A 28-year old Salvadoran man held in immigration detention in a New Orleans county jail reportedly killed himself Saturday afternoon. Jose Nelson Reyes-Zelaya had been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for one day when he was found dead after “apparent asphyxiation,” according to a short memo released by ICE.*

The choppy, digital voice of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office’s inmate locator line says that Reyes-Zelaya was born on January 15th, 1982, and that he was “released on July 17, 2010 at 12:15pm.” This is the same time ICE reports Mr. Reyes-Zelaya was declared dead.

According to the ICE memo, “deputies provided emergency medical care to him and called for an ambulance. Attempts to revive the detainee were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead.” The Salvadoran consulate was notified of his death.

Mr. Reyes-Zelaya is the eight person to die in ICE detention in fiscal year 2010, according to ICE, and at least 112 detainees have died since 2003.

ICE will not provide more information at this time, citing an ongoing investigation into Mr. Reyes-Zelaya’s death. The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has contracted its communications work to a private company that has not yet replied to ColorLines’ requests for more information.

Orleans Parish Prison, which has a contract with ICE to hold detainees facing deportation proceedings, has a long history of abuse and violence within its gates.

A 2009 Justice Department report on an investigation into practices at the facility found, among other serious abuses, that the prison:

fails to provide inmates with adequate mental health care that complies with constitutional standards. Specifically, we found the following deficiencies: (a) inadequate suicide prevention; (b) inadequate intake and referral process; (c) inadequate staffing; (d) inadequate assessment and treatment; and (e) inadequate quality assurance review.

In April, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office announced that it had been accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). “The NCCHC has awarded the OPSO’ Medical Division full accreditation through 2012, which applies to both medical and mental health services. The Commission praised the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to provide quality medical care,” reads the press release.

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Reyes-Zelaya had been in detention for 11 days.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/07/a_28-year_old_salvadoran_man.html


Thank you for printing out this Colorlines.com article. If you liked this article, please make a donation today at colorlines.com/donate to support our ongoing news coverage, investigations and actions to promote solutions.