The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report Thursday detailing the horrific conditions at immigration detention centers across the United States. Inspectors found “immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards” including nooses in detainee cells, overuse of solitary confinement, and spoiled food, among other issues.
DHS OIG inspected four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, including the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California, the Aurora ICE Processing Center in Colorado, the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, and the Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey.
According to the report, the “inspections of the four detention facilities revealed violations of ICE’s detention standards and raised concerns about the environment in which detainees are held.”
OIG described the food service issues at Adelanto and Essex as “egregious.” At Adelanto, “lunch meat and cheese were mixed and stored uncovered in
large walk-in refrigerators,” while chicken “smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled.” Food in the freezer was also expired. At Essex, “open packages of raw chicken leaked blood all over refrigeration units” and “lunch meat was slimy, foulsmelling and appeared to be spoiled.”
All of the facilities demonstrated “serious issues with the administrative and disciplinary segregation of detainees” that violate ICE detention standards and infringe on detainee rights, the report read.
The findings confirm what most immigration activist groups and some progressive members of Congress have been clamoring about for months: ICE is routinely violating the human rights of the individuals in its custody.
“The report’s findings reveal that issues in ICE detention are not isolated — they are systemic,” Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit that has been monitoring the conditions at Adelanto and other ICE facilities for years, said in a statement. “And yet, not one single entity in this detention apparatus is ever held accountable for these human rights violations. This is outrageous. More and more evidence points to the fact that ICE and private prison companies like GEO are incapable of providing for the well-being of immigrants. That’s why we must abolish detention. It’s time to implement humane community-based alternatives that treat people with dignity and respect.”
While ICE standards require facilities to place detainees in disciplinary segregation only after they have committed a prohibited act, Adelanto, Essex, and Aurora punished immigrant detainees with solitary confinement for unproven disciplinary violations. Detainees in solitary were found to have limited access to recreation and even showers despite ICE standards mandating that individuals have access to these basic resources.
At the facility’s bathrooms, OIG observed mold throughout all the
walls in the bathroom area, including ceilings, vents, mirrors, and shower
stalls. Prolonged exposure to mold and mildew can lead to allergic reactions and long-term health issues.
Immigrants in detention are required to receive toiletries including including shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, and soap. At Essex, however, detainees reported not having received any toiletries. Staff at the facility told inspectors that toiletries must be purchased through the commissary, which is against ICE standards.
At Aurora, visitation rooms go unused. DHS OIG found that while the facility is capable of hosting in-person visitation, it only allows “non-contact visits” — even to children and family.
ICE standards mandate “that detainees shall be able to maintain morale and ties through visitation with their families, the community, legal representatives and consular officials, within the constraints of the safety, security and good order of the facility.”
Three of the four detention centers that were inspected are operated by GEO Group, a private prison company that contracts with the federal government.
GEO Group, among other similar companies like CoreCivic, has greatly benefited from the Trump administration’s increase in immigration enforcement. ICE is detaining more people than ever before, a record-breaking 52,000, and GEO Group is making money off of it. Just this week the private prison company announced a 314 bed expansion at the Montgomery Processing Center in Conroe, Texas. The expansion would bring the total bed count to 1,314. The company is expected to rake in $10 million as a result.