ICE Facility Detainee's Death Stirs Questions
Sunday, February 1, 2009
One morning last November, Prince William County resident Guido Newbrough woke up in crippling pain at Piedmont Regional Jail, 150 miles south of the District. Delirious and unable to walk, he asked fellow inmates to bring him ice. They began pounding on the doors to summon guards.
Among the mostly Central American and African inmates who slept on the triple-stacked bunk beds of Piedmont's dormlike holding cells, Newbrough, 48, was an unusual case. He was born in Germany but raised in Prince William and had lived in Virginia since age 6. But a 2003 conviction for aggravated sexual battery made him eligible for deportation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him in February.
Newbrough had been at Piedmont for nine months when he began complaining of sharp pain in his abdomen and back.
For a week or more, Newbrough's requests for medical attention were ignored, according to his family and fellow detainees later interviewed by phone inside the jail. The last time they saw him, detainees said, guards were dragging Newbrough across the floor and yelling at him to stop faking illness.
On Thanksgiving night, Newbrough's parents got a call at their Manassas-area home telling them their son was in critical condition at a Richmond hospital. He died the next day.
Immigration officials said Newbrough died of a heart attack, but a recently completed autopsy report found an underlying cause: a raging, untreated bacterial infection.
"Everybody makes mistakes in life. It doesn't mean you have to go to jail and die there from neglect," said Jack Newbrough, Guido's stepfather, who raised Guido as his own after meeting the child's mother, Heidi, in Germany while serving in the Air Force. He said that he and his wife are planning to sue.
Piedmont Superintendent Ernest Toney denied that his staff ignored Newbrough's requests for help and rejected inmate accounts that Newbrough was placed in disciplinary segregation -- "the hole" -- after being removed by guards. "That's 100 percent incorrect," he said.
Newbrough was the second ICE detainee in less than two years to die at Piedmont, a locally run, multi-county jail near Farmville that has contracted with ICE to become one of Virginia's principal detention centers for illegal immigrants and non-citizens facing deportation.
An ICE investigation is underway, but Newbrough's death comes at a time of increased scrutiny for ICE and for Farmville, where developers and town officials plan to open a $21 million private detention facility by summer. The investors backing the 1,040-bed facility have pledged to convert Farmville into "the ICE hub of the mid-Atlantic."
Yet questions about the treatment of ICE detainees at Piedmont are hanging over the project. When 50-year-old Guinean immigrant Abdeulaye Sall died of kidney failure at Piedmont in December 2006, an internal ICE investigation found that the jail's medical unit did not meet minimum ICE standards, and that the facility "has failed on multiple levels to perform basic supervision and provide for the safety and welfare of ICE detainees."
"Detainee health care is in jeopardy," concluded the report, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act.