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      <div class="header reader-header reader-show-element"> <font
          size="-2"><a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://theintercept.com/2019/08/14/ice-solitary-confinement-mental-illness/">https://theintercept.com/2019/08/14/ice-solitary-confinement-mental-illness/</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">40 Percent of ICE Detainees Held in
          Solitary Confinement Have a Mental Illness, New Report Finds</h1>
        <div class="credits reader-credits">Spencer Woodman - <span
            class="PostByline-date" data-reactid="189"><span
              data-reactid="190">August 14 2019</span></span></div>
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                <p><u>In the first</u> 15 months of the Trump
                  administration, U.S. immigration authorities locked
                  thousands of detainees in solitary confinement, some
                  for months at a time, a <a
href="https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2019/08/isolated-ice-confines-some-detainees-with-mental-illness-in-solitary-for-months/">new
                    report</a> from the Project on Government Oversight,
                  an independent watchdog that investigates government
                  abuses, has found. This represents an increase of 15.2
                  percent from the final 15 months of the Obama
                  administration, accelerating a practice that the
                  United Nations has warned can amount to torture.</p>
                <p>POGO’s report analyzed more than 6,000 solitary
                  confinement incident reports, covering a span of
                  slightly more than two years, that were filed to U.S.
                  Immigration and Customs Enforcement by detention
                  centers around the country, from the last year of
                  Barack Obama’s presidency through mid-2018. In roughly
                  40 percent of those reports, which POGO obtained
                  through a public records request, across both
                  presidential administrations, the detainee placed in
                  isolation had a mental illness diagnosis. The number
                  of placements in solitary confinement jumped by nearly
                  400 from 2016 to 2017, POGO found.</p>
                <p>“Viewed alongside official watchdog reports and
                  insider accounts,” the report reads, “these records
                  depict an immigration detention system in urgent need
                  of more oversight.”</p>
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                <p>The report builds on “<a
                    href="https://www.icij.org/investigations/solitary-voices/">Solitary
                    Voices</a>,” an investigation by the International
                  Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The
                  Intercept, in addition to five other reporting
                  partners in the United States and Latin America, into
                  the misuse and overuse of solitary confinement at ICE
                  detention facilities. The investigation, based on
                  reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act,
                  found that ICE has isolated thousands of the most
                  vulnerable immigrant detainees, including people with
                  severe mental illness, LGBTQ people, and people with
                  disabilities, for extended periods of time.</p>
                <p>ICIJ’s investigation, and the new report from POGO,
                  comes amid heightened public scrutiny of the way U.S.
                  authorities detain asylum-seekers and other
                  immigrants. President Donald Trump’s tough stance on
                  immigration has led to the widespread detention of
                  immigrants and asylum-seekers and the slow-walking of
                  their cases, causing the population of ICE detention
                  centers to swell, with more immigrants waiting behind
                  bars as their cases languish in heavily backlogged
                  immigration courts. As of August 3, ICE was detaining
                  <a
                    href="https://twitter.com/Haleaziz/status/1159158166979874816">more
                    than 55,000</a> people in detention centers
                  nationwide — a record high — even though Congress has
                  only approved funding to maintain 42,000 detention
                  beds.</p>
                <p>Solitary confinement, widely understood to be
                  isolation for 22 hours a day or more in a small cell
                  without meaningful social contact, can spark and
                  worsen anxiety, panic attacks, and other emotional or
                  mental distress, and should be used sparingly or not
                  at all, experts say. The most common reason for
                  placement in solitary confinement is breaking the
                  rules, the ICIJ investigation found.</p>
                <p>The <a
href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/10/392012-solitary-confinement-should-be-banned-most-cases-un-expert-says">U.N.
