Eloy Detainee Death Ruled A Suicide

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 5:56pm
Updated: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 7:41pm

The death of an immigrant detained at a private facility in Eloy has been ruled a suicide, according to an autopsy report released on Wednesday.

The circumstances of the man’s death in May were one factor that sparked recent protests over conditions at the detention center.

The report by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner report said 31-year-old Jose de Jesus Deniz-Sahagun suffocated himself by choking on a knee-high orange sock. The sock was issued by the detention center as part of the detainee’s uniform.

Activists and fellow detainees have alleged that Deniz-Sahagun was mistreated and beaten by guards before his death. Francisca Porchas with the activist organization Puente said the autopsy report raises questions.

“The report states that there was trauma to the head," Porchas said. "We want to understand, why?”

Deniz-Sahagun suffered from blunt force injuries, according to the report. A foreign object that may have been a toothrush handle was found in his stomach.

The report said that correction staff had placed Deniz-Sahagun on suicide watch, and that 36 minutes passed between the last time he was seen at the door of his cell and when emergency medical personnel entered.

“We still want an independent investigation to happen by the Department of Justice of all that led to this man’s death,” Porchas said.

On Tuesday, Rep. Raul Grijalva wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to request a Department of Justice investigation into conditions at the Eloy facility.

Eloy Detention Center is run by the Corrections Corporation of America and has a capacity of almost 1,600. The federal government contracts with the facility to hold immigrant detainees there as they await immigration court proceedings that will determine if they can remain in the country.

“As the Eloy Detention Center is privately run, for-profit facility contracted by the Department of Homeland Security, it is truly essential that this investigation be transparent and open to the public,” Grijalva wrote in his letter.

Porchas said she wants the Phoenix Immigration and Customs Enforcement field director to meet with Eloy detainees and hear their grievances.

According to Puente, 200 Eloy detainees participated in a hunger strike over the weekend to protest conditions and then were retaliated against by staff.

Puente staged a rally in front of Phoenix's ICE office on Monday to protest the conditions in Eloy and the treatment of hunger strikers.

ICE has denied there was a hunger strike. 

The agency released a statement on Wednesday evening saying it had received a copy of Deniz-Sahagun's autopsy report. ICE's statement said the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility "will be reviewing the Eloy facility’s compliance with ICE standards and policies, including those relating to suicide prevention and intervention.” 

Updated 6/17/2015 at 7:05 p.m.

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