Lawsuit: Guards mistook dentures for contraband, beat inmate

National News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A man was brutally beaten by corrections officers and denied medical treatment at a county jail in a small New Mexico community after guards mistook dentures in the inmate’s mouth for contraband, according to a civil rights lawsuit.

The New Mexico Prison and Jail Project, a watchdog group for improving prison conditions, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court this week on behalf of former inmate Marvin Silva.

The group said Silva was left naked in a holding cell at the Valencia County Adult Detention Center with no security cameras after a medical checkup, when a guard insisted that the inmate was hiding contraband in his mouth.

The lawsuit said several other corrections officers arrived and beat Silva at the lockup in the community of Los Lunas, about 30 minutes from Albuquerque.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary compensation for Silva for injuries and emotional harm plus punitive damages against the jail and health care employees and attorney’s fees.

Administrators at the Valencia County detention center did not immediately respond Friday, and an attorney for the county said there would be no comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit levels charges of excessive use of force at four corrections officers and accuses Texas-based prison health care provider CorrHealth and two of its employees of deliberate indifference to a person in serious medical need.

CorrHealth President Todd Murphy said Thursday that he could not comment on details of an active legal claim.

“Allegations such as these are important to us, as is ensuring we’re providing a high standard of care,” Murphy said in an email. “Our team will be closely reviewing these allegations and this claim.”

According to the lawsuit, medical personnel at the jail denied Silva’s requests for medical care before he was released to walk 5 miles (8 kilometers) toward home and hitched a ride the rest of the way.

An ambulance later took Silva to an Albuquerque hospital that treated him for fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, injuries to the spleen and other injuries to the head, neck and abdomen.

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