[Ppnews] New Directive May Curtail Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 9 10:40:17 EDT 2013

  New Directive May Curtail Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigrant

September 9, 2013 By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week issued a new 
appears aimed at limiting the use of solitary confinement on individuals 
held in immigrant detention.

The directive is being cautiously celebrated by human rights, civil 
liberties, and immigrants' rights groups, who at the same time warn that 
a great deal will depend upon how rigorously the new policies and 
practices are enforced. As NBC Latino reports:

    "Solitary confinement in both immigration detention and the criminal
    justice system is cruel, expensive, and ineffective," said Ruthie
    Epstein, a policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union in
    a statement.  "If strictly enforced throughout the ICE detention
    system -- including at county jails and contract facilities -- ICE's
    new policy could represent significant progress in curtailing this
    inhumane practice."

    According to the new directive released on Wednesday
    "placement in administrative segregation due to a special
    vulnerability should be used only as a last resort and when no other
    viable housing options exist."  The directive also says "ICE shall
    take additional steps to ensure appropriate review and oversight of
    decisions to retain detainees in segregated housing for over 14
    days,"  It also states facilities must provide  special reporting
    requirements for vulnerable populations, including people with
    medical or mental issues and disabilities, pregnant or nursing women
    and the elderly, and those who might be at risk of harm due to
    sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual assault.

    Speaking on Friday to NBC Latino, Epstein stresses the concern is
    enforcement.  Half of ICE detainees are placed in county jails, she
    explains, adding it will be a challenge to ensure the new practices
    are followed not just in county jails but privately contracted

    The National Immigrant Justice Center
    <http://www.immigrantjustice.org/> (NIJC) and Physicians for Human
    Rights issued a September 2012 report, Invisible in Isolation: The
    Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigration
    <http://www.immigrantjustice.org/sites/immigrantjustice.org/files/Invisible%20in%20Isolation-The%20Use%20of%20Segregation%20and%20Solitary%20Confinement%20in%20Immigration%20Detention.September%202012_7.pdf> in
    which they reported that "solitary confinement frequently is used as
    a control mechanism. Researchers met individuals who were held in
    solitary confinement after they helped other detainees
    file complaints about detention conditions. People who are mentally
    ill and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or
    transgender (LGBT) often are assigned to solitary confinement
    because jail staff is unwilling to deal with their unique
    circumstances and/or because staff thinks of solitary confinement as
    a 'protective' status for vulnerable populations."

    The report added that "of greatest concern is the apparent lack of
    strict, comprehensive, and independent oversight of segregation
    practices, which would help ensure that segregation is only used in
    extreme circumstances."

The new directive clearly owes much to the NIJC report, and to a 
subsequent front-page /New York Times/ 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/us/immigrants-held-in-solitary-cells-often-for-weeks.html?pagewanted=3&_r=2&pagewanted=all&>story that 
appeared in March of this year. The /Times /reported:

    On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary
    confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the
    sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new
    federal data.

    Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which
    psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm,
    with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.

    While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in
    solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the
    numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary
    infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting
    into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they
    were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for
    protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill.

After the /Times/ article appeared, then-Secretary of Homeland Security 
Janet Napolitano announced that ICE would "review" its use of solitary 

The new directive falls far short of banning solitary confinement for 
immigrant detainees, but rather calls for increased scrutiny and 
frequent reviews--and a lot more paperwork--whenever the practice is 
used. As detailed by the website FierceHomelandSecurity 

    Field office directors within the Enforcement and Removal Operations
    division of  ICE must review any case where a detainee has been held
    in solitary confinement  continuously for 14 days, 30 days and at
    each 30 day interval after that, the  memo says. Review is also
    required for detainees in solitary confinement for 14  days out of
    any 21 day period.

    Any time detainees are placed into solitary confinement because they
    have a  mental illness, are a suicide risk, are on a hunger strike,
    or have been a  victim of sexual assault, the field office director
    has to be notified within 72  hours.

    If detainees speak limited English, the memo instructs field office
    directors  to consider whether their placement in solitary
    confinement was the result of  communication or interpretation problems.

    In their reviews, field office directors should consider whether
    alternatives  to solitary confinement are appropriate and whether
    detainees are protected from  self-harm, the memo says.

    Whenever detainees are held in solitary confinement for more than 14
    days in  any 21 day period or for more than 30 consecutive days,
    field office directors  have to submit a written report to ICE
    headquarters on their findings and any  actions taken.

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