Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Guards abused detainee in US, ICE official says


Federal immigration officials said on Thursday that guards at a privately run detention facility dragged a detainee dying of cancer screaming down the hall, even though he had a doctor’s note authorizing the use of a wheelchair.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pulled all 153 of its immigration detainees out of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls last month as it investigated the August death of Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng, a 34-year-old Chinese immigrant. On Thursday, the agency notified Wyatt officials that it would terminate its contract with the jail and permanently stop sending detainees there.

ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the agency concluded its investigation on Monday into the death of Ng, a computer engineer who had settled in the New York City borough of Queens and was at the facility for allegedly overstaying a visa.

The agency said Ng’s health needs were not properly communicated and that he was denied access to proper medical care at Wyatt at least twice. Its report also describes a videotape that shows guards preparing to take Ng to an interview with federal authorities in Hartford, Connecticut.

On the tape, ordered by Warden Wayne Salisbury in case Ng resisted, Ng was seen crying and having difficulty standing up. A captain, whose name was redacted from the report, repeatedly told him to get out of his cell on his own, despite the doctor’s note authorizing the wheelchair, the report said.

Ng screamed loudly when officers finally picked him up off his bed, placing their hands under his armpits to lift him. They carried him down the hall, facing forward, his feet dragging on the ground as he continued screaming in pain.

A captain ordered an officer to destroy and rewrite a report about the incident in order to include that Ng was “non-compliant,” ICE’s report said.

Many of ICE’s findings mirror claims by lawyers from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing Ng’s family.

“The report documents in excruciating detail the incredibly cruel and inhumane punishment that Mr Ng endured during his stay at Wyatt,” said Steve Brown, Rhode Island’s ACLU director. “This report can’t absolve ICE itself of its responsibility for what happened.”

ICE’s report details months of Ng’s detention at several different New England facilities, during which the most serious problems he reported in routine medical exams were depression and an itchy skin rash.

But it also shows the rapid decline of his health because of what his autopsy revealed to be late-stage liver cancer, from which he died in a hospital just over month after arriving at Wyatt.

The report said guards once accused Ng of refusing medication when he couldn’t walk to the door of his cell to receive it. Another time, Ng was effectively denied a diagnostic scan when he was denied the use of a wheelchair.

And a nurse at Wyatt failed to pass on information to a doctor or include what were clear instructions for Ng’s care to the jail’s records after an emergency room visit, the report found.

“We found a consistent lack of communication regarding Mr Ng’s healthcare needs between security personnel and medical staff,” Nantel said.

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