Immigrant Dies of Medical Neglect in Detention

Guido Newbrough died of an untreated staph infection in his heart. He was being held at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, VA.

[G]uards should have noticed that Mr. Newbrough was in critical condition as the bacteria colonizing his heart broke loose, creating abscesses in his brain, liver and kidneys.

…Several detainees interviewed by telephone last week said that in the two weeks before Thanksgiving, Mr. Newbrough’s back pain grew so bad that he began sobbing through the night, and some in the 90-man unit took turns making him hot compresses. By the Sunday before Thanksgiving, he was desperate, two detainees said, and banged at the door of the unit’s lunchroom, yelling for help. They said by the time guards responded, he was seated at a table.

“They told him to get up, and he said he couldn’t get up because he was in a lot of pain,” said Salvador Alberto Rivas, who identified himself as Mr. Newbrough’s bunk mate, awaiting deportation to El Salvador. “Because of the pain, he started crying, and he was trying to tell them he had put in requests for medical and didn’t get any. And then one of the guards threw him to the floor.”

“They drag him by his leg, in front of about 30 people,” said another detainee, who gave his name only as Jose for fear of retaliation, adding that many witnesses had since been transferred to other jails or deported.

“We didn’t know that he was dying,” added Jose, who wrote about the case in a letter published online by a Spanish weekly. “They took him to the hole. He was yelling for help in the hole, too.”

The New York Times has reported on other deaths in immigration detention due to medical neglect, including the Piedmont facility:

Hiu Lui Ng, died 8/08

Francisco Castaneda, died 2/26/08

Boubacar Bah, died 6/07

Abdoulai Sall, died 12/06

Young Sook Kim, died 9/11/06

Sandra M. Kenley, died 2005

There are many others. The Washington Post wrote recently that “Some 83 detainees have died in, or soon after, custody during the past five years…Actions taken — or not taken — by medical staff members may have contributed to 30 of those deaths…”

People United, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have been active in calling for accountability and change.

These are human lives we’re talking about. But somehow, when a person ends up in immigration detention, the value of their life declines. Jailers and immigration officials have been consistently cavalier about the deaths. From the NYT article: “Ernest L. Toney, the jail superintendent, denied accounts that Mr. Newbrough had been mistreated…” From CBS: Gary Mead, a senior immigration official, told the Congress that ICE provides “state-of-the-art medical care,” and “the best possible healthcare.”

I think my definition of “best possible healthcare” and Gary’s diverge.