Gregory Harvey, a 41-year-old Jamaican-born green card holder, was finally given an endoscopy in 2012 after months of continuous vomiting and numerous of complaints of stomach pains to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. By then, it was too late—it was discovered he had terminal cancer.
He was held in detention at a private prison in Goshen, New York. While waiting for his eventual deportation, he had begun showing signs of failing health—weighing 215 pounds in 2010 and dropping down to 164 pounds in 2012. According to eyewitness accounts, Harvey had vomited every single day in prison.
Despite the graveness of his symptoms, the immigration prison’s medical staff only gave in to Harvey’s persistent complaints 4 months after an off-site doctor recommended an endoscopy in March 2012. The following day, Harvey received his cancer diagnosis was given 6 months to live—his stomach cancer had already metastasized to his liver.
Harvey was eventually released on compassionate grounds, seeking medical treatment in Florida. His widow’s federal complaint described his last days as being “full of pain and depression.”
On July 10, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty ruled to advance the case—filed in 2014—to trial. ICE and government lawyers objected to the ruling, claiming that a provision of the Federal Torts Claims Act protects “any contractor with the United States” from being held liable for employee negligence.
Crotty disagreed, noting in a 13-page ruling “that does not end the inquiry, however, because the United States may still be liable of, during its handling of a prisoner, a federal employee breaches a duty of care separate from those duties that were delegated to a private prison.”
Crotty also dismissed the government’s argument that subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking in the case, writing that “whether this was a duty to ensure timely receipt of off-site non-emergent medical care under the standards or a duty to adequately perform undelegated responsibilities is a question of fact to be determined at trial.”
In the final days of his administration, President Obama attempted to crack down on for-profit private correction facilities. However, shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump rescinded his predecessor’s directive of stopping the renewal of contracts with for-profit corrections corporations. In April this year, the GEO Group was awarded a $110 million contract to construct a new detention center for immigrants—the first of its kind under the Trump administration.
Investigations and academic research, however, show that private prisons have a tendency to neglect and circumvent prisoner rights and well-being.
The ICE has yet to comment on the matter.
For further clarification on the issue of immigration prisons, you can talk about your rights with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices to speak with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle about this and other immigration issues.