Immigrant detainee dies in ICE custody

The detainee was found unresponsive in his cell at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.

Story highlights

  • Jean Jimenez-Joseph had been in solitary confinement
  • An activist calls his death "a horrible tragedy that could have been prevented"

(CNN)Federal authorities are investigating after an immigrant who was facing possible deportation apparently committed suicide in his cell at a Georgia detention center.

Jean Jimenez-Joseph, 27, was pronounced dead at a hospital early Monday, shortly after staff at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, found him in his cell with a sheet around his neck, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday. The preliminary cause of death was self-inflicted strangulation, according to the agency.
He'd been in solitary confinement at the detention center for more than two weeks, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is also investigating.
    Jimenez was unresponsive when facility staff and medical personnel found him around 12:45 a.m. Monday, ICE said, and their efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
    Jimenez, a Panamanian national, was in immigration removal proceedings. He is the seventh person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year, which began in October.
    Jean Jimenez-Joseph
    ICE said senior leadership of the agency would investigate Jimenez's death.
    "ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases," immigration authorities said in their statement announcing Jimenez's death. "Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the rate of the U.S. detained population as a whole."
    Jimenez had been in ICE custody since March. The agency said it issued a detainer for him after he was convicted of motor vehicle larceny in Wake County, North Carolina, in January.

    Held in isolation

    Officials at the detention center placed Jimenez in isolation on April 27 after he jumped over a rail from the second floor to the first floor of the facility, according to Danny Jackson, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
    The local sheriff asked the state agency to investigate, Jackson said. Investigators do not suspect foul play, he said.
    Word of Jimenez's death sparked swift criticism from immigrant rights activists, who have long decried conditions at the detention center.
    On Twitter, Project South Advocacy Director Azadeh Shahshahani called Jimenez's death a "horrific tragedy that could have been prevented."
    Shahshahani, whose organization recently released a report criticizing medical