On March 26, 2018, we woke up to another death at Hudson County Correctional Facility (HCCF). Carlos Borroto was found dead hanging in his cell on Sunday, March 25th, less than 48 hours after his incarceration at the jail. This is the sixth death at HCCF in less than a year. HCCF currently houses about 1,200 inmates and 550 immigrant detainees who have for many years complained about the lack of meaningful medical and mental health care from CFG Health Systems, the contracting agency that provides health services to the jail.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise announced on March 27,2018, that the County intends to cancel the $29 million medical contract that was awarded to CFG in November 2016. This long overdue decision, while an important first step, is not enough to ensure that Hudson County is providing adequate care to the individuals whose incarceration the County is profiting from.
Reports that Mr. Borroto openly stated he had suicidal thoughts but was placed in the general population and not provided the care he needed are troubling. “For advocates this is another case of gross negligence. Mr. Borroto’s death is a new example of the shocking indifference to detainees and inmate’s health at HCCF,” said Serges Demefack, End Detention and Deportation Project Coordinator at American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Right Program in Newark. Human Rights First recently documented widespread abuses, including the lack of access to appropriate health care and medical treatment, at HCCF and three other immigration detention centers in its February 2018 report, “Ailing Justice: New Jersey Inadequate Healthcare, Indifference, and Indefinite Confinement in Immigration Detention.”
“AFSC’s Prison Watch program has over the years received numerous complaints about mental and physical health care conditions at the Hudson County jail,” said Bonnie Kerness, Program Director, AFSC Prison Watch.
The lack of adequate health care at HCCF “[…] is a long-standing battle we together with other immigrant rights advocate organizations have complained about for years. The quality of medical and mental care at Hudson County Jail needs significant improvements,” said Sally Pillay, Program Director at First Friends of New Jersey and New York, an organization that provides visitation and that is familiar with health issues at the jail. Hudson County administrators have repeatedly refused to work with local advocates to develop a plan for medical oversight. “For over a year, advocates have been calling for an Independent Medical Oversight Board (IMOB) at the jail,” said Father Gene Squeo, a longtime advocate for immigrant rights familiar with the Independent Medical Oversight Board proposal. AFSC, First Friends and other local advocates recently presented a proposed plan to create an IMOB at a meeting with representatives of the County Freeholder Board and the County Executive office. The County has not yet responded to the proposal. If approved, the IMOB will be made up of seven members, including an elected official, advocates, a formerly incarcerated person, an expert on prison health issues and two medical professionals. The IMOB will ensure accountability of jail issues through reporting, direct access to the facility, and reviewing records, contracts, and medical related incidents. It will make recommendations for improvements and regularly publicize its findings.