By Theodore Shoebat
A report from the Homeland Security inspector general (which can be read here) has shown that, upon observing the conditions of immigrant prisons, “our inspections of four detention facilities revealed violations of ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards, which set requirements for facilities housing detainees.” The inspections observed the conditions in two facilities in Adelanto, CA and Essex County, NJ, and concluded:
Because we observed immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards at facilities in Adelanto, CA, and Essex County, NJ, including nooses in detainee cells, overly restrictive segregation, inadequate medical care, unreported security incidents, and significant food safety issues, we issued individual reports to ICE after our visits to these two facilities.
All four facilities had issues with expired food, which puts detainees at risk for food-borne illnesses. At three facilities, we found that segregation practices violated standards and infringed on detainee rights. Two facilities failed to provide recreation outside detainee housing units. Bathrooms in two facilities’ detainee housing units were dilapidated and moldy. At one facility, detainees were not provided appropriate clothing and hygiene items to ensure they could properly care for themselves. Lastly, one facility allowed only non-contact visits, despite being able to accommodate in-person visitation. Our observations confirmed concerns identified in detainee grievances, which indicated unsafe and unhealthy conditions to varying degrees at all of the facilities we visited.
ICE did not disagree with what the inspection objected to:
ICE concurred with the report recommendation and described corrective actions to address the issues identified in this report. We consider the recommendation resolved and open.
The inspections were done as a response to human rights groups who were calling attention to abuses in the migrant facilities:
In response to concerns raised by immigrant rights groups and complaints to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline about conditions for detainees held in ICE custody, and consistent with Congress’ direction,2 we made unannounced visits to four detention facilities between May and November, 2018: Adelanto ICE Processing Center (California), LaSalle ICE Processing Center (Louisiana), Essex County Correctional Facility (New Jersey), and Aurora ICE Processing Center (Colorado).
The report details the terrible conditions:
Our observations of all four facility kitchens indicated some level of noncompliance with ICE standards. We observed spoiled and moldy food in kitchen refrigerators, as well as food past its expiration date.
We also found meat thawing without labels indicating when it had begun thawing or the date by which it must be used. The issues at the LaSalle and Aurora facilities were minor and easily fixed during our visits, whereas those at the Adelanto and Essex facilities were egregious. At Essex, the food handling in general was so substandard that ICE and facility leadership had the kitchen manager replaced during our inspection. Overall, the issues we identified represent health and food safety risks.
At Essex, open packages of raw chicken leaked blood all over refrigeration units, as shown in figure 1; lunch meat was slimy, foulsmelling and appeared to be spoiled; and moldy bread was stored in the refrigerator.
At Adelanto, lunch meat and cheese were mixed and stored uncovered in large walk-in refrigerators; lunch meat was also unwrapped and unlabeled; chicken smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled; and food in the freezer was expired.
At LaSalle, some bread was out of date by up to 1 week. All bread was stored in the refrigerator.
Here is a snapshot from the report by the inspector general showing the rotten food:
It was also reported that people were deprived of recreational time and were even put in disciplinary segregation without first being given a hearing by a panel that would have determined whether or not the person is deserving of being segregated:
Two facilities prematurely placed detainees in disciplinary segregation. All three facilities placed detainees in disciplinary segregation in restraints when outside their cells. One facility strip-searched detainees entering segregation. Two facilities did not provide detainees in segregation the required recreation time or time outside cells. These practices violate ICE detention standards and infringe on detainee rights.
ICE standards4 obligate facilities to place detainees in disciplinary segregation only after they have committed a prohibited act. At Adelanto and Essex, detainees are placed in disciplinary segregation before the disciplinary hearing panel finds the detainee guilty of the charged offense. In addition, facility forms incorrectly state these detainees are in administrative segregation when they are actually in disciplinary segregation.
Detainees were also forced to suffer strip searches without any justification:
In addition, ICE standards6 also restrict the use of strip searches on detainees unless there is reasonable suspicion to do so. However, at Essex, detainees were strip searched when they entered either disciplinary or administrative segregation, even though they were just being moved from another part of the facility, with no justification documented.
There was mold in the bathrooms:
at the Adelanto and Essex facilities, we observed detainee bathrooms that were in poor condition, including mold and peeling paint on walls, floors, and showers, and unusable toilets, as shown in figure 4. At the Essex facility, mold permeated all walls in the bathroom area, including ceilings, vents, mirrors, and shower stalls. These environmental conditions present health risks as mold and mildew growth, for example, can lead to serious health issues for detainees, including allergic reactions and persistent illnesses.
Here is a photo showing the moldy and unhygienic state of the bathrooms:
Facilities are required to provide toiletry items,12 including shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, and soap. When they enter the facility, detainees at Essex receive a bag with one bar of soap, one stick of deodorant, one toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and a comb, shown in figure 6. Detainees reported never being given lotion or shampoo and never receiving any toiletries after intake. Our review of the facility toiletry stock revealed that the facility had no lotion on hand and the housing units did not have any toiletry supplies to provide to detainees. Facility staff told us the detainees just need to purchase hygiene items through the commissary, which is in direct violation of the ICE standards.
“So you also must love the foreigner, since you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)