The American Civil Liberties Union and prison activists have been calling on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to take measures to prevent a mass outbreak of COVID-19 since before her April 6 order directing the New Mexico Corrections Department to identify prisoners who could be released. As of April 29, the department says just 29 inmates have been released out of about 6,700 people in New Mexico state prisons. Advocates have been gathering outside prisons in car rallies every Friday in April, demanding the state ensure inmates’ safety during the pandemic.
Armed with a megaphone, protester Sheryl Gallegos spoke of her fears for her brother and husband inside the Los Lunas prison. "That prison is determined to release my brother to me in a body bag," she said, "and I am not having it."
Gov. Lujan Grisham has said she’s working to release some prisoners who are within 30 days of parole. Gallegos said her brother is months overdue to get out.
"Johnny Gallegos has had a release order since December of last year," Gallegos said, "and his caseworker has denied to move his paperwork."
Gallegos also said her brother had his hygiene products taken away and was beaten up by guards, and that her husband, Edward Manzanares, was put in solitary confinement for calling to tell her about it. The Corrections Department did not respond to a KUNM inquiry about those two men's cases by air time.
Protesters decried the inability of prisoners to distance from each other during the pandemic, as well as inadequate medical care and lack of free supplies for handwashing.
According to the Corrections Department, just eight inmates were tested for the coronavirus as of April 29, with no positive cases yet confirmed, and 32 staff were tested with a single positive result.
Millions For Prisoners New Mexico and other advocates are planning another action on May Day at the Cibola County prison.
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