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Judge: N.M. Corrections Department Tried To Hide Report On Health Care Failures

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For years, people who’d been in New Mexico prisons brought lawsuits and allegations about dangerously bad medical care, as well as sexual abuse by a prison doctor. According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, a report just came to light detailing the Department of Corrections failures—even though the state’s been trying to hide it.

The 2014 report emerged as part of a whistleblower lawsuit. In it, an independent firm writes that the Corrections Department wasn’t conducting mandatory audits of Corizon—that’s the private company that handled prison health care in New Mexico up until three years ago. And that because those audits weren’t happening, the report states, people who worked in the prisons knew they could get away with anything they wanted.

Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero just took over the Corrections Department. She sat down with KUNM for an interview last week before news of the report broke. "We are working hard to increase our monitoring tools, our people that are out there checking up on the contractors and making sure that they’re complying with whatever the service provisions are," she said.

The judge said the Corrections Department for the last six months has been willfully concealing evidence.

A department spokesperson attributed the suppression of the report to the past administration via email but didn’t respond before air-time to a question about how long Tafoya Lucero had known of the report or this tactic. He said comprehensive health audits of all New Mexico prisons began this year and that the department takes oversight seriously.

UPDATE 9/10: Corrections Department spokesperson Eric Harrison said Secretary Tafoya Lucero became aware of the report in August and wanted it to be made public.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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