We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Roxsana Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez came to Cibola County Correctional Center in May 2018 gravely ill. When she arrived, she went through the intake process, which includes a medical evaluation. The medical team made the determination that she needed to be immediately transported to an outside hospital. Ms. Hernandez was only at Cibola for 12 hours, where she stayed in the intake area before being transported to the hospital where she passed away nine days later.
The independent New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator released its findings in the death of Ms. Hernandez in April 2019. The results can be found here. Those findings contradicted claims made in an earlier autopsy conducted on behalf of Ms. Hernandez’s estate. The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator stated:
“While a preliminary report from a second autopsy identified soft tissue bleeding over the sides and back of the chest thought to be secondary to physical abuse, we do not share that conclusion. Ms. Hernandez had extensive fractures of the ribs and sternum (breastbone) consistent with a series of at least 10 cardiac arrests with successful rounds of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by medical personnel working to save her life. During the period when Ms. Hernandez was being resuscitated, her platelet count (blood elements responsible for clotting) was extremely low which would amplify the bleeding associated with physically forceful CPR.”
It's also important to note that the earlier autopsy conducted on behalf of Ms. Hernandez’s estate was done by Kris Sperry. Sperry abruptly retired from his job as chief medical examiner of Georgia in 2015 after The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that he “had taken on more than 500 cases as a paid forensic expert and that his moonlighting had created conflicts of interest and undermined his scientific and medical judgment.”
Preservation of Video Footage
CoreCivic is committed to transparency with our government partners and the public. In this case, we didn’t receive notice that Ms. Hernandez’s estate was considering a lawsuit until November 26, 2018 – six months after her death – when we were notified by a member of the media that a lawsuit was going to be filed. Our digital camera equipment at Cibola is not capable of retaining digital images beyond approximately 90 days, which means any images that might have existed had long been overwritten. Such digital camera equipment is standard for the industry, and the plaintiff’s attorneys could have easily requested that any digital images be preserved. They did not do so.
On February 5, 2019, CoreCivic received a request for records from the Transgender Law Center. Contrary to their complaint, the request did not ask for any photographs or video. We responded to the request on February 20, 2019, within the statutory time frame.
Despite the fact that CoreCivic is not a public body under New Mexico law, we provided most of the documentation requested. We also provided a written explanation for any information not included, pursuant to New Mexico law. The only response to the written explanation that we received from the lawyers at the Transgender Law Center was, “Thanks."
The first notice we received that they objected to the document production was the lawsuit filed in Santa Fe County District Court, over seven months after responding to the initial records request.
Treatment of Transgender Detainees
CoreCivic cares about every person entrusted to us, especially vulnerable populations for which our government partners rightfully have very high standards that we work hard to meet each day.
We're committed to providing a safe environment for all transgender detainees in our care. Our ICE-contracted facilities are contractually required and held accountable to federal Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which include guidelines for the safe and appropriate accommodation of transgender detainees.
All officers in CoreCivic’s ICE-contracted facilities are also required to complete 160 hours of pre-service training, as well as ongoing annual training, which includes the dynamics of sexual abuse and harassment and guidance on respectful interactions with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming detainees. Training also includes specific emphasis on our zero-tolerance policy regarding abuse, sexual abuse and harassment.
To ensure compliance and accountability, ICE maintains full-time, onsite staff who monitor conditions and contractual performance. These officials have unfettered access at all times to detainees, CoreCivic staff, and all areas of our facilities. Currently, there are more than 500 ICE officials assigned to CoreCivic's contracted facilities. ICE regularly conducts both scheduled and unannounced inspections and audits at the facilities with its staff or with independently contracted monitors.