The death of Jose Jaramillo has brought to the light the problematic systems of the private prison sector and what’s to come if little is done to break them.
An investigation led by The Guardian on Tuesday (Nov. 1), tells the story of the 52-year-old who died in July at the Cibola County Correctional Center while serving a three-year sentence for illegally reentering the United States. Since beginning his conviction in August 2006, Jaramillo’s family claims private prison officials failed to provide him with the right care for his diabetes, leaving his health to deteriorate in May 2008 quickly. Just the year before, he was officially diagnosed with the disease but only given saltwater and cough syrup to suppress his pain instead of a pneumococcal vaccine. He was seen a total of three times in May 2008 before being moved to a nursing home in Las Cruces where he was under the care of his mother for seven years.
While a kidney infection ultimately led to his death, his family as well as migrant rights advocates, believed the prison’s choice to not properly treat Jaramillo ultimately resulted in his death. “It was the prison,” his mother, Theodula Jaramillo said. “They’re who triggered everything. All of this suffering could have been prevented just by giving him simple medicine.” The 79-year-old says her son was found after he collapsed in his cell and from them on was unable to speak or use any of his cerebral functions.
Lisa Curtis, a veteran medical malpractice attorney in Albuquerque, called his case the “clearest violations of basic medical care she had ever encountered.”“You have 1,000 men, living together in bunk beds. They have 2ft apart from one another, and so bacteria is everywhere,” Curtis said. “For a diabetic without a vaccination, that is a death sentence.” Curtis took the case to federal civil court to in an effort to sue the prison’s private contractor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), for medical negligence. CCA has maintained its innocence, regardless of the recent news that it was one of the 13 private prisons to shut down over the treatment of his its prisoners.
In a shocking twist, the prison is reopening this week under a new contract under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), as an immigration detention center. “It makes no difference to us. It won’t bring him back,” Theodula said of the news. “Everyone involved should pay for what they did to him.” Jaramillo’s daughter echoed her grandmother’s statements. “I just felt like the world was hitting me,” Judy, a U.S. citizen said. “It was sadness and anger. Anger at the prison.”
His family eventually settled with CCA in 2014 for an undisclosed amount with no admission of liability but hopes others will learn from their harrowing ordeal. At the time of his arrest, Jaramillo was working 15-hour work days in the chili fields of Roswell. Speaking in court, he apologized for his actions. “I know what I did is against the law and so I accept full responsibility for my conduct. I came back to work and be with my family.”
“I think that just shows you what sort of a law-abiding guy he was.” Curtis said.