Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death at Stewart Detention Center

I received the following news story from Mr. Anton Flores (Alterna Community). I think it goes without saying that Mr. Flores, The 270 View and many other organizations will be following this incident very closely. Readers of the 270 View are also aware that we are currently running a special series of articles discussing the health care provided to ICE detainees. This incident raises some very serious questions that are addressed in DriveFast for Lents blog. If the Stewart Detention Center houses immigrants that are flown in and out of Columbus, GA quite regularly (sometimes hundreds in a day) then why is the facility not located closer to quality medical care and legal services. Is there a legitimate reason for locating the facility so far away from these services? Would Roberto Martinez Medina have lived if he was housed closer to a hospital that could deal with emergency medical conditions such as his? Sadly in a facility as large as SDC this situation will probably be repeated. Mr. Roberto Martinez Medina deserved better.

The story may be found here

as well as here

On March 11, the first detainee that I am aware of has died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and while being detained at the Stewart Detention Center, owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Roberto Martinez Medina, age 39, from Mexico was an unlicenseable, immigrant worker who was being detained at the Stewart Detention Center when he went into a medical emergency, was transported to a hospital 45 minutes away in Columbus and was pronounced dead.

In a forthcoming report from the Georgia Detention Watch, it will document how detainees at this very detention center often complain about lack of access to medical attention. Was Mr. Martinez Medina such a victim? Did he file reqests for medical consults that, as other detainees allege, were minimized or ignored?

How long was Mr. Martinez Medina held in detention? According to staff at the Stewart Detention Center, the typical detainee is held at the medium-level security facility at least 45 days and climbing. How much stress does such a lengthy detention, not counting any time one may spend in a local jail, induce? What is the connection between stress and heart attacks? (Mr. Martinez Medina is suspected to have died at the age of 39 - my same age - from a heart attack).

Did ICE’s decision to place Mr. Martinez Medina in such a rural detention center like the one in Lumpkin, Georgia mean that access to emergency medical treatment was delayed? Saint Francis Hospital in Columbus is a one-hour drive from the Stewart Detention Center.

No immigrant should be in detention for the civil offense of unauthorized immigration. No immigrant should die miles away from a hospital while in the custody of ICE and a private prison company like CCA.

To the family of Mr. Martinez Medina, forgive us for we know not what we do.