Death in Custody

Courtesy of: Robert Haasch

Written by - Scott Olsen

According to ICE, more than half of detained undocumented migrants have never been convicted of a felony that would warrant jail time. The detention of these individuals is therefore “non-punitive.” Since their only offense was entering the country without permission, their detention is meant to be as brief as possible, until they can be removed from the US or granted legal asylum status. The average length of detention for undocumented migrants is 30 days. Because their position in the ICE system is fundamentally temporary, the health care services at these detention facilities only provide short-term treatments, even though many serious health issues experienced while in detention demand long-term care. In 2013 a detainee committed suicide after being placed in isolation at the Eloy Detention Center. Although the staff at the facility had been aware of the individual’s psychological problems, supervision and mental health services were inadequate. A group of inmates staged a hunger strike after the suicide. Protesters gathered to support the hunger strikers, as depicted in the photo above. Protesters asserted that the deceased had previously been beaten by guards. ICE officers initially denied suicide as the cause of death and have refused to acknowledge the hunger strike.