The family of a federal immigration detainee who committed suicide at the Torrance County Detention Facility in 2022 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against CoreCivic, which owns and operates the Estancia facility.

Kesley Vial, 23, from Brazil, was seeking asylum in the United States, but was due to be deported. But in August 2022, after repeated postponements of the deportation, Vial killed himself, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping represent the family along with the law firm of Coyle & Benoit.

“The lawsuit identifies serious systemic failures and shortcomings in the facility’s mental health care and charges that CoreCivic’s extreme negligence resulted in Kesley’s tragic and preventable death,” according to the release.

“For most of the time Vial was detained, he was held in inhumane conditions at TCDF while awaiting his deportation,” the release continued. “He was desperate to leave the detention facility — though it meant returning to Brazil — but the date of his scheduled deportation was repeatedly postponed, and his mental health began to severely deteriorate.”

CoreCivic and the facility have taken considerable heat for its living conditions and other issues. And federal inspectors in March 2022 sought to have all detained people removed from the facility because of its understaffing unhealthy living conditions, while a recent report shows those conditions have not improved.

The facility was negligent in Vial’s situation, the lawsuit claims, because despite clear indications of being distraught, CoreCivic staff did not take proper actions to prevent Vial from harming himself by allowing him to take a bedsheet to a vacant cell to which he was not assigned, locked him there alone and left him there unsupervised.

“CoreCivic was responsible for keeping Kesley safe while he was detained in TCDF, but when it mattered most, staff disregarded critical red flags,” said Rebecca Sheff, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Mexico. “His death was preventable, and CoreCivic’s negligence led to his young life being tragically cut short.”

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