Homeland Security’s inspector general found problems at all four ICE detention facilities where it conducted unannounced visits last year, including one that didn’t document why it sent some migrants into segregation, and another that failed to check up on migrants often enough, heightening risk of suicide.
Another facility stuck segregated detainees in handcuffs to take them from their cell to the showers, which the inspector general said violates U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards.
All four facilities had broken complaint systems, with some of them failing to follow up on reports of guards’ verbal abuse and others taking too long to respond.
The inspector general, in the report released Tuesday, also found detainees had to suffer leaking toilets, torn mattresses and “worn fitness equipment.” In some cases the facilities had jerry-rigged workarounds, like using a plastic drinking straw to direct water in a broken sink, or a small shampoo bottle to funnel the water as a shower head.
And one facility issued detainees flip-flops instead of socks and shoes or closed-toe sandals.
The four facilities were Northwest Detention Facility in Washington state, run by GEO Group; El Paso Processing Center, an ICE facility in Texas; Cibola County Correctional Facility, run by CoreCivic in New Mexico; and Baker County Detention Center, run by the Baker County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
Some of the issues, like torn mattresses and flip-flops, were replaced on the spot after the inspector general investigators pointed them out.
ICE agreed to the inspector general’s other recommendations, and said it’s taking steps to correct the problems found.
“ICE remains committed to continually enhancing civil detention operations to promote a safe and secure environment for detainees and staff,” Stephen A. Roncone, ICE’s chief financial officer, said in the agency’s official response. “The goal of ICE detention standards is to ensure that detainees are treated humanely, protected from harm, provided appropriate medical and mental health care, and receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled.”
ICE’s detention practices have been targets for criticism, and House Democrats, in their new Homeland Security spending bill unveiled this week, proposed shutting down contract facilities that have multiple subpar reviews.
Deaths of detainees in custody have also raised issues of medical care and suicide.
The inspector general, in the new report said suicide risks are heightened by the treatment of detainees at the Baker facility, where detainees who had to be segregated from the general population for safety or health reasons weren’t checked on often enough.
“Failing to monitor detainees properly “is an established risk factor for suicide,” investigators wrote.
And the facility bungled its paperwork.
“Baker logged segregated detainee activities so poorly it was difficult to know whether detainees received meals, were allowed recreation or visitors, or were allowed showers,” the audit said.