The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/10YBX3z) that two lawsuits allege that eighteen inmates at prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton were fondled or giving intrusive exams by the prison physician at the time, Dr. Mark E. Walden. Both lawsuits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
One inmate claims he got an overly long and intrusive rectal exam when he went to Walden for a torn meniscus in his knee.
The lawsuits say the potential for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct toward inmates by prison employees is a well-known institutional problem and administrators have a duty to protect the inmates.
The lawsuits say inmates often view reporting abuse as futile because of the humiliation and retaliation they risk and the prospect of losing access to medical services.
One of the suits says prison administrators and a private contractor that provides healthcare services in New Mexico's prisons didn't ensure that a third person was present to protect the integrity of the exams.
The prisons in Santa Rosa and Clayton are operated under contract with the state by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO group, a firm that operates detention and re-entry facilities in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Britain, as well as the U.S.
Walden was an employee of Corizon, a private contractor that provides healthcare services at over 349 correctional facilities across the country.
Walden, who is now working in a medical practice in Raton, did not return a call from the Journal for comment. The Associated Press called Walden's medical office on Sunday morning but was unable to leave a message there.
Courtney Eller, who handles media inquiries for Corizon, said the firm doesn't comment on any litigation, but pointed out that Walder is no longer on the company's staff.
GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment on the cases, but noted that Walden isn't a GEO employee.
The New Mexico Medical Board is investigating Walden and issued a notice of contemplated action in mid-February. No hearing has been scheduled, but it is likely to take place in April or May.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com