SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - A prison doctor in New Mexico sexually assaults inmates with rectal exams for everything from tooth pain to toenail fungus, seven inmates claim in lawsuits.
The prisoners - four in one case and three in the other - claim that Dr. Mark Walden regularly performed "digital rectal exams" for no legitimate medical reason, sometimes without wearing gloves, and fondled them inappropriately.
One claims he was given a digital "prostate exam" after reporting an infection in his ankle. Another one claims Walden digitally penetrated him on three occasions. When he asked the doctor what he was doing, "Dr. Walden claimed he was milking the plaintiff's prostate and other medically nonsensical responses," according to the complaint.
Lead plaintiff D.S. sued The Geo Group, Corizon, Dr. Walden, the warden of the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton, Timothy B. Hatch, and the prison's health services administrator Sherry Phillips, on Feb. 13 in Santa Fe County Court.
The Geo Group is one of the nation's largest for-profit private prison operators. Corizon is a major provider of medical services to prisons.
In the second lawsuit, filed Feb. 16 in the same court, lead plaintiff C.G. sued Walden, The Geo Group, Corizon, Correctional Medical Services, Warden Hatch, and Erasmo Bravo, warden of the Guadalupe County Correction Facility, in Santa Rosa.
The inmates claim the wardens and prison staff knew about the sexual assaults but did nothing to stop them.
In both cases, the inmates claim they repeatedly filed complaints and reports of the sexually inappropriate medical procedures, but that their grievances were either ignored, "lost," or met with retaliation, such as administrative segregation.
The Feb. 13 lawsuit claims that prison staff became suspicious shortly after Walden was hired, and that the suspicions were based on "a sudden notable increase in volume of digital rectal exams being performed, un-indicated digital rectal exams on young inmates, refusal by defendant Walden to have a third party present during exams, and lack of semen samples being sent to the lab for analysis."
The inmates claim that the private medical companies discouraged staff from reporting their concerns, for fear of being sued.
Plaintiffs in the Feb. 13 lawsuit seek punitive damages of medical malpractice, negligence, gross negligence, assault and battery and civil rights violations.
They are represented by Stephen Lawless, of Albuquerque.
Plaintiffs in the Feb. 16 lawsuit seek damages for medical malpractice, negligence, gross negligence and civil rights violations.
They are represented by Derek Garcia, of Albuquerque.
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