                    has said that solitary confinement</a> should be
                  banned except in “very exceptional circumstances.” It
                  should never be used to isolate people with mental
                  illness or juveniles — and no one should be held for
                  longer than 15 days, the U.N. says.</p>
                <p>In a statement, ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox said that
                  the agency places people in its custody in solitary
                  confinement at rates lower than the national prison
                  population, citing studies ICE conducted in 2012 and
                  2013 that found that about 1.1 percent of the detained
                  immigrant population is in isolation at any given
                  time, as compared to a <a
href="https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_e4a9911c-7748-11e9-8b88-f73544a1a077.html">national
                    average</a> for prisoners of 4.5 percent. “Any
                  suggestion that the use of segregation in ICE custody
                  is above the norm for detained populations would be a
                  false claim,” he wrote. “In reality, segregation in
                  ICE custody is employed at a rate significantly below
                  the national average for detained populations.”</p>
                <p>Immigration detention, however, is civil — it is not
                  meant to be punitive, unlike jails and prisons that
                  house individuals convicted of criminal acts. Civil
                  detention centers are meant to hold immigrants for a
                  short period of time, just long enough for their
                  immigration status to be worked out. In 2017, the
                  average length of stay was <a
                    href="https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-statistics">34
                    days</a>, though some detained immigrants spend
                  months and years behind bars.</p>
                <p>POGO identified at least nine cases in which
                  detainees, some of whom were recorded as having a
                  mental illness, were held in isolation for more than a
                  year. A woman with a mental health diagnosis at an ICE
                  detention center in California, for instance, was
                  released from solitary in December 2017 after 454
                  days. Another woman diagnosed with PTSD was released
                  in August 2017 after 372 days in isolation. (Both of
                  them had been placed in isolation in 2016, while Obama
                  was still in office.) A man “diagnosed with psychotic
                  disorder” was released in April 2018 after 413 days in
                  isolation.</p>
                <p>ICIJ’s reporting earlier this year included an
                  analysis of more than 8,400 solitary confinement
                  incident reports from 2013 through early 2017. More
                  than half of those stays lasted longer than 15 days,
                  including 187 cases in which the solitary confinement
                  continued for more than six months. In 32 of those
                  cases, the detained immigrant was isolated for more
                  than a year. Nearly one-third of the overall
                  placements described a detainee diagnosed with a
                  mental illness.</p>
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                <p>The POGO report’s review of data from January 1,
                  2016, through May 4, 2018, found more than 4,000
                  instances of ICE detainees being kept in isolation for
                  more than 15 days. In a quarter of these cases,
                  long-isolated detainees were listed as having a mental
                  illness.</p>
                <p>The records obtained by POGO show that 2,565
                  immigrant detainees were placed in solitary
                  confinement in 2016, the last full year of the Obama
                  administration; about 40 percent of them had a mental
                  illness. In 2017, 2,944 people detained by ICE were
                  placed in solitary confinement; about 39 percent of
                  them had a mental illness. In the first third of 2018,
                  1,050 detained immigrants were placed in solitary
                  confinement. A POGO analysis estimates that, if the
                  rate of reporting holds steady through the rest of
                  that year, ICE will have placed more than 3,100 people
                  in solitary confinement — about 500 more than during
                  Obama’s final year in office.</p>
                <p>The POGO report may add urgency to recent calls by a
                  bipartisan group of lawmakers for ICE to answer
                  questions about its solitary confinement practices.</p>
                <p>In June, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., cited ICIJ’s
                  findings in calling ICE’s use of solitary confinement
                  “<a
href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/26/cory-booker-judiciary-committee-ice-solitary-confinement/">egregious
                    and appalling abuses</a>.” That same month, Sen.
                  Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called the agency’s
                  practices around isolation “<a
href="https://theintercept.com/2019/06/21/elizabeth-warren-ice-solitary-confinement/">cruel
                    and unnecessary</a>.” Late last month, Sens. Chuck
                  Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., <a
href="https://theintercept.com/2019/07/24/solitary-confinement-ice-chuck-grassley/">sent
                    a letter</a> to ICE citing ICIJ’s work and demanding
                  answers from the agency on “recent allegations of the
                  misuse of solitary confinement.”</p>
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