Secret DHS Report Shows Abuse of Solitary in ICE Detention…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 8/23/23

by | August 24, 2023

Previously confidential records from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties confirm reports of extensive abuse against detained immigrants. The reports document ICE’s extensive use of solitary confinement, medical neglect, mistreatment of transgender immigrants, and failure to prevent sexual assault in its facilities. As of July 2023, ICE had detained over 30,000 immigrants across 120 facilities, most of which are operated by private contracting groups. By refusing to fulfill FOIA requests and make these documents public, DHS undermines the effectiveness of the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and can conceal problems for years. Project on Government Oversight 

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Immigrants detained at Winn Correctional Center, a private ICE facility in Louisiana, lack access to clean drinking water and critical medical care while under constant threat of solitary confinement. Last year the agency assured advocates and lawyers that it had plans to reduce the number of beds and renovate housing units at the facility. However, recent reports show that 1,110 people are still being detained at Winn and ICE has made little or no progress in improving conditions. One migrant from Colombia stated that he experienced severe stomach pains, diarrhea, and blood in his stool resulting from drinking the yellowish, contaminated water provided by the facility. NBC News

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In a recent study, researchers found that extreme heat was associated with a 30 percent increase in the rate of daily suicide-watch incidents. Data from the six sampled facilities adds to a growing body of literature documenting the impact of climatological events on incarcerated populations. Jama Network | Until recently, extreme heat largely affected people and facilities located in the southern regions of the United States. However, as the effects of anthropogenic climate change increase the range and frequency of severe weather events, death caused by extreme heat has become a problem for people incarcerated in facilities nationwide. Stateline 

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A new report from the Women’s Justice Institute and the Center for Effective Public Policy urges lawmakers to make immediate and substantial changes at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCF), Oregon’s only women’s prison. Many of the women at CCCF have experienced sexual assault, substance abuse, and other trauma prior to their incarceration. However, chronic understaffing and overreliance on punitive responses, including solitary confinement, have prevented women from feeling emotionally safe or respected by staff. Among the changes recommended in the report are increased training for current staff and hiring a dedicated senior official to oversee sexual assault investigations. Oregon Public Broadcasting 

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In a recent essay, paralegal and incarcerated writer Anthony “Indy” Walker recounts the mental exhaustion caused by the endless silence of solitary confinement. When first placed in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania, Walker did not understand why his neighbor made constant noise followed by shouts of “I’m tired.” Now, six years into his indefinite solitary sentence, Walker himself is often tempted “to bang, to make noise so loud it drowns out the deafening silence—not to disturb others, but to feel alive.” Prison Journalism Project

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