By Christopher Zoukis
Lucky 8 TV is a production company that produces “Behind Bars: Rookie Year” – a reality show about first-time prison guards – and thus requires access to a prison for filming. What better way to gain access than to hire someone from the corrections department to help facilitate such arrangements?
A recent report released by the New Mexico State Auditor’s Office found that Alex Sanchez, former deputy secretary and public information officer for the New Mexico Corrections Department, was hired by Lucky 8 for about 5 months and then returned to work for the department. Upon her return, Sanchez participated in the determination of what Lucky 8 owed for filming rights in a state prison. According to the February 24, 2017 audit, that arrangement amounted to a conflict of interest.
All told, at least $20,000 in fees were waived by Sanchez after her short stint as a Lucky 8 employee. The audit specifically referenced emails between Sanchez and the production company concerning the fees.
“The involvement of this employee in the determination of amounts billed and fees waived appears to be a conflict of interest as not all of the decisions appear to be in the best interests of the state,” the audit noted.
Sanchez, now deputy superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, denied any conflict and told the Albuquerque Journal that all of her decisions regarding Lucky 8 had been approved by former Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel.
“After my return to Corrections from employment with Lucky 8 I had a very clear conversation with Secretary Marcantel to ensure that there would not be a conflict of interest in the dealings with Lucky 8 productions,” Sanchez wrote. “That conversation included ensuring I would not be making decisions on any dealings with Lucky 8 and the department.”
But according to the audit, “No evidence was provided to support” the claim that anyone other than Sanchez made financial decisions related to Lucky 8 TV’s fee determination.
This article originally appeared in Prison Legal News on October 9, 2017.
About Christopher Zoukis
Christopher Zoukis is an outspoken prisoner rights and correctional education advocate who is incarcerated at FCI Petersburg Medium in Virginia. He is an award-winning writer whose work has been published widely in major publications such as The Huffington Post, Prison Legal News, New York Daily News and various other print and online publications. Learn more about Christopher Zoukis at christopherzoukis.com and prisoneducation.com.