A prison riot involving a serial killer that occurred last fall was recently exposed, resulting in controversy with the facility and it’s decision to keep it a secret to the public.
The Northeast New Mexico Prison Complex has recently been on the hot seat after concealing a riot event that happened almost 10 months ago. Surveillance footage from the day of the riot has recently been released. The video had been concealed by the facility since September 23rd, 2017 when the riot took place.
This facility holds around 625 inmates and is run by a private company based in Florida on behalf of the State. The private company is the GEO Group. By keeping the riot a secret, the prison risked things getting worse than they were already and the families of the inmates would not have been aware. Many could have been hurt or even lost their lives in the process. The facility would not have gotten the attention it got from the public that it did if it was up front about the tragedy in the first place.
The Riot Events
The riot broke out in the Restrictive Housing Unit, which is the unit set apart for violent inmates that are likely to jeopardize the facility’s security. The night of the riot at 9:05 PM, an undertrained Correctional Officer named Matt Shriner was seen walking through the Cellblock 3 catwalk. He then stopped at an inmate’s locked cell and collected a note from said inmate. Matt then passed the note to another inmate in a different cell.
A few minutes later, Matt halted at cell 203, the cell that housed the notorious serial killer Clifton Bloomfield. Clifton is currently serving 195 years for the murder of five people in Albuquerque. Matt spoke with Clifton for a while before proceeding to unlock his cell door, something he says he does not remember doing.
The minute Clifton was free, he lunged himself at Matt, overpowering him and taking away the keys to the other cells that Matt had on him. Matt was able to break free from Clifton and ran to get his walkie-talkie to call for help. Clifton meanwhile began unlocking his fellow inmates’ cell doors, thus beginning the riot.
There being no security guard in the area, the inmates used their newfound freedom to cause the distraction. They started fire, those with scores to settle fought each other, while others disabled the security cameras and slit the throat of one inmate who they suspected to be a snitch among them.
It took around an hour for the security force to regain control of the situation. They declared the whole cell block a crime scene. The inmates were escorted one after the other to the day room. In cell 109, they found the injured inmate with a slit throat in a pool of his own blood. The security team rushed him out to call an ambulance, which took him to the Union County General Hospital.
The mastermind behind the whole riot, Clifton, was found hiding in one of the cells. He was taken out and escorted to the medical unit.
Problems that led to the riot
The major problem the prison faced was understaffing. On the night of the riot, there should have been 20 Correctional Officers on duty, with 12 of them required to be on mandatory duty. However, only nine were present on the night of the riot.
The issue of understaffing was confirmed by the Secretary of Corrections at the GEO Group, David Jablonski. David says that he has never witnessed the GEO Group fully staffing the facility ever. If that’s true, it means that the facility is highly dangerous and expensive.
It becomes expensive when the GEO Group has to pay penalties to the New Mexico Corrections Department. This last year alone, they paid around $1.3 Million for not providing adequate security to keep the Clayton prison safe.
There is also the issue of having an untrained Correctional Officer patrol the most dangerous unit alone without backup or a walkie-talkie, carrying the keys to all the cells. When dealing with dangerous inmates, you are required to have two officers that are armed with the right equipment. This prevents an officer from being overpowered by himself during a compromised situation, making it much easier to get everything under control before a riot can start.
It is also not advisable to house Clifton, a violent killer, in a medium security prison. He is a threat on his own, and housing him in such a facility jeopardizes the safety of everyone around him.
Events after the riot
Clifton was shipped off to the State Pen’s Maximum Security in Santa Fe the following day. Matt resigned from the prison and moved to Texas two weeks after the riot. The inmate that was attacked recovered and was transferred to another facility.
Criminal investigations were done by the Clayton Police Department, and the findings were forwarded to the Union County District Attorney. Charges are expected to be filed within the next two months.
The Senator is not happy with how The GEO Group is handling the facilities. He has demanded that it follows the contract it made with the State and fulfills all the terms it agreed to.