In 1980, 33 inmates died, more than 200 others were injured and seven corrections officers were beaten or raped during the New Mexico State Penitentiary riot. Short-staffed and overwhelmed, corrections officers were unable to keep the peace, allowing the riot to become one of the nation’s bloodiest.
Thirty-seven years later, New Mexico state-run prisons continue to be severely understaffed, with officer vacancies ranging from 29 percent to 70 percent, a recent television report showed.
“It’s not a safe place. The public isn’t safe. The prison system isn’t safe. The staff is not safe and neither are the inmates,” Crystal Beltran, a member of Local 3422 at the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility, told KRQE News 13, an Albuquerque, N.M., television station.
AFSCME Council 18 and community allies have long been critical of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration for failing to boost staffing in New Mexico’s state-run prisons. Temporary relief came during the 2016 state legislative session, when a bill was passed to raise pay for new corrections officers by nearly $8,000 annually. While the measure was a great first step, experienced officers remain underpaid and overworked, leading to high turnover.
As members of AFSCME Corrections United, Council 18 members fight to improve pay and working conditions for all corrections employees.
KRQE News 13’s recent report shines new light on the chronic issues our correction officers face. It features insight and background from several Council 18 members. Take a look: