A jailer's nightmare, a gang in Ranchos, a school program for teen parents


- 10 YEARS AGO - 

'GRADS program makes the grade at Taos High' 

By Susan Lahey Wingard

Oct. 18-24, 2007,

Reporter Susan Wingard took a look at the GRAD program at Taos High School, a program that allows teen parents to educate themselves on their pregnancies and raising their child, while also staying in school and maintaining their grade-point average. Once they have the child, the school even has a day care center on campus so that the teen parent can take their classes without worrying something will happen to the child. It's support systems like this that help students who will be - or are - parents to stay in school.

Nationally, the pregnancy rate in the United States has now dropped to historic lows, according to health statistics. In 2007, there were about 41.5 babies born to every 1,000 females. In 2016, that number had dropped by nearly half to 22.1 born to every 1,000 females. Regardless, Taos High School will be there to help kids stay in school if they do get pregnant.

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Assault: Three charged', Oct. 22, 1992

After a shooting in Ranchos de Taos, an adult and two juveniles were charged with a variety of crimes, including aggravated assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The juveniles admitted that they were part of a junior high gang called the "Barrio Small Town Gang that operates out of Taos," according to the article.

Two decades later, the gang was apparently still active. In 2013, a Kit Carson Electric Cooperative employee was robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight on her way to a local bank with $111,563.04 in cash. Two years later, Christoper Sillas, 29, entered a plea of guilty to one count of armed robbery as the getaway driver. Prosecutors alleged Sillas and another man accused of helping with the heist, Isaac "Smiley" Martinez, were tied to Barrio Small Town.

- 50 YEARS AGO - 'Nightmare for jailer', Oct. 19, 1967

Fifty years ago this week, substitute jailer Paul Vigil dealt with a prisoner named Phil Cordova in a Taos County jail, who told him he was not afraid to commit suicide, according to the staff report in The Taos News.

At first, Vigil didn't think much of it. The next morning, Vigil heard the other prisoners screaming: "Get us out of here, we're suffocating." When Vigil went to check it out, he found that Cordova, then 23, had set his shared cell on fire. Vigil immediately called the fire department and threw buckets of water on the burning items, all the while avoiding the broom and the razor that Cordova was using as weapons. When the firefighters arrived at the jail, all that was left was smoke and a pile of charred items.

That was when Vigil noticed Cordova's wrists and that this had been a suicide attempt. When Vigil asked Cordova why he had done it, Cordova answered that "he wanted to die peacefully rather than rot in jail and that no [one else] would save him."

Cordova originally landed himself in jail with a traffic violation. However, after the fire incident, he faced more serious charges.

Half a century ago, far less was known about mental illness and depression and the impacts of those conditions on inmates. Mental illness in prisoners is a serious issue and is often not addressed. According to a review of studies by the Treatment Advocacy Center, 20 percent of inmates in local jails and 15 percent in state prisons suffer from a serious mental illness.