Susie Chavez and her son Adrian Vasquez
A nauseating 45-minute video released this week shows jailers at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County torturing an inmate. For 45 minutes Susie Chavez screams and cries in pain as jailers shock her with electricity, hold her in stress positions and spray her in the face with mace.
Albuquerque is the seat of Bernalillo County, the most populous county in New Mexico.
The torture session begins when jailers enter Chavez’s cell for having torn out pages of a magazine to put up around her bunk as posters. When Chavez asks for the name of the officer pinning her to the wall, the officer presses a stun gun directly against her back and pumps her full of electricity.
Chavez falls to the ground and begins sobbing. Within seconds, Sgt. Eric Allen, vice-president of the jail employee’s union, nonchalantly tells another officer, “Put her in a wrist lock and twist her wrist until she shuts up and stops crying.” When Chavez responds to the pain with more sobbing, the sadistic jailers accuse her of not complying with their commands and inflict more agony.
The officers continue to play this merciless psychopathic game for nearly an hour: they threaten and torture Chavez to get her to stop crying, which causes her to cry more, which they then use as an excuse to continue the torment.
At one point Chavez asks, “Is it because I cry you’re going to Mace me?” The jailer coldly replies, “Yes.”
“You’re using excessive force,” Chavez mumbles while convalescing on the floor, to which Sgt. Allen threatens, “Now you’re getting into stuff we’re going to hurt you over.”
Once again we witness that the much vaunted body camera affixed to Sgt. Allen did not save Susie Chavez from brutality, like in so many other cases. It had no deterrent value at all. MDC jailers knew they had a license to torture.
Barnalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center has been under federal court supervision for more than 20 years to supposedly solve the problem of prisoner abuse.
Astonishingly, this incident comes after 20-plus years of federal court oversight that began with a 1995 class-action lawsuit (the McClendon case) dealing with abusive jail conditions, including use-of-force by jail staff. Only a few weeks ago a settlement agreement was approved setting out a roadmap to finally end federal oversight. In other words, the jail where Susie Chavez was tortured last week is supposed to be near the end of a 21-year “reform” process!
This shows just how out of control the situation is. After that long, there is really no reason for the people of New Mexico to have confidence in the justice system’s promises to reform itself.
The reality is that Susie Chavez is part of the fastest growing segment of the prison population—women. Like the vast majority of these women, Susie was arrested for a non-violent offense—stealing a $15 phone charger and lollipop from Kmart. She was a person without money that committed an economic crime.
And there are lots of people without money in New Mexico. In a state with net-negative job growth, the capitalist system is not providing a way for people’s needs to be met. The system renders people jobless and/or unproductive, and then its only answer is to throw the destitute in jail.
The Party For Socialism and Liberation presidential campaign of Gloria La Riva and running mate Dennis Banks, a founder of the American Indian Movement, in New Mexico are in solidarity with our sisters and brothers behind bars. We condemn all aspects of mass incarceration and hold responsible all politicians who vote for or promote bills that increase U.S. prisons, including Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, whose role in mass incarceration has been exposed.
We call for a full investigation of the ongoing abuse within the MDC and prosecution of Sgt. Eric Alan and all other officers involved in brutalizing Susie Chavez.
The PSL presidential campaign of Gloria La Riva in New Mexico is initiating a community protest of the abuse at Metropolitan Detention Center at the special meeting of the Oversight Advisory Board. We
demand justice for Susie Chavez and others abused at the facility. The protest will be held on Monday, August 15, 5:30pm at 1 Civic Plaza in the City Manager’s Conference Room.