Lawsuit: Guards mistook dentures for contraband, beat inmate

Posted at 12:01 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 12:01:42-04

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A man was brutally beaten by corrections officers and denied medical treatment at a Valencia County jail in Los Lunas 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 with no security cameras after a medical checkup, when a guard insisted that the inmate was hiding contraband in his mouth. They said several other corrections officers arrived and beat Silva.

The lawsuit seeks compensation to Silva for injuries and emotional harm, punitive damages against the jail and health care employees and attorney's fees.

Administrators at the Valencia County Adult Detention Center could not immediately be reached for comment. The lawsuit levels charges of excessive use of force at four corrections officers and accuses 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 had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on a pending liability 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 transported 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.