- Government inspectors who paid a surprise visit to a California immigration detention center found a number of disturbing violations, a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog says.
- Many of the detained immigrants have been hanging nooses in their cells, and one said the guards laugh at those who survive suicide attempts.
- The inspectors also accused the facility of neglecting immigrants’ medical care. They found one man in a segregated cell who had been left alone in his wheelchair for nine days without sleeping in a bed or brushing his teeth.
Inspectors who visited the largest privately run immigration detention center in the country found a number of health and safety violations that posed “significant threats” to detainees’ rights, the Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog said in a report.
When officials paid a surprise visit to the facility in May, the found that 15 out of the roughly 20 male detainee cells they visited had bedsheets braided into nooses hanging from the vents.
“The contract guard escorting us during our visit removed the first noose found in a detainee cell, but stopped after realising many cells we visited had nooses hanging from the vents,” the report said. “When we asked two contract guards who oversaw the housing units why they did not remove the bed sheets, they echoed it was not a high priority.”
The inspectors noted in their report that one 32-year-old man died by suicide at the Adelanto facility just last year, and multiple other suicide attempts have been reported since 2016.
Though several immigrants told the inspectors they had been using the nooses as clotheslines or for privacy, another confirmed they have been used in suicide attempts.
“I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical,” the immigrant said.
Restraints, shackles, and segregation
The Adelanto facility in California houses 1,659 immigrants, and is run by GEO Group, America’s second-largest for-profit prison company. Unlike prisoners in the criminal-justice system, the detainees in immigration facilities are largely not detained for crimes – they’re held while the federal immigration courts process their civil cases.
The DHS inspectors also found a number of violations in how the facility was handling segregated immigrants. Most egregiously, they discovered that one man with a disability had been left alone in a segregated unit in a wheelchair for nine days without sleeping in a bed or brushing his teeth.
“During our visit, we saw that the bedding and toiletries were still in the bag from his arrival,” the report said, adding that they saw medical staff peer into his cell and stamp his medical sheet instead of entering and evaluating him.
Beyond that, the watchdog report found that guards were improperly using restraints like handcuffs and shackles on the immigrants, and staff failed to provide the required standard of medical and dental care.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has already responded to the inspector general’s report, saying it agrees with the findings and will take “corrective actions” and conduct a full inspection of the facility.
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