Marvin Silva was beaten so badly he was later hospitalized with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and major spleen damage.
A New Mexico man says he was brutally beaten by guards in a small county jail after corrections officers mistook his dentures for smuggled contraband.
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was filed by the New Mexico Jail and Prison Project on behalf of inmate Marvin Silva.
In their complaint, the Jail and Prison Project attorneys say that Silva was left naked in a Valencia County Adult Detention Center holding cell after a guard accused him of hiding contraband in his mouth.
Silva, says The N.M. Political Report, had been wearing an ill-fitting denture. When it began to come loose, he popped it back into his mouth.
A guard noticed, and ordered Silva to undress. Inside a holding cell, Silva was stripped naked and ordered to open his mouth. When Silva tried to show corrections officers his denture, one of the guards grabbed his cheek so hard that part of the metal denture pierced his cheek.
The holding cell, says the lawsuit, was located in an area without any surveillance cameras.
Shortly after being dumped into the cell, Silva says that several corrections officers arrived—and then began to beat him.
Silva was purportedly pepper sprayed in the face, punched, and kicked; once he was on the ground, guards slammed his head into a bench and against a nearby wall.
However, Valencia County Adult Detention Center officials did not find any contraband.
KUNM.org notes that the lawsuit accuses four corrections officers of excessive force; it also names Texas-based prison health care provider CorrHealth and two of its employees as defendants.
While CorrHealth President Todd Murphy told KUNM.org that he could not comment on the complaint’s allegations of deliberate indifference to inmates in dire medical need, he did say his company is committed to providing care to detainees.
“Allegations such as these are important to us, as is ensuring we’re providing a high standard of care,” Murphy said. “Our team will be closely reviewing these allegations and this claim.”
The lawsuit, adds The Associated Press, recounts how CorrHealth personnel allegedly denied Silva medical help after his beating.
Silva was then released from the facility.
Lacking money or any means for transportation, Silva had to walk five miles before hitchhiking the rest of the way home.
Silva was then transported by ambulance to an Albuquerque-area hospital, where first responders treated him for an array of injuries, including fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, damaged spleen, and abrasions to his head, neck, and abdomen.
Stephen Allen, director of the New Mexico Jail and Prison Project, told the Political Report that Silva had been arrested for a minor infraction and was never charged or convicted of any crime.
“There’s a specific standard of care. He was not convicted of any crime. He was not sent to prison, not convicted by a court. He has to be treated in a reasonable way. His rights under the 14th Amendment were violated. He has a right to medical care,” Allen said.
Allen further told The N.M. Political Report that Silva’s story is not unique, and that his organization hears similar accounts from inmates across the state each and every day.
“Silva,” said Allen, “is just the tip of the iceberg.”