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Judge Approves Settlement to Reduce Prison Overcrowding in Duran Case

Posted by Mark H. Donatelli | Apr 29, 2020

On February 14, 2020, United States Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa granted final approval of a new settlement agreement in the long-running Duran case.

The settlement agreement seeks to reduce overcrowding in New Mexico prisons by:

  • Providing 50 square feet of living and sleeping space to all prisoners housed in dormitories and multiple occupancy rooms.
  • Prohibiting housing two prisoners in cells that are less than 120 square feet.
  • Prohibiting the use of dayrooms for housing, except on a temporary basis.
  • Requiring the completion and implementation of a study regarding improvements to the prisoner classification process.
  • Ensuring that parole documentation is provided to the Parole Board in a timely manner.
  • And many more provisions that address overcrowding.

The settlement agreement also awards one month's worth of good time as remedial relief to certain prisoners who endured overcrowding in dormitories at four specified prisons. 

All class members in the Duran case are automatically entitled to the benefits of this settlement agreement, which includes all men confined to a medium or higher custody facility and all women of any classification level in the custody of the New Mexico Corrections Department. Class members do not need to do anything to receive these benefits. The Duran settlement applies to state prison facilities in New Mexico, including privately-operated facilities, but it does not apply to county jails. 

A prior settlement in the Duran case had been approved in 1991, but the Defendants had moved to terminate that agreement in December of 2018 under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The new settlement agreement ensures that the plaintiff class members will continue to receive many of the benefits of the 1991 Settlement Agreement, plus it includes new provisions that address current overcrowding problems in New Mexico prisons. 

Mark H. Donatelli and Reed C. Bienvenu are attorneys for the Plaintiff class members. Mark has represented the plaintiff class in Duran since 1983. 

About the Author

Mark H. Donatelli

Partner - Santa Fe Office