Inspector General: ICE Detention Facility Inspections Are A Joke

from the and-a-running-joke,-at-that dept

With ICE doing increased business everywhere in the US, the need to place detainees somewhere has never been greater. The president may have rescinded his demand families be separated and tossed into “foster care or whatever,” but that just means detainee housing now has to cater to the needs of the young and old alike.

The government has a duty of care for every person it locks up. The duty is still there. The care isn’t. The way prisoners are routinely treated shows the government thinks of arrestees and prisoners as something less than human. The way it treats people who aren’t even citizens is bound to be worse. The only mitigating factor is there are fewer immigrants to keep track of. But that shouldn’t be taken to mean the average amount of “care” is slightly higher.

A new Inspector General’s report [PDF] lets readers know where it’s going from page one. Here’s the title of ICE OIG report:

ICE’s Inspections and Monitoring of Detention Facilities Do Not Lead to Sustained Compliance or Systemic Improvements

And here are a few pull quotes from the summary:

ICE contracts with a private company and also relies on its Office of Detention Oversight for inspections. ICE also uses an onsite monitoring program. Yet, neither the inspections nor the onsite monitoring ensure consistent compliance with detention standards, nor do they promote comprehensive deficiency corrections.


ICE’s guidance on procedures is unclear; and the contractor’s inspection practices are not consistently thorough. As a result, the inspections do not fully examine actual conditions or identify all deficiencies.

There’s some good news there as well, once your expectations have been sufficiently lowered.

In contrast, ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight uses effective practices to thoroughly inspect facilities and identify deficiencies…


these inspections are too infrequent to ensure the facilities implement all deficiency corrections.

The inspections are either done badly and infrequently or effectively and infrequently. Either way, there’s almost no followup on problems found and corrective measures are usually years away, if they bother to arrive at all.

ICE has 211 detention facilities housing more than 38,000 detainees. This is just one set of facilities for longer-term detentions. These are inspected by a government contractor (Nakamoto Group, Inc.) periodically, but never at a rate of once a year for all facilities. Nakamoto, at best, can apparently only handle 80-120 inspections a year.

Short-term detention facilities are overseen by the Office of Detention Oversight. These inspections are more thorough, but very rarely actually happen.

ODO inspected 23 facilities in FY 2015, 29 in FY 2016, and 33 in FY 2017.

The report notes ODO also inspects the facilities Nakamoto does, but “far less frequently.” A third group (Detention Service Managers) “continuously monitors compliance” at several facilities, but based on the IG’s findings, it appears to be unable to fulfill its mission statement.

Nakamoto’s inspections cannot be said to have ever been complete or thorough. The contractor sends out 3-5 inspectors and gives them three days to inspect the facility, pull records, interview 85-100 inmates, and write their report. The entire inspection process relies on maximum corner cutting.

[W]e saw some inspectors observing and validating “the actual conditions at the facility,” per the SOW, but other Nakamoto inspectors relied on brief answers from facility staff and merely reviewed written policies and procedures instead of observing and evaluating facility conditions. Some inspectors did not consistently look at documentation to substantiate responses from staff or ensure the facility was actually implementing the policies and procedures.

When it came to interviewing detainees, Nakamoto somehow managed to be even less thorough.

For the two inspections we observed, Nakamoto reported interviewing between 85 and 100 detainees, but the interviews we saw during these two inspections did not comply with the SOW and we would not characterize them as interviews. The SOW requires detainee interviews to include “private conversations with individual detainees (in a confidential area),” but we did not see any interviews taking place in private settings. Instead, inspectors had brief, mostly group conversations with detainees in their detention dorms or in common areas in the presence of detention facility personnel, generally asking four or five basic questions about treatment, food, medical needs, and opportunities for recreation. Describing these discussions between Nakamoto inspectors and detainees as “interviews” is not consistent with the SOW requirements.

The SOW also requires Nakamoto inspectors to interview detainees who do not speak English, but we did not observe any interviews Nakamoto inspectors conducted in a language other than English, nor any interviews in which inspectors used available DHS translation services. In fact, inspectors selected detainees for interviews by first asking whether they spoke English. During one inspection, a facility guard translated for a detainee. Inspectors did not consistently follow up with the facility or ICE staff on issues detainees raised.

Detainees are just something to be ignored while Nakamoto “inspectors” fill out checklists.

Nakamoto reported “Detainees were familiar with ICE officers and understood how to obtain assistance from ICE officers and the case managers. Interviews yielded positive comments regarding access to library services, access to case managers and visiting opportunities.” However, we heard detainees tell inspectors they did not know the identity of their ICE deportation officer or how to contact the officer. We did not observe inspectors asking any detainees about law library services or visiting opportunities.

