A Raleigh Man Died of an Apparent Suicide While in Solitary Confinement at a For-Profit Immigration Prison in Georgia | News

A Raleigh Man Died of an Apparent Suicide While in Solitary Confinement at a For-Profit Immigration Prison in Georgia

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Efraín Romero de la Rosa
  • Efraín Romero de la Rosa
A Raleigh man died from an apparent suicide late Tuesday night while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a private prison in Lumpkin, Georgia. He’s the third person to die at the detention center in a little over a year.

While in solitary confinement at the Stewart Detention Center—which the INDY has written about previously—Efraín Romero de la Rosa was found unresponsive in his cell by staff at 10:38 p.m. on July 10, according to ICE. He was in solitary confinement for undisclosed reasons. Medical personnel attempted CPR and the staff contacted emergency services, which arrived at the prison ten minutes later. De la Rosa was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11:29 p.m. Self-inflicted strangulation has been declared as the cause of death, but an investigation is ongoing.

In a news release on its website, ICE says it is “firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody, and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases.”

According to Mundo Hispanico, de la Rosa was forty years old and originally from Puebla, Mexico. His brother Isaí Romero told Mundo that de la Rosa came to the U.S. in 2000 and that he suffered from bipolar disorder.

“I need to know exactly what happened,” Romero told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was a good man.”

A resident of Raleigh, de la Rosa entered ICE custody on March 11 in Wake County, two days after he was convicted of larceny. He was in deportation proceedings at the time of his death. 

Alerta Migratoria NC, a local organization that provides immigration support, said on its Facebook page that de la Rosa was in ICE’s custody because of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office’s controversial participation in the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement agencies to help deport undocumented immigrants.

The group also expressed its sympathy and anger. “We are saddened and outraged to know that another person has died under ICE’s watch,” the organization wrote. “We hold Efrain and his family in our thoughts.”

De la Rosa is the eighth person to die in ICE custody this year, and the third person to die at Stewart since last May. In January 2018, thirty-three-year-old Yulio Castro Garrido was diagnosed with pneumonia, then hospitalized after his condition deteriorated. He died at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. And in May 2017, twenty-seven-year-old Jean Jimenez-Joseph also committed suicide while in solitary at Stewart. A probe later found that, although Joseph displayed suicidal behavior, he never received the mental health care he needed. In addition, a Stewart staffer who was supposed to check his cell every half hour didn’t do so and falsified his logs instead.

Stewart is a for-profit prison owned by CoreCivic, a private correctional facilities company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. (Since July 10, the date of de la Rosa’s death, its share price is up more than a dollar, to $24.84 as of this afternoon.) One of the most remote detention centers in the country, it accounted for 20 percent of Stewart County’s tax revenue in 2012. Internal records from a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report released in revealed that Stewart had chronic issues related to drug smuggling, medical staff shortages, and safety, according to the AJC.

In an interview with CNN, CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said that the company is cooperating with investigators but she could not comment further.

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