BuzzFeed News has obtained an as-of-yet unpublished inspector general report finding that an immigrant who had been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for more than a year died of a heart attack when the privately operated facility he had been held at failed to get him to a hospital for proper medical attention. Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Mississippi, is operated by private prison profiteer CoreCivic.
“During our unannounced inspection of Adams in Natchez, Mississippi, we identified violations of ICE detention standards that threatened the health, safety, and rights of detainees,” the report said according to BuzzFeed News. “Although Adams generally provided sufficient medical care, we identified one case in which the medical unit examined a sick detainee but did not send the detainee to the hospital for urgent medical treatment, and the detainee died.”
Per the unpublished findings, 51-year-old Bahamian national Anthony Jones had complained to the jail’s clinic about chest and arm pain. He was given aspirin and other medication as well as an electrocardiogram, but was not transported to a hospital. The report said that he claimed to feel better but continued to have discomfort in his right arm. “Nearly an hour later, while he was waiting to return to his housing area, an officer at the jail found him slumped over in a chair,” BuzzFeed News reported. He died inside the jail.
His family’s attorney, Jeremy Jong, told BuzzFeed News that “[t]his is a problem endemic to all detention centers.” In fact, the House Oversight Committee said in a report last year that internal documents obtained as part of an investigation into abuses against people in federal immigration custody revealed “a widespread failure to provide necessary medical care to detainees” so egregious its led to several deaths, including another heart-related death at a different facility that yet again involved CoreCivic.
“CoreCivic detention staff were supposed to check on [Huy Chi Tran] every 15 minutes, but the detention officer on duty left Mr. Tran unsupervised for 51 minutes just before Mr. Tran’s cardiac arrest that led to his death,” the committee said an internal ICE report found. Tran had been a U.S. resident for over 30 years. “Investigators found that the officer falsified observation logs to hide the fact that he had failed to conduct welfare checks over that 51-minute period.”
Back at Adams, investigators also found COVID-19 violations that have continued to make ICE facilities overall a hot spot for the COVID-19 virus. “The draft report found that the jail did not consistently enforce COVID-19 precautions, like the use of facial coverings or social distancing, and investigators believe that it may have contributed to repeated transmissions,” BuzzFeed News reported. According to the report, more than 600 immigrants detained at Adams have tested positive for COVID-19 since last spring.
This also appears to be the same facility where a number of Black immigrants last year said that guards tortured them to coerce them into deportation. A civil rights complaint, filed by groups led by Freedom for Immigrants last November, described “coercive tactics, including threats of violence and direct physical abuse to obtain submission, forced taking of fingerprints while individuals are in restraint, and the use of pepper spray against those who decline to sign their deportation papers.” One man was reportedly left with several broken fingers.
Adams is among the ICE facilities that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has demanded be closed down for good. “The Biden administration was elected with a mandate to fix our broken immigration system, and immigrant detention is an early test of its resolve,” ACLU Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel Naureen Shah said. “Closing detention sites should be an easy decision.”