ICE report: Detention facilities had 'significant issues'

By Allen Cone  |  Dec. 16, 2017 at 9:52 AM
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Dec. 16 (UPI) -- An investigation found four Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention complexes had "significant issues" with how inmates were treated, according to a federal report.

"Overall, the problems we identified undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment," the report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.

Inspectors showed up unannounced to six facilities: Hudson County Jail in New Jersey, Laredo Processing Center in Texas; Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico; Santa Ana City Jail in California; Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., and Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, Calif. The facilities were selected based on hotline complaints, reports from non-governmental organizations and media reporting.

The Santa Ana City Jail no longer detains ICE targets after the two entities discontinued their contract early this year, according to the report. The report didn't focus on the Theo facility because it required immediate action with a "management alert" in March and the sheriff's office said all of the concerns "have been addressed."

"Our inspections of five detention facilities raised concerns about the treatment and care of ICE detainees at four of the facilities visited," the report said. "Although the Laredo Processing Center modeled quality operations, during our inspections, we identified significant issues at the four other facilities. Overall, we identified problems that undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment."

The report was based on visit observations, detainee interviews and a review of documents.

"Upon entering some facilities, detainees were housed incorrectly based on their criminal history," the report said. "Further, in violation of standards, all detainees entering one facility were strip searched. Available language services were not always used to facilitate communication with detainees. Some facility staff reportedly deterred detainees from filing grievances and did not thoroughly document resolution of grievances. Staff did not always treat detainees respectfully and professionally, and some facilities may have misused segregation. Finally, we observed potentially unsafe and unhealthy detention conditions."

The report also noted that detainees reported long waits for medical care, poor conditions in bathrooms and insufficient hygiene supplies. Also, inspectors "observed spoiled, wilted, and moldy produce and other food in kitchen refrigerators, as well as food past its expiration date."

The report recommends that ICE improve its oversight of detention facility management and operations.

In an official response, ICE promised to better oversight and improvement.

"Based on multi-layered, rigorous inspections and oversight programs, ICE is confident in conditions and high standards of care at its detention facilities," the agency said in a statement. "To ensure the safety and well-being of those in our custody, we work regularly with contracted consultants and a variety of external stakeholders to review and improve detention conditions at ICE facilities. As such, ICE concurs with the IG's recommendation to further enhance compliance monitoring as part of our already robust inspections program."

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