Lying on reports also seems to speed up the process.

At one facility, we discovered it was impossible to dial out using any tollfree number, including the OIG Hotline number, due to telephone company restrictions on the facility. We alerted the facility, which started working to correct this facility-wide issue by modifying the directions for dialing tollfree numbers. Although the issue was not corrected until the third day of the inspection, a Nakamoto inspector wrote on a checklist that an inspector could reach the OIG Hotline from several units on the second day of the inspection.

Nakamoto continues to get away with its half-assed effort because ICE doesn’t really care what’s wrong with its facilities and treatment of detainees. The IG notes ICE never performs quality assurance checks on “inspected” facilities, nor has it ever attempted to assess the reliability of Nakamoto’s inspection reports. Of course, officials claimed these things happened when interviewed by the OIG, but the Inspector General could not find any documentation backing up ICE’s assertions about follow-up visits.

With this standard of “care” being exhibited towards detainees, it’s hardly surprising ICE has shown zero concern about violated rights and violated bodies.

[S]everal facilities continue to strip search all incoming detainees without establishing reasonable suspicion, as required by detention standards. Even when inspections documented this as a deficiency, the facilities continued routine strip searches of detainees during intake without proper documentation. Other examples of repeat deficiencies include facilities failing to notify ICE about alleged or proven sexual assaults.

And when things are pointed out often enough ICE can’t ignore them, it just prints out permission slips for continued deficiencies.

In one facility, ICE granted a waiver to allow the comingling of detainees of different custody classification levels. The standard requirement is to avoid comingling of low-custody detainees, who have minor, non-violent criminal histories or only immigration violations, with high-custody detainees, who have histories of serious criminal offenses. The facility asserted that “a corrective plan of action is not readily available due to overwhelming expense, time and space limitations associated with full compliance with the standards…. Separation of detainees by classification levels … may prove to be an undue burden upon the facility.”

At another facility, ICE granted a waiver for the fire prevention, control, and evacuation planning standard, which requires the posting of emergency plans. The facility “expressed safety concerns regarding the posting of such detailed and specific exit diagrams within its detention facility.”

As the Inspector General notes, ICE granting itself forgiveness doesn’t fix anything. All it does is condone terrible standards and terrible treatment of detainees. This isn’t surprising, though. It’s to be expected. The way our country handles prisoners and detainees seems designed to dehumanize them. It reduces them to tallies on roll call sheet whose only purpose is to serve their time as quietly as possible so they don’t make things too tough on those charged with caring for them.

The IG may be serving up a list of recommendations, but experience has shown — as detailed in the title of the report — nothing will come of it.

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Comments on “Inspector General: ICE Detention Facility Inspections Are A Joke”

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David says:

Can we process rejected asylum seekers into food?

That way we’ll get some more stringent and frequent inspection since the health of U.S. citizens is concerned.

Strictly speaking, as long as there is no terminal rejection, the health of U.S. citizens may also be at stake, but those are second-class citizens until their children make it as industry leaders since our own are too fat and lazy and entitled for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe that's the point

So what’s the effect of such news of the horrible treatment of illegal aliens — that maybe fewer people will choose to roll the dice and try their luck sneaking into the country illegally?

Taking it a step further, the United States could virtually eliminate all illegal border crossings simply by doing what Israel has a long history of doing, and shoot dead all border crossers on sight. The reason why such massive illegal “immigration” was never an issue in Israel (and this was before the Wall was built) is because almost no one dared try it (and certainly not with young children) because everyone knew that crossing the Israeli border would be an instant act of suicide.

ICE could shut down every one of those detention facilities cited in the IG report, as well as permanently end illegal border crossings practically overnight, simply by applying the age-old Israeli standard concerning border crossers,

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Maybe that's the point

Why is it considered Poe’s Law to apply the same standards that we (perhaps grudgingly) accept for Israel equally to other countries? Why do people (apparently) insist on allowing one standard for them while insisting on a completely different standard for everyone else?

There is also the “heavy hand” principle. Besides the obvious example of Israel, it’s a major reason why massive street protests did not routinely occur in the US-occupied countries of Iraq and Afghanistan (OK, well, a protest did happen once in Fallujah, but after the crowd was famously machine gunned into hamburger meat at the hands of US forces, no more street protests took place in that country)

David says:

Re: Maybe that's the point

If the American Natives had done a better job with the settlers, all this talk about keeping non-whites out of the U.S. would not have to happen.

