Just Enough Medical Care


Just Enough Medical Care

In addition to the abuses described above, detainees often suffer as a result of substandard medical care. Moises case is thus far from unique. Detention centers, particularly those run by private corporations, appear to routinely skimp on healthcare. Indeed, it appears that the system is designed to keep health care costs to a bare minimum. For example, staffing levels are often too low for the size the patient population. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for staff operate beyond the scope of their training, performing duties that should be reserved for more qualified (and more expensive) personnel. Finally, the hiring of poorly trained and incompetent medical personnel is also an issue.

The result of skimping on healthcare is that detainees often receive poor quality care or no care at all. Problems that plague detention facilities include: inadequate initial medical screenings and physical examinations; delayed or lack of response to sick call requests; unreasonable delays in obtaining off-site care; improper mental health care and misuse of isolation; inadequate care of physically disabled patients; and denied, insufficient ,and mistaken prescription medication.

Overall, the provision of health care in immigration detention amounts to a bare biopolitics—a biopolitics that barely fosters life. The goal is to nurture the lives of detainees only modestly—to give them just enough care so that they are in good enough health to be released or deported.


‘I feel like my condition has worsened during my time at the detention center. It is very frustrating to be deprived from my medical treatment. In January, once I finished the first prescription that was approved, it took almost another month to have access to my medications again. I struggled a lot with my pain during this period. When I asked for my medications through a kite [a written request], by going to the clinic in person, or by asking the nurses when they did rounds, I would get mixed messages from the medical staff at the detention center. Sometimes the nurses would tell me that the doctor at the detention center had not signed the prescription and other times, the nurses told me that the clinic had run out of pills.’

Miguel, a 28-year-old Mexican man who suffers from Hemophilia A

‘I think the medical staff here do a horrible job of taking care of people. I have been getting so many seizures. I asked the doctors for a helmet or other protective wear that people with seizures have but they have not given me anything. When I have an episode, I pass out without warning and often fall and hurt myself. I have gotten multiple black eyes and have hurt my head, chin, knees, legs, and shoulders when I have episodes.’

Laurenzo, is a 40 year-old man who suffers frequent seizures

For for more information about the above and other cases see Failures at Dever Contract Facility and Systemic Indifference.


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