Resource: The Ins and Outs of the Jama Case Part I

By: Pauline Daniels

November 13, 2007

States of Incarceration

The Jama case was filed in June 1997 on behalf of a group of undocumented aliens who were held at a private detention facility operated under the authority of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) in Elizabeth, New Jersey.1 The Jama plaintiffs were all asylum seekers who had been detained by immigration officials upon their arrival in the United States. The lawsuit was brought against the INS and other defendants alleging inhumane conditions of confinement at the Esmor detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The conditions of the detention center led to an uprising among detainees on June 18, 1995. The plaintiff detainees had been confined at Esmor when the rebellion occurred but had been transferred to other detention facilities throughout the country at the time this case was filed. Initially there were twenty plaintiffs, however, as a result of various settlements, deportations, and voluntary withdrawals prior to trial, by 2004 there were only nine remaining plaintiffs who were ready to take their case to a jury. Hawa Abdi Jama, a Somalian woman, was the lead plaintiff.