In May, a team from the Department of Homeland Security's office of inspector general made a surprise visit to a private, for-profit immigration jail in California that holds about 2,000 immigrants under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. What they found, outlined in a report released Tuesday, included "nooses" dangling from air vents in 15 of the 20 cells they visited, one detainee left in his wheelchair for nine days straight, and immigrants who had teeth fall out while they waited years for fillings, among other major violations of federal detention standards.
The jail, in Adelanto — in the high desert 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles — is one of 71 federal prisons and detention centers run and owned by GEO Group. One 32-year-old detainee hanged himself with a bedsheet in March 2017, and at least seven other detainees attempted suicide between December 2016 and October 2017, the DHS inspectors wrote. "One detainee told us, '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 conditions, including summary isolation, pose "a significant threat" to the rights of detainees and their mental and physical health, the report found. ICE said it takes the report's findings "seriously" and has "agreed to conduct a full and immediate review of the center." ICE has increasingly relied on private contract facilities amid a surge of detentions due to President Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
"Adelanto holds adult women and men in immigration custody, including those who are applying for asylum" and were "separated from their children at the border," The New York Times notes. "Unlike prisoners in the penal system, most immigrants at the facility have committed no crimes other than illegally crossing the border," a civil misdemeanor. A separate DHS inspector general report found that Trump's botched family-separation policy resulted in children held in chain-link cells for up to 25 days.