Immigrants Are Dying In Detention While ICE Ignores Its Own Medical Standards

Source: Raul Grijalva, The Nation, April 25, 2016

In three-quarters of deaths attributed to substandard medical care, the victims were held in for-profit prisons. Their deaths are tragic proof that profit motives have perverse and harmful effects on our judicial system. Corporations have built a business model out of detaining as many people as they can for as long as possible. … As Seth Freed Wessler documented in The Nation earlier this year, medical neglect was also likely a factor in many deaths at the privately run facilities the Bureau of Prisons uses to house immigrants caught crossing the border after deportation. In the saddest of ironies, these impoverished and meager asylum seekers form the basis for lavish and lucrative contracts. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)—the company that runs the Eloy facility where José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún perished last year—saw a $49 million increase in their second-quarter earnings in 2015 as compared to the same time period in 2014. Just one of their facilities, in Dilley, Texas, generated $100 million in the first half of 2015 alone. CCA and others like it maximize profits by minimizing concern for the people they ensnare. For considerations of food, clothing, medical and dental needs, education, and amenities, every dollar they spend is a dollar off their bottom line. Is it any wonder, then, that so many fatalities from medical neglect are taking place in for-profit facilities?


Family Sues Private-Prison Operator Over Deaths at Immigrant-Only Facilities
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, March 14, 2016

… Geo Group and CCS said they would not comment on pending litigation. But Big Spring’s own mortality review faulted both the LVN and the PA for failing to alert the clinical director when Garay’s condition did not improve. The review found that the PA “did not respond correctly to the initial report from nursing describing new onset of presumed seizure of a previously healthy 41 year old male.” It also found that neither diagnosis nor treatment was “appropriate and timely.” … Garay is one of at least 137 men who have died while incarcerated in privately run Bureau of Prisons facilities. Medical records obtained through a federal open records lawsuit revealed systemic shortcomings in their medical care. Doctors who reviewed 103 of the medical files agreed that in 25 cases, including Garay’s, substandard medical care likely contributed to prisoners’ premature deaths. The reviewers repeatedly found evidence that the private contractors who operate these facilities—Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation—and medical subcontractors have used low-trained medical workers like LVNs to fill positions that in Bureau of Prison-operated facilities would be staffed by more highly trained registered nurses. The prison contractors are not bound by BOP staffing plans.

Death by privatization in US prisons
Source: Mary Turck, Aljazeera America, February 24, 2016

Reports show a pervasive pattern of inadequate medical care at privately run immigrant prisons in the United States. A Jan. 28 report by Seth Freed Wessler, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, analyzed medical records of 103 immigrant prisoners who died in private prisons from 1998 to 2014. It concluded that in at least 25 of those cases, subpar care “likely contributed to the premature deaths of the prisoners.” … But the lack of medical care at these immigrant-only private prisons receives less scrutiny than any public or other private prisons. Families of immigrant inmates often live outside the United States. This limits their ability to fully advocate for imprisoned family members. They have little access to visit or maintain phone contact with prisoners. They don’t have access to U.S. courts for medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits. They cannot vote and are not represented in Congress.

What you need to know about America’s private prison industry
Source: Heidi Hirvonen, Reveal News, February 5, 2016

You may not know much about it, but America has a shadowy system of for-profit prisons that exclusively hold noncitizens – nearly 23,000 in total. And about 40 percent of those inmates are serving time for immigration crimes, mostly crossing back over the U.S.-Mexico border after being deported. Our upcoming episode, a collaboration with The Investigative Fund, explores this little-known prison system – and the sometimes deadly conditions inside. Read reporter Seth Freed Wessler’s investigation into how cost cutting is causing medical disasters for inmates. Ahead of our show, we collected some recent reporting and research for background on the private prison industry’s rise.

Medical neglect can be fatal in privatized immigrant-only prisons
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, Reveal News, February 4, 2016

The files tell the story of men sick with cancer, AIDS, liver and heart disease, forced to endure critical delays in care. They show medical departments repeatedly failing to diagnose patients despite obvious symptoms and the use of low-skilled medical workers pressed to operate on the margins of their legal scope of practice. The case files and related evidence were reviewed by a panel of independent medical doctors. In 25 cases, reviewers found indications that inadequate medical care likely contributed to premature deaths. … Garay’s medical records describe a disaster, say the doctors who reviewed them. And many of the failings in the his case appear to be systemic, the result of a medical care system hobbled by cost cutting. Bureau of Prisons-run facilities typically use registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to perform routine medical care. But the contract prisons often employ less trained, less expensive licensed vocational nurses to do much of the same work.

End Abuse in Our Privatized Immigrant-Only Prisons
Source: The Nation, February 3, 2016

These men are suffering from shocking neglect of their health. For an investigation published in The Nation, reporter Seth Freed Wessler obtained 9,000 pages of healthcare records from these immigrant-only prisons. Medical doctors who Wessler asked to examine the records said that in one third of the reviewable cases, inadequate medical care likely contributed to premature deaths. Men sick with cancer, HIV/AIDS, mental disabilities, and liver and heart disease faced critical delays in obtaining care that may have saved their lives. A previous report published by the ACLU also found widespread abuse and neglect within CAR prisons, and further confirms that the United States must end this privatized, immigrant-only prison system.

‘This Man Will Almost Certainly Die’
Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, January 28, 2016

Until the 1990s, border crossing was almost always treated as a civil offense, punishable by deportation. But in the late 1980s, Congress started to change that. … Though federal investigators have found no evidence that criminalization has reduced the pace of border crossings over the long term, prosecutions for illegal entry and re-entry rose from fewer than 4,000 a year at the start of Bill Clinton’s presidency, to 31,000 in 2004 under George W. Bush, to a high of 91,000 in 2013 under President Obama. … Three private companies now run 11 immigrant-only contract prisons. Five are run by the GEO Group, four by the Corrections Corporation of America, and two by a privately held company called the Management & Training Corporation. … Except for a prison largely used to house inmates from Washington, DC, these 11 facilities are the only privately run prisons in the federal criminal-justice system. In 2013, the BOP spent roughly $625 million on them. … Yet the full scale of the medical neglect at these immigrant-only contract prisons has remained opaque—until now. After two years of negotiations with the BOP in and out of federal court over an open-records request, I obtained more than 9,000 pages of medical records that contractors submitted to the BOP. They include the records for 103 of at least 137 people who have died in federal contract prisons from 1998 (the year after the first one opened) through the end of 2014. The records all concern men; women are sent to regular BOP-run prisons. The documents include nurse and doctor notes, records from hospital visits, psychological files, autopsies, and secret internal investigations. In their pages can be found striking tales of neglect.