With regard to “age-old Israeli standards”: the state of Israel in its modern incarnation is still younger than several of its inhabitants.

Not that its historic antecedents were above, say, slaughter ten thousands of people for not pronouncing “Shibboleth” correctly.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Maybe that's the point

“Taking it a step further, the United States could virtually eliminate all illegal border crossings simply by doing what Israel has a long history of doing, and shoot dead all border crossers on sight”

Several thoughts to that. First off, explain the Berlin wall being crossed so many times. If someone’s desperate enough to get somewhere, they will take all sorts of risks. The major reason why Israel’s policy has worked to a certain degree will be religious persecution and segregation as much as any military action (i.e. nobody’s going to trying and sneak into a place where they face more persecution than the place they’re leaving from). Compare that to people who already risk life, limb and liberty to come to the US, even from countries where the US caused the problems they’re running from in the first place.

Secondly, even that only works if you buy into the myth that the majority of illegal immigrants come into the US are getting there by sneaking across an unmanned part of the border. They don’t. While there is certainly a problem with such people, there are other ways that people get into the country. They’re not focussed upon as much by the right wing echo chamber because they’re not used as much by hispanics, but closing things off with a wall would not – even if effective, which is unlikely – prevent people from coming in via other means.

Thirdly, these kinds of actions put off other people who might wish to associate with your country – people may no longer wish to do business there, they may choose another holiday destination, they may choose to buy products from elsewhere, it may be the last straw on top of every other negative thing that your country has been found doing. The financial cost alone may be greater than any actual problems the illegal immigrants are causing.

Generally speaking, not only would what you state be horrifically inhumane, but it would be utterly ineffective

bob says:

Re: Maybe that's the point

No the point is that ICE is expected to do more with but restricted to the same budget and apathy towards illegal immigrants as they always have.

The real problem is instead of facing the reality of a limited budget, ICE is just not meeting regulations nor enforcing compliance of their contractors by only doing what they feel is the bare minimum to people they probably despise.

The Trump administration amplified this problem when they altered policy without securing increased funding first. Hence the fundamental problem of operating purely on executive orders instead of laws. Congress despite any other short comings control the purse. Unless new budgeting is appropriated ICE won’t have increased funding to fulfill the extra wishes of the executive branch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Maybe that's the point

by doing what Israel has a long history of doing, and shoot dead all border crossers on sight.

If that was accurate, it could be because there’s places to legally cross the border where thousands of Palestinians were allowed to cross every day to get to and from their jobs in Israel. There’s no immigration issue there, pretty much the only people who actually try to cross that border illegally are terrorists or smugglers.

(and this was before the Wall was built)

The Western Wall was started in 19 BC. Are you blaming the Romans for the immigration issue?

Anonymous Coward says:

“The way prisoners are routinely treated”
has nothing to do with the government, and everything to do with human psychology. Stop your intellectual laziness/dishonesty.

And whose fault is it that we’re overrun with people crossing our border, all of whom have to be processed for asylum, as that’s what they’ve been coached to say?
It’s the fault of everyone who votes against gaining effective control of our own border.
Everyone who votes against putting up a wall.
It’s your fault.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Spoken like a spirited indoctrinated acolyte.

We’re not being invaded. Migrants to the US are not an organized army. They also mean no malice, rather to add themselves to our society, and build on it and in it.

Migrants aren’t coached. If anything they’re being advised by word of mouth en route, and if they’re lucky it’s good advice. Immigration courts are not benched by judges but DoJ attorneys, and migrants get no access to council they cannot afford. Some of them don’t speak enough English to defend themselves. And some of them are four years old and expected to defend their rights. If they’re rich enough to get coaching, they have representation. Very few have that kind of money.

The wall is pretty useless. By far, most of our undocumented migrants have come in to the states by legal means and then overstay their visas. We exacerbate the problem by making travel both in and out of the nation more complex and dangerous, so it becomes super easy to just not go.

Also, the wall is not going to be tunnel-proof or even resistant to sabotage, even at $25 billion. We expect it to be breached or undermined inside weeks of being erected, at that point only a monument to US folly.

Imprisonment has everything to do with the government, especially considering our prisons are already impacted. The current administration chooses to confine people it doesn’t need to, and chooses to force people to wait (for years, sometimes decades) in squalid conditions. None of that is necessary. Migrants are yet another source of warm bodies we stuff into prisons as part of a giant racket.

