The Washington Post details the shabby medical care offered within an unseen network of special prisons for foreign detainees across the country. Some 33,000 people are crammed into these overcrowded compounds on a given day, waiting to be deported or for a judge to let them stay here. Some 83 detainees have died in, or soon after, custody during the past five years. The medical neglect they endure is part of the hidden human cost of increasingly strict policies in the post-Sept. 11 United States and a lack of preparation for the impact of those policies, the paper says. The detainees have less access to lawyers than convicted murderers in maximum-security prisons and some have fewer comforts than terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But they are not terrorists. Most are working-class men and women or indigent laborers who made mistakes that seem to pose no threat to national security: a Salvadoran who bought drugs in his 20th year of poverty in Los Angeles; a U.S. legal U.S. resident from Mexico who took $50 for driving two undocumented day laborers into a border city. The most vulnerable detainees, the physically sick and the mentally ill, are sometimes denied the proper treatment to which they are entitled by law and regulation. They are locked in a world of slow care, poor care and no care, with panic and coverups among employees watching it happen. The investigation found a hidden world of flawed medical judgments, faulty administrative practices, neglectful guards, ill-trained technicians, sloppy record-keeping, lost medical files and dangerous staff shortages. It is also a world increasingly run by high-priced private contractors.