A United States district judge is allowing a complaint filed by the widow of Gregory Harvey to proceed to trial, despite the objections of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Harvey, a Jamaican-born green card holder, was detained by ICE for nearly two years while awaiting possible deportation to a prison in Goshen, NY.
He complained constantly about his ailing health, citing frequent stomach pain and near-daily bouts of vomiting. Between 2010 and 2012, Harvey’s weight plummeted from 215 pounds to 164.
In July of 2012, he was finally given an opportunity to see a medical specialist, who performed an endoscopy.
When the doctor returned Harvey’s results, he was told that he had less than six months to live.
Gregory Harvey’s chronic pain and vomiting fits hadn’t been caused by the stress of detention – he had stomach cancer, which had spread to his liver during the two years he’d been jailed and denied proper medical attention.
Granted compassionate release, Harvey, according to Courthouse News, spent his last days receiving treatment in Florida. After he passed away, his widow filed a federal complaint, saying her late husband’s last days had been characterized by constant pain and depression.
U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty allowed the case to advance to trial over the objections of government lawyers, who tried claiming immunity under a provision of the Federal Torts Claims Act which protects “any contractor with the United States” for being liable for negligence on the part of an individual employee.
“That does not end the inquiry, however, because the United States may still be liable if, during its handling of a prisoner, a federal employee breaches a duty of care separate from those duties that were delegated to a private prison,” read a portion of the 13-page ruling penned by Crotty.
Courthouse News also noted that the judge was dismissive of the government’s claims that that the case lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.
“Whether this was a duty to ensure timely receipt of off-site non-emergent medical care under the standards or a duty to adequately perform undelegated responsibilities is a question of fact to be determined at trial,” Cotty wrote.
While the complaint is ostensibly directed at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Harvey died in a private prison administered by a for-profit corporation.
The government’s extensive use of corporate detention facilities has come under fire in the past.
A directive issued to the Department of Corrections and other government agencies last summer to halt the renewal of any contracts with for-profit corrections corporations was quickly rescinded by the Trump administration shortly after the president’s inauguration.
Stocks for the GEO Group and CoreCivic – formerly the Corrections Corporation of America – plummeted after the directive was issued, only to begin rebounding as the election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump swung to a close.
A slew of investigations spearheaded by academics as well as the federal government indicated that for-profit jailers tended to circumvent prisoners’ rights and well-being, relying on the institution of punitive measures for minor offenses and occasionally denying medical care to inmates believed to be faking their symptoms.
GEO Group and CoreCivic currently operate and maintain about 50% of the facilities used to hold persons suspected of immigration offenses, along the border with Mexico and throughout the country.