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Jails and Jumpsuits: Immigrant Detention 2011

Jails and Jumpsuits: