,” said Benny Jaramillo, Sanchez’s father.

Jaramillo told KOB 4 on Wednesday that his son no longer had brain function.

A jail spokesperson said that on Monday he was in multiple fights, and tried to escape, but his family believes the father of two was beaten to death.

“It’s been hell. It really has. You don’t expect your kid to get injured or die in a place where they’re supposed to be taking care of him,” Jaramillo said.

On Friday, a jail spokesperson said three correctional officers are now on administrative leave after the incidents.

“It’s sad to say that it’s not surprising,” Albuquerque attorney Matt Coyte said.

Coyte has brought many lawsuits against MDC over the last two decades. He said there are two long-running problems.

One problem is that inmates not getting the medical care they need.

“Just think of all the people who didn’t die who didn’t get medical care, who were released and their conditions have been exacerbated or unattended,” Coyte said.

He believes the correctional officers in charge of keeping everyone safe are often too violent.

“The second distinct problem has been a culture of violence within the custodial staff,” Coyte said. “Think of all the people who suffer at the hands of a violent custodial staff on a daily or weekly basis.”

Many deaths among MDC inmates over the last few years have been suicides, and many deaths involve people who were allegedly going through drug withdrawal.

Coyte said every jail should be prepared to help inmates suffering from a drug addiction.

“It doesn’t take that much sophistication to help people withdraw safely. It takes care,” he said. “And the same for suicides. You can look after people who are suicidal.”

According to victim’s rights advocates and attorneys representing the families of those who’ve died at MDC, staff shortages are a root cause of many of the alleged issues.

“It’s not a new problem for them. It’s gotten really bad now,” Coyte said.

MDC officials did not accept KOB 4’s offer for an interview for this story.

Joseph Trujeque, the president of the union representing the MDC correctional officers, said in a statement, in part, “The thought or idea of there’s been a culture of excessive force at MDC is unequivocally and absolutely not true.”

“We revamped our entire use of force to be more restricted than others around the state,” Trujeque said.

He believes that in the last 10 years, only two incidents have led to officers getting convicted of excessive force, though more have been disciplined.

Major changes are coming to the medical staff. Bernalillo County is letting the contract with a private medical company run out, and UNM Health workers will take over.

A spokesperson tells KOB 4 they are still on track to start on July 26.