SANTA FE, NM (AP) – New Mexico is considering closing a women’s prison in a small rural town and relocating inmates and workers elsewhere, state officials say.
The timing and other details regarding the closure of the Springer Correctional Center in Springer remain to be determined, officials said on Friday.
“The closure of the facility will allow more fiscally responsible operation of the remaining public facilities, while maintaining safe housing for the prison population,” Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero said in a statement.
The most recent annual report posted on the Department of Corrections website for fiscal year 2019 indicates that the prison had an average daily population of 350.
Springer has a population of approximately 1,000 and is located in Colfax County, northern New Mexico, along Interstate 25 and 88 miles (142 kilometers) northeast of Santa Fe.
Springer Mayor Boe Lopez said he was disappointed with the news and its schedule and said it would be difficult to replace the prison’s 150 jobs, some occupied by workers who commute between Raton, Mora and Las Vegas.
Lopez said the decision was leaked after the legislative session ended and the city had not had an opportunity to seek help from the Legislature.
The department’s statement referred to the prison as an aging facility first opened in 1909 with many campus-style facilities built in 1960.
At least a dozen inmates at the prison have filed lawsuits alleging that they were sexually harassed, assaulted or raped by guards, then ignored or retaliated when they reported the abuse to superiors who were aware but did not did nothing.
Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sacket said the governor “is of course aware and deeply concerned about the history of this facility” and considers it “an unacceptable model”.
Civil rights activists and prisoners’ representatives who called for the prison to be closed have welcomed the closure plans.
“In addition to the systemic sexual violence perpetrated against the women detained there, the basic living conditions are truly horrendous,” said Steven Robert Allen, director of the New Mexico Prison and Jail Project, a nonprofit advocating the rights of incarcerated persons.
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