Father Calls for Warden's Job after Daughter's Death

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cops carmela devargas memorial

Demonstrators released white balloons and lit candles in memory of Carmela DeVargas.

About 80 people gathered at the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility Sunday afternoon for a protest and vigil over the Nov. 9 death of Carmela DeVargas in jail custody.

The 34-year-old woman’s father, Antonio DeVargas, said his daughter’s death from meningitis was preceded by medical neglect and mistreatment from jail staff, and he is calling for the resignation of Warden Derek Williams.

Antonio DeVargas said Sunday that he will file a tort claim against the jail through attorney Richard Rosenstock.

DeVargas also said he is considering attempting to empanel a grand jury to investigate the matter. A longtime activist, he recently successfully petitioned for a grand jury investigation of the North Central Solid Waste Authority.

Family and friends of Carmela DeVargas, including her young son whom Antonio cares for, released white balloons in Carmela’s memory and tied black balloons to trees in the jail parking lot.

“Let’s ask for justice for Carmela and the other souls that are in here under this black cloud,” Antonio DeVargas said, gesturing toward the entrance to the jail. “It’s torture and it’s unacceptable.”

As jail guards changed shifts, demonstrators held signs reading “Justice For Carmela,” “Delayed Medical Care Life Lost,” “Santa Fe Jail Blood on Your Hands,” and “Down con Warden Williams.”

Antonio DeVargas said in a November interview that when Carmela was finally taken to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Shelter after weeks of increasingly serious meningitis, his daughter was kept shackled to a bed with two guards constantly on watch, even though she was unable to speak, eat, or move at all below her neck.

He said Carmela called him about 10 days before she was taken to the hospital, saying she had a 105-degree fever and the jail staff would not do anything. He said she was given antibiotics by a jail doctor after the call, but called again a week-and-a-half later in excruciating pain, at which point he demanded to listening staff that they take her to the hospital. He said she was hospitalized the next day, but that two guards taunted her throughout her illness and he believes they waited until she was paralyzed to take her.

She was booked two months prior for a probation violation and had no history of violent criminal charges.

Vigil attendees lit candles and laid flowers in Carmela’s memory as they gathered.

Warden Williams declined to comment on issues pending potential litigation. County Communications Coordinator Carmelina Hart said in a statement that the County strives to keep the public and prisoners safe.

“Santa Fe County respects the right of free speech,” she wrote. “We provided a safe space for the vigil, so that members of the community could make their views known and Ms. DeVargas’s family could say goodbye to her.”

Hart said in November that jail policy is to perform a medical and mental health screening on all inmates. She said they have two nurses on call at all times and a doctor available during business hours. She said prisoners may request doctor’s appointments and access nurses twice a day.

(2) comments


Well i have to say I am not surprised w/ the total lack of empathy from the Correctional Officer's there at Santa Fe County Detention Facility to prevent her tragic death. I've been there unfortunately a few times & will say that the guards are there to: "just make their paycheck & that's it." Oh yeah & did you know they are the ones who bring most of the illegal drugs into the facility that makes its way to the inmates. I was once there when i had a bad abcess from a bad blood contact (which is my guess) & needed anti-biotics. I let the nurse know when I got there & she advised me that since i wasnt currently on them that I'd have to wait a few days to write out a sick call slip. To which my abcess did get worse & now I havea big scar from me not being able to treat it properly. The previous warden of the jail prior to this current one I can say really thought of the mental-wellness of the inmates by constituting different privileges in the facility which i wont get into. When i landed in jail this last time, i was told this current warden stripped all these nice ammenities that made jail a little more bearable. This new warden should go after this poor young woman's death. Its time we the people put these figure heads in their place when they do or let something like this happen which is: "unacceptable!"


So sorry to hear about your daughters passing Antonio. My sincere condolences to you and your family. You are loved and appreciated for all you do for your people.


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