Detention Center Not in Compliance, ICE Urged to Act
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General recently released a “management alert” which urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately address these threats to the safety and rights of those currently being held at the privately-owned Adelanto ICE Processing Center. The alert drafted by the federal watchdog shed light on “improper” segregation within the facility and urged ICE to improve “inadequate” health care and protect detainees from suicide.
The Adelanto detention center sits 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It is owned and operated by the Boca Raton, Florida, GEO Group, one of the country’s largest private prison firms. GEO contributed $250,000 to President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration and is benefiting from new ICE contracts.
The Center reviewed documents issued by Homeland Security’s Office of Detention Oversight finding that the death of one Adelanto detainee “could have been prevented” with proper medical care. The death of another detainee occurred due to medical care that did not meet ICE standards. DHS officials carried out an unannounced visit to Adelanto in May, at a time when 307 contact guards were responsible for 1,659 detainees.
“Although this form of civil custody should be non-punitive,” inspector general officials wrote, “some of the center conditions and detainee treatment we identified during our visit and outlined in this management alert are similar to those one may see in criminal custody.”
Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based organization that helps detainees and monitors center conditions, said, “The report confirms what we’ve documented through our own monitoring efforts.” The organization, too, urged ICE to act.
Liz Martinez, a spokesperson for the group, said that violations “are further proof” that Adelanto is a “hostile environment that endangers the lives of thousands of detainees,” among them “asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, legal permanent residents (who’ve been placed in detention for some reason) and other immigrants.”
DHS IG officials reported that during their visit they noticed bundles guards and detainees referred to as “nooses” hanging from cell vents. Detainees said they braid sheets into bundles and then unfurl them provide privacy in a bathroom or bunk area or to use as a clothesline. In March 2013, the inspector general alert indicated, a man was found hanging from bedsheets in his Adelanto cell and died at a nearby hospital. Two additional suicide attempts at Adelanto also involved bedsheets.
The alert also says that during interviews with Adelanto detainees, one told officials, “I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical.”
“When we asked two contract guards who oversaw the housing units why they did not remove the bed sheets, they echoed it was not a high priority,” officials also wrote. “According to a senior ICE official,” the report stated, “local ICE management at Adelanto does not believe it is necessary or a priority to address the braided sheets issue.”
“ICE must prioritize addressing the issue of sheets hanging in detainee cells, as they represent the potential to assist suicide acts,” the alert urged.
Officials also found fourteen detainees were in “disciplinary segregation,” and had been placed there “before they were found guilty of a prohibited act or rule violation.” This was meant “to prevent further issues with the detainee.” Yet, the practice violated due process, officials found. In seven cases detainees received penalties that were not subsequently approved by a disciplinary panel.
In total, approximately eighty medical grievances were filed between November 2017 to April 2018, for “not being seen for months for persistent health conditions and not receiving prescribed medication.” One of the two dentists at Adelanto told officials he doesn’t have time for fillings. If detainees can’t get dental floss, the practitioner suggested, “detainees could use string from their socks to floss if they were dedicated to dental hygiene,” officials wrote.