A De facto Death Penalty For Our Immigrants

Does anybody ever think about what happens to our immigrants and prison inmates once they are jailed? Probably not, but I can tell you what happens to some of them. They are killed in the jails in which they are housed. They are mistreated and often their medical needs are ignored until they die. The phenomenon of inmates dying in jail is nothing new. Certainly it didn’t start happening yesterday. But it happens often and like other cases involving abuse by law enforcement personnel, it attracts little or no attention. What a shame.

I’m sure that my beliefs are unpopular. Many people say, “who cares about criminals and prisoners and immigrants?” They must have done something wrong, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t be in jail. The problem, however, is that these people, these human beings, were not sentenced to die. They were sentenced to a term of days, or years, in prison after which they were to be released to resume living their lives. These inmates and immigrants did not receive the death penalty, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that our jails and detention centers are essentially killing their inmates by withholding simple medical treatment.

Nina Bernstein wrote a chilling article in today’s N.Y. Times entitled “Another Jail Death, and Mounting Questions.” The article tells us about a 48 year old man who died in an immigration detention center in Virginia from “an overwhelming bacterial infection” that could have been treated with antibiotics. Of course, he never got the treatment even while he desperately complained of his illness for 10 days leading up to his death. Not only is this tragic, but is a violation of our core constitutional and civil rights. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “civil rights” protects us, and I mean all of us, from abuse and discrimination by our government. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. Certainly the imposition of a de facto death penalty on inmates and immigrants constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Although most people may not think or hear about these issues, thankfully the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project keeps a watchful eye on these types of civil rights abuses. There is no doubt in my mind that these cases are tragic. But we should also be alarmed when our jails and detention centers are allowing people to die while in their custody. We should not be so quick to criticize the human rights abuses of other countries while closing our eyes to what is happening in our own backyard.

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4 Responses to A De facto Death Penalty For Our Immigrants

  1. We’ve got numerous such stories here in Colorado, Michael. One that generated a good deal of MSM attention was the case of Emily Rice. See Denver9News, Documents show inmate who bled to death, cried for hours.

    Here, there was direct proof of evidence tampering and negligence (which resulted in a couple of resignations and firings) and strong circumstantial evidence that surveillance tapes –which went inexplicably missing– were spoliated by the City and County of Denver. See 7News City Responds to Investigation Into Missing Video.

    This comes as no surprise to me. A trial lawyer, like you, who won one of the largest jury verdicts against the City and County of Denver is now being persecuted by the attorney regulation counsel in Colorado. Several jury members –who are the purported victims of the alleged attorney misconduct– have stated that they think that someone (“the City”) got to the federal judge, who is believed to have set the misconduct proceedings into motion. See the Dec. 11, 2008 entry here.

  2. Maxine says:

    I could care less about your opinion Michael. This blog is for Mr. Fieger’s thoughts, he should be the only one blogging on here.

  3. Michael Dezsi says:

    Maxine,

    I’m not in the least bit offended if you wish not to read my posts. Mr. Fieger invited me to contribute to this blog. My presence here was not accomplished by a coup d’etat.

  4. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    What really frightens me is how so many people seem to think that if you’re in prison, it must be because you’re a Bad Person. Sometimes people are in prison simply because they made a huge mistake or simply broke a law that shouldn’t have been in place to begin with.

    Most people who are in prison are in for stupid things like drugs, not rape and murder. Why are they in prison? They are hurting themselves, not other people. Is the idea that if they’re on drugs they may hurt someone else? Well, if that’s the case, then jail people for drinking alcohol, which can be far more dangerous than marijuana and some other drugs.

    What really bugs me is how arbitrary prison sentences are, and I’m guessing (I know nothing about law) it’s all based on whatever judge happens to preside over the case. In 2004, a man was convicted of murder and went to prison for ONE DAY because in his plea bargain he turned in his accomplice. ONE DAY! Meanwhile, in Alabama, a man got sentenced to 99 years for smoking dope. Why? What was so dangerous about him that he needed to be thrown away for what will probably be the rest of his life?

    My cousin had a problem with heroin for about four years and eventually got arrested about ten years ago for (I’m serious) stealing some gummy bears at a supermarket. After his arrest and revelation that he was on heroin, he was given a choice: to go to prison or to go to rehab. He went to rehab for a year and a half, he got his life together, and today he’s doing great. But I realize he got the option of going to rehab because of the state he happened to live in. Who knows what would have happened had he lived in Alabama or some other more conservative state that might have just put him away?

    Julie

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