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Immigration rights activists have exposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) methods which included using solitary confinement in detention facilities as extreme measures. An earlier report severely criticized ICE saying the methods of isolation are excessive and harmful to detainees. Now, ICE issued new guidance on the use of solitary confinement in these detention facilities.
Over 30,000 detainees and over 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement within the nation’s 50 largest detention centers, which are overseen by ICE. While solitary confinement is one of the least used and most expensive forms, The New York Times reported that nearly half of immigrant detainees held in solitary confinement are isolated for 15 days or more. Psychiatric experts relay that more than 15 days creates a risk of severe mental harm. Immigrants are placed in isolation for breaking rules, getting into fights or for their own protection if they are gay or mentally ill. However, experts still say there should be a more humane method of keeping immigrants locked up that will not threaten their sanity.
The new ICE guidance clarifies that isolation is to be reserved only for necessary cases. It also establishes detailed procedures requiring the review and reporting of cases when isolation is used. The oversight is required when isolation is used for more than 14 days and when detainees have issues such as health problems or other victimizations. This prevents the abuse of power by any employee and also assigns accountability to those in charge.
Solitary confinement remains as a disciplinary measure only when necessary and should be administered in a consistent and non-arbitrary manner. Furthermore, for detainees who are isolated because they are disabled, mentally ill or at risk for suicide, directors must notify health care specialists to ensure they receive proper medical treatment in their case and no harm is caused. Solitary confinement has had devastating effects on many prisoners over years. For many detained immigrants, they do not have representation or any legal aid which makes it difficult for someone to be held accountable for their actions. These new procedures are an important step in the right direction to limit the use of solitary confinement.
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