It’s not about effective control of our border The wilds between the US and Mexico are a dangerous enough barrier and kill their fair share of migrants from the elements alone (part of the CBP’s job is to find walkers and provide them with supplies if they’re cold or starving.)

To the contrary it’s about being adequately humane. It’s about recognizing that these tired, poor and huddled masses are themselves human beings trying to escape circumstances miserable and dangerous enough to uproot their entire fucking lives and that should be enough for us to consider giving them refuge. The economic boost that they consistently provide as a consequence is (or should be) incidental. And yes, almost invariably, migrants provide a net increase to our GDP because they’re eager to work and build.

Anonymous Coward you have the internet now. You have a duty to self-inform and to confirm the crap your Nazi-youth propaganda manuals are telling you at their sources. And when the truth makes you uncomfortable, bite the bullet and adjust. Either do the work, or expect to be regarded by others as part of Trump’s instant-army of fools.

Anonymous Coward says:

does this treatment not remind people of a race from 80years ago and the way it treated others, namely Jews? i cannot believe that the USA is going down the same roads that actually took it into war in the 1940’s, ie, the inhuman treatment of others and doing as much financial harm as possible to other countries while doing whatever it wants to ensure it’s own companies and industries prosper. then add in the ridiculous sanctions and taxes it is using, expecting to get away with doing so without any of the countries it is discriminating against from doing the same in retaliation! this isn’t the way to make the planet safer, cleaner or more sustainable. it is a disaster waiting to happen!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I cannot believe that the USA is going down the same roads that actually took it into war in the 1940’s

I can.

Couple a whole bunch of uneducated simpletons with blame that they need to direct at someone – anyone – for their shitty lot in life and there you have it.

We have an overwhelming number of dumbfucks in the south and midwest blaming the people who pick their food as the reason that they’ve been stuck in trailer parks for generations.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: To be fair...

The US did its part in keeping those folk as simpletons by deprioritizing public education. Today, our schools are barely day-care centers (and stark ones at that). And for conservative districts, classes that taught critical thought were explicitly avoided.

So its a bit injudicious to blame them for behaving as the state taught them to behave. It seems we chose to raise schoolyards of Hitler Youth. So we can’t really be surprised that they salute snappily to the rise of fascism.

David says:

Re: Re:

does this treatment not remind people of a race from 80years ago and the way it treated others, namely Jews? i cannot believe that the USA is going down the same roads that actually took it into war in the 1940’s, ie, the inhuman treatment of others

Uh, come off it. Antisemitism was all the rage in the U.S., just take a look at Henry Ford’s writings. Nobody batted an eye at Hitler persecuting the Jews and rounding them up into camps.

Problem was that Hitler also declared war against everybody, so one had to actually fight or get assimilated. And for rallying the troups, considering the Jewish fate was sort of helpful (previously, ships with Jewish refugees were shown the door). In particular for feeling good after the war, when the pure level of atrocities one had been prepared to ignore previously were becoming known.

It’s not like anybody was in favor of Jews, particularly in Europe, previously. Poor folks (and make no mistake: the post-war reparations and inflation created a lot more of those in Germany after WWI ended) were nowhere fond of monetary and legal professions, professions that Jews were disproportionally occupying since they had been banned from guilds and "honorable professions" for millennia of their history.

So after the war people realized where letting something like antisemitism run rampant leads and it fell out of favor and committing to it was much less likely to draw a sympathetic crowd. So everybody had been against it after the fact since basically forever.

Which is why today is completely different: since we all are ingrained opponents to whatever happened in the past, what happens these days simply cannot be compared to history.

After all, we are not wearing brown shirts now, are we?

bob says:

Re: Re: Re:

Problem was that Hitler also declared war against everybody, so one had to actually fight or get assimilated.

What do you think Trump is doing. Going to war with everyone else. Wars are fought both with guns and financial pressure. Not even including Trump’s idiotic idea of a space force to militarize space. He has said that other countries are our enemy because he erroneously thinks we have a trade deficit with everyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Catch and release will solve the problem.

Catch them and release them right back in to Mexico.

Problem solved. No unlawful immigrants to house, so no camps needed.

Let Mexico deal with the issue and see how humane they are towards these people.

Mexico seems to give everybody crossing their southern border a free pass as long as they keep going north.

So let them handle it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NOW do we believe it's the same old story?

Even if Zombie Hitler literally rose from the grave, got elected in Germany using the swastika as his emblem and "Blood and Soil" as his slogan, and started calling to round up the Jews, people would still argue that it’s not the same, because it’s not technically the same German Nazi Party that got elected in the 1930s.

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