An investigation by the ACLU of Florida found the staff at the Baker County Detention Center deny medical care to individuals facing life-threatening conditions
Macclenny, Fla. – A new investigation at the Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida, found a dangerous pattern of extreme systemic medical neglect against immigrants, including undertreatment, incorrect treatment, and failure to attend to serious medical conditions leading to hospitalizations and life-threatening conditions. While ongoing complaints related to medical neglect are not new at Baker, this investigation takes a deeper look at specific cases and includes reviews from medical experts.
In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the ACLU of Florida outlined the patterns of medical neglect and cited medical records, stories from impacted individuals and reviews from third-party medical experts. The Baker County Detention Center is operated by the Baker County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and the Baker County Corrections Management Corporation (BCCMC) through a contract with ICE.
Among the examples of medical neglect in the letter are incidents of hospitalization due to failure to provide treatment, improper discontinuation of medical devices, undertreated and undiagnosed medical conditions, voyeurism and sexual abuse, failure to provide patients with their medical records, untreated dental abscesses, and untreated compressed back fractures.
“I live with HIV and hypertension, but they were never properly addressed or treated during my time at Baker. I used a wheelchair, but officials took it from me without explanation. They also tried to deport me even though I was not well enough to travel,” said Danielle Gaul, a formerly detained woman at Baker. “I also fell when I was in ICE custody and was unable to walk. They are supposed to pay for my therapy but they don’t want to pay for me to get therapy. Instead, they want to send me back to Haiti in a wheelchair.”
The Baker County Detention Center has been at the center of multiple scandals for many years, and is increasingly under scrutiny by the federal government, media, and advocates. Just last Fall, local officials were sued for denying immigrants their right to meet with attorneys in person and the facility was the subject of a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) complaint that exposed a pattern of illegal voyeurism at the facility. The allegations in the complaint were substantiated after an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in January 2023.
“We know that, for years, Baker has continued to operate while severely neglecting the health of countless individuals in its custody. People are still suffering from the long-lasting mental and physical health effects due to the medical carelessness they endured at Baker,” said Maite Garcia, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida. “BCSO and BCCMC have proven to be completely incapable of caring for the immigrants detained at Baker. Instead of focusing on the well-being of the individuals in their care, they continue to deny appropriate medical care, create obstacles for access to counsel, and retaliate against those brave enough to speak about the rampant abuses at Baker. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It’s time for ICE to permanently end its relationship with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.”
For the past several years, dozens of complaints have been filed against Baker, including for issues related to excessive use of force, extreme medical neglect, racist harassment, retaliation, voyeurism, impediments to accessing legal counsel, and lack of adequate hygiene and food. According to the Florida Detention Database, there have been over 190 complaints filed against Baker.
The ACLU of Florida’s letter to ICE reporting the dangerous patterns of medical neglect at Baker can be found here.