Revealed: 90 immigrants have died in US custody in last 5 1/2 years

(RAW STORY)   At least 90 immigrants have died while in US custody since October 2003, a document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed Friday. At least 32 deaths occurred at facilities run by private contractors.

The document — which has received little to no attention — also displays an apparent carelessness on the part of prison officials, whose records of the deaths change and omit inmate deaths over time.

Moreover, it shows that prison officials are now recording even fewer details about immigrants’ deaths, possibly in response to periodic scrutiny of the list. A previous list that covered the period up until 2007 included the locations of deaths; the current list records either the location or the facility where the inmate was held, without any evident pattern.

The list also reveals that one private company, the Corrections Corporation of America, had at least 18 deaths under its watch, and that 32 of the 90 deaths occurred while immigrants were held in private prisons. 37 of the deaths occurred at regional facilities and 20 at federal centers.

“That breakdown differs from one provided at a March 3 House subcommittee hearing that cited only six deaths in private facilities,” the New York Times, which printed the document, said. “That low figure was based on a classification supplied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reflected who owned the jail building and the type of government contract in effect, not the operator.”

In addition, information about some deaths has been obscured.

“Some information has been changed without explanation,” the Times added. “For example, the cause of death for Boubacar Bah, 52, who was held at the Corrections Corporation of America detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., previously was listed as ‘brain hemorrhage, fractured skull’ and now reads ‘undetermined.'”

The full list is available here.

In an effort to collect more information surrounding the detainees’ deaths, the New York Times has created a tipline: if you have any knowledge of the incidents, email the Times‘ Nina Bernstein here

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