Jean Jimenez-Joseph, a Panamanian detainee at the Stewart Detention Center 100 miles southwest of Atlanta, who was in immigration removal proceedings, committed suicide in his cell, according to the federal authorities.
His death is currently under investigation.
Jimenez-Joseph was convicted in January in Wake County, North Carolina, after being guilty of a motor vehicle robbery and was turned to ICE in March after being released from local law enforcement custody.
His deportation proceedings were currently in process.
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, the 27-year-old was pronounced dead at a hospital, shortly after staff at the detention center discovered him unresponsive in his cell with a sheet around his neck. The preliminary cause of death was ruled "self-inflicted strangulation."
Jimenez-Joseph was reportedly in solitary confinement for at least 19 days before his death. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation believes that might have prompted his death.
ICE officials isolated him after he was observed jumping off a second floor walkway at Stewart.
“They said he just was always clowning around and trying to get attention,” said Danny Jackson, GBI’s special agent in charge for southwest Georgia. “They stuck him in isolation for 20 days.”
Jimenez-Joseph’s isolation was extended for three days after he reportedly exposed himself to a nurse. However, he did not leave any notes behind that would shed light on the cause of his death.
“He was in an isolation cell all by himself,” Jackson continued. “All the indications are that he used his bed sheet.”
The deceased is the seventh person to die in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017 and the first casualty of a detainee from the Stewart Detention Center in more than eight years.
It is no secret that the criminal justice system in the United States direly needs reforms. Jimenez-Joseph’s death has caused a huge uproar among from immigrant rights activists, who long have condemned the conditions at the detention center.
Panamanian national dies while in the custody of immigration authorities in Georgia https://t.co/tyEW8JyDdn— Jeremy Redmon (@JeremyLRedmon) May 16, 2017
Immigrant detainee dies in ICE custody. 7th death since October https://t.co/WRTe3I5sK4— Roque Planas (@RoqPlanas) May 16, 2017
Project South Advocacy Director Azadeh Shahshahani, whose organization recently released a report criticizing medical and mental health care at the detention center, said Jimenez-Joseph’s stay in the confinement was concerning.
"If the government were abiding by international human rights standards, he would not have been subjected to solitary for such a long period of time and would not have suffered the harmful emotional impact that he inevitably suffered in solitary," she lamented.
She further criticized the government, "This fits the pattern of the unfortunate reactions we have got from the government before: dismissiveness and a demonstrated lack of concern for the health of and well being of the detained immigrant population.”
However, ICE representative Bryan Cox said the death was indeed saddening but a rare case.
"While the situation yesterday is unfortunate and will be subject to a full investigation, statistically, deaths in ICE detention are exceptionally rare," he said.
When questioned about the reports that disapprove of the facility’s condition, he said the environment was very humane and safe.
"ICE provides several levels of oversight in order to ensure that detainees in ICE custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement," he continued.