The findings come after a Stewart detainee hanged himself in his solitary confinement cell in May. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the authorities at Stewart failed to check on Jean Jimenez-Joseph as often as they are required before the 27-year-old Panamanian national killed himself. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is seeking more detention space to hold people facing deportation as it ramps up immigration enforcement across the nation.
IN-DEPTH: ICE detainee wasn’t observed as required before he hanged himself
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement Friday saying it concurred with the report’s recommendation to “further enhance compliance monitoring as part of our already robust inspections program.”
“Based on multilayered, rigorous inspections and oversight programs, ICE is confident in conditions and high standards of care at its detention facilities,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said. “To ensure the safety and well-being of those in our custody, we work regularly with contracted consultants and a variety of external stakeholders to review and improve detention conditions at ICE facilities.”
CoreCivic, a Nashville, Tenn.-based corrections company that manages Stewart through agreements with ICE and Stewart County, said the government closely monitors the facilities it operates.
“CoreCivic cares deeply about every person entrusted to our care. That’s why at our detention facilities detainees have access to services such as medical vaccinations, legal assistance and even educational opportunities,” CoreCivic spokesman Jonathan Burns said in a prepared statement, adding: “We believe the issues identified at Stewart Detention Center can be quickly and effectively remedied.”
The investigators found these other problems at Stewart:
- There were not enough male personnel to pat down detainees as required, so the staff turned to other methods, including using a magnetometer wand. But that isn't sufficient to identify nonmetallic contraband that could pose security risks, such as drugs.
- Detainees reported long waits for medical care.
- The grievance resolution process at Stewart is "inconsistent and insufficiently documented." Responses to many serious complaints included only "cursory and uninformative explanations of resolutions."
- When the inspectors called their federal hotline from Stewart they received a message saying that number was "restricted."
- Detainees reported the detention center staff sometimes interrupted or delayed Muslim prayer times.
- Bathrooms were in poor condition. Investigators found mold and peeling paint on the walls, floors and showers. Some bathrooms had no hot water, and some showers lacked cold water. Detainees also complained that toilet paper, shampoo, soap, lotion and toothpaste were not provided promptly or at all.
The inspectors’ findings show “now is not the time to expand a detention system that ICE is not capable of effectively and safely running,” said Katharina Obser, a senior program officer with the Women’s Refugee Commission, a New York City-based refugee advocacy group.
“Detention,” Obser said, “must be reduced and, where needed, humane alternatives to detention implemented in its place.”
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