An investigation has found nooses in cells of US immigration detention centres with staff serving spoiled food and wrongly putting people in isolation.
Homeland security inspectors visited four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) centres and described “egregious violations” of standards at two of them including inadequate medical care.
Between May and November 2018, investigators arrived unannounced at Adelanto ICE Processing Centre in California, LaSalle ICE Processing Centre in Louisiana, Aurora ICE Processing Centre in Colorado and Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey.
The first three are privately run by GEO Group; together the four sites can hold up to 4,981 people.
The worst conditions, constituting “immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards” were encountered at Adelanto and Essex County.
“At Adelanto, lunch meat and cheese were mixed and stored uncovered in large walk-in refrigerators; lunch meat was also unwrapped and unlabeled; chicken smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled; and food in the freezer was expired,” inspectors said.
They added: “The inspection at the Adelanto facility revealed significant health and safety risks, including nooses in detainee cells, improper and overly restrictive segregation, and inadequate detainee medical care.
“At the Essex facility, we found unreported security incidents, food safety issues, and facility conditions that endanger detainee health.”
Food handling at Essex was so poor the kitchen manager was replaced during the inspection. “Open packages of raw chicken leaked blood all over refrigeration units ... lunch meat was slimy, foul-smelling and appeared to be spoiled; and mouldy bread was stored in the refrigerator.”
Use of segregation cells was found to break ICE rules in three centres.
Investigators wrote: “Our spot inspections of the Adelanto, Essex, and Aurora facilities identified serious issues with the administrative and disciplinary segregation of detainees. Two facilities prematurely placed detainees in disciplinary segregation.
“All three facilities placed detainees in disciplinary segregation in restraints when outside their cells. One facility strip-searched detainees entering segregation. Two facilities did not provide detainees in segregation the required recreation time or time outside cells.”
It came as Donald Trump’s administration confronted a worsening problem at the US-Mexico border, where a dramatic increase in the number of Central American migrants has been recorded.
While most people arriving there are families who cannot be easily returned to their home countries, the number of single adults is also on the rise.
Immigration officials are detaining an increasing number of single adults – currently totalling some 52,000 – but are funded for only 45,000. The administration has asked for an extra $4.5bn (£3.5bn) to fund more bed space.
Last month, Border Patrol agents made 132,887 apprehensions, the figure topping 100,000 for the first time since April 2007 and setting a record with 84,542 adults and children taken into custody.
A further 11,507 were children travelling alone, and 36,838 were single adults.
ICE officials said they were working to ensure all facilities complied with standards. ”The safety, rights and health of detainees in ICE’s care are paramount,” the agency’s chief financial officer, Stephen Roncone, wrote to inspectors.
A GEO Group spokesman said in a statement to The Independent: “The findings identified in this report pertaining to GEO-operated facilities were swiftly corrected last year.
“We take seriously any shortcomings in our delivery of consistent, high-quality care, taking immediate action as needed.
“We always strive to provide culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments that meet the needs of the individuals in the care of federal immigration authorities.”
Additional reporting by AP
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