Correctional officers under fire for Los Lunas prison inmate attack

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New video shows correctional officers standing by and doing nothing as an inmate in Los Lunas is attacked by other inmates.

The video, shared by the ACLU, is now leading a call for change in New Mexico’s Corrections Department.

“The individuals who work in that facility, including a captain, know they are being recorded and don’t care,” said Matthew Coyte, a civil rights attorney. 

In the video, two correctional officers stand by as an inmate is cornered and attacked by four other inmates.

“They know the office of professional standards will review that video and they don’t care, and that’s really concerning from a corrections point of view,” said Coyte. 

The ACLU shared the video with members of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee on Monday, saying it is a prime example of what’s wrong with the state’s prison system.

“It’s a culture of corruption that exists in many of our facilities where the guards are able to run the place in a manner that you would consider illegal,” Coyte said. 

KOB 4 reached out to the corrections secretary, Alisha Tafoya Lucero, for comment about the video but we did not hear back from her.

However, a spokesperson for the department told the Santa Fe New Mexican the incident is under investigation:

“Preliminary results of the investigation revealed that there were no significant injuries, and no one had to be transported due to injuries. The Correctional Officers involved were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Coyte says more needs to be done.

“The first step is independent civilian oversight. Independent so there’s no political connection and civilian, you don’t want the system to police itself,” he said. 

The changes he wants to see don’t end there.

“At the same time, you can invest in education and rehabilitation services for prisoners and education and training for guards,” said Coyte. 

Coyte shared these proposals along with the video when he spoke with the corrections committee. He says they were open to his suggestions.

“I’m optimistic because the committee seemed to have a thirst for actually following through with this. In the past it has been difficult to pass legislation like this or have the Department of Corrections culture even discussed,” he said.

Coyte said two years ago the Legislature introduced the idea of creating an oversight committee, but it never passed.