Media Contacts: Nick Schwellenbach, Director of Investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) at [email protected] or (202) 347-122; or Tim Farnsworth, Chief Communications Strategist at POGO, [email protected] or (202) 347-1122.
(WASHINGTON)—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers are filing more reports of detainees being held in solitary confinement, according to records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) through the Freedom of Information Act. About 40% of the 6,559 records, each of which corresponds to an instance of a detainee being placed in solitary, state that the detainees had mental illness. (Some detainees have been confined more than once.)
The records obtained by POGO span from January 2016 to early May 2018 are the first to cover a significant portion of the current administration.
In solitary confinement, also called “segregation,” detainees are locked in a cell and isolated from other people for up to 23 hours a day. Some experts say solitary confinement is tantamount to torture, especially if the isolation lasts longer than 15 days.
Over 4,000 of the records report a detainee being held in solitary confinement for more than 15 days—sometimes for months, or even more than a year. Roughly a quarter of those 4,000 records also indicate that the detainees in solitary had mental illness.
“These records reveal that our immigration detention system is increasing its reported use of solitary even as some state prison systems, such as in Texas, have taken steps to curb its use,” said Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director. “More oversight of the detention-industrial complex is desperately needed right now.”
Similarly, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote in a letter last month that “It is imperative that ICE swiftly resolve any lacking oversight or improper documentation pertaining to the use of segregation.”
POGO recommends a number of actions that would curb the use of solitary confinement, especially for mentality ill detainees, and enhance oversight of how it is used.