Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Death by Detention

Good Magazine has a revealing article called "Death by Detention," about the worsening crisis in the nation's immigration and deportation detention facilities. They profile the case of Guido Newbrough, who moved to America from Germany when he was two-years-old.

Guido took an Alford plea – denying any guilt but admitting prosecutors could probably obtain a conviction – to sexually assaulting his girlfriend's daughter in 2003. Then, when it turned out his green card did not afford him the citizenship status he thought it did, he was rounded up by ICE as part of an increasingly strict program of detaining and deporting sexual offenders.

Taken to Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, three hours away, Guido was one of the roughly 300 immigrants indefinitely detained there, without the rights or protections he had as a criminal inmate. [Guido's father] Jack hired an attorney. “He told us right off this is a tough one. But we kept saying to ourselves it will work out. Because why wouldn’t it work out?” he says...

After several months in the jail, Guido began to complain about pain in his stomach and back. His mother told him to tell the doctors. “Yeah, I told them,” he replied. “But they don’t care.”
Guido was eventually moved to a hospital, but by then, it was likely his heart had begun to fail, and he had experienced multiple organ failures.
Two hours after his family arrived, his mother sobbing beside him, Guido’s heart stopped. “There was an officer there with a gun waiting for him to expire,” says Jack. “He couldn’t leave there until he died.”
But, amid increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the media, a broad array of rights groups is calling for changes in a system that operates with little oversight and detains people indefinitely—often for months, sometimes for years— without entitlement to a lawyer, or the protections afforded criminal inmates...

Last spring, after being denied access three times to a private detention center, Jorge Bustamante, the U.N. special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, issued a stinging report that claimed the detention system violates international and human rights law. He called for an end to mandatory detention and for officials to issue codified regulations about how detainees are treated—a move long advocated by the American Bar Association. Immigration officials released a new set of “performance-based” standards that govern the conditions of detainees last fall, but have resisted the call for enforceable regulations.
In addition to the several-hundred inmates in prison at the better-known Guantanamo Bay, nearly a half million are detained indefinitely in centers like the one Guido was taken to, on American soil. Said a Washington Post exposé, "The detainees have less access to lawyers than convicted murderers in maximum-security prisons and some have fewer comforts than al-Qaeda terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay."

The article is long, but it is a must-read. It is especially timely given a recent piece in the Orlando Sentinel about how a death sentence in Florida might as well be a life sentence, seeing as how so many prisoners die on death row while awaiting their execution.
Between March 1998 and November 2008, the Department of Corrections executed 26 prisoners. During that same period, another 26 death-row inmates died of other causes [like heart disease, fatal ailments and suicide], the Orlando Sentinel found.
These two stories paint a sad picture of the systemic violation of human rights in the detention facilities throughout the country, violations committed through neglect and disdain, but also causes by overcrowded, overburdened, and underfunded institutions. I didn't hear much in President Obama's speech last night about reforming the prison system – in fact, I heard nothing besides his mention of closing Guantanamo – but I continue to hope that it will become a priority of his.

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1 comment:

1American4Justice said...

And it's not just DR inmates that die in Florida prisons every single day of every single year. Many didn't have to die, if they got the right care to begin with. I advocate for inmates right to health care all the time, when I profile the dr's most of them do not hold any rights to practice medicine outside of DOC. Most of the Universities you never heard of. This is really not the way to treat a human being of any status.