A recent report by the National Immigrant Justice Center has found that the U.S. federal government has failed to maintain basic human rights standards in its ICE detention centers, citing among its biggest offenders Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.
The report, entitled “Lives in Peril: How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Immigration Detention Abuse,”
reviewed 105 detention facilities by looking at internal inspection documents conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies. These documents are not available publically, but were released after 3 years of litigation and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
To date, there have been no third-party reviews, and only ICE officials have conducted in-person facilities inspections.
Many of the detention centers reviewed in the study are run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), an organization contracted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run and maintain detainees. The 2009 Appropriations Act for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) mandates that ICE officials conduct annual faculty inspections to determine whether outside corporations, like CCA, should be allowed to maintain their contracts with ICE. This report suggests that these inspections reports are designed to help CCA and others re-approve their contracts.
Among these is the center in Stewart, which was found to have severe gaps in its medical treatment. Although Stewart houses up to 2,000 people at a time, the facility has only one doctor on staff, with another five vacant medical positions available to hire. ICE inspections reported that medical staffing at Stewart was “adequate.” Other reports, including those conducted by the Detention Watch Network (DWN) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggest that many immigrants in detention centers across the country suffer or die from treatable medical conditions.
The report also points to Stewart’s barriers to appropriate legal consultation. The center was found to deny visits from family or attorneys, making it difficult to prepare documents and prepare for hearings. Moreover, while detainees raised concerns about their limited access to the law library and lack of reliable phone access, these concerns were not reflected in any of ICE’s inspection reports. Without appropriate documentation, no steps can be taken to remedy these gaps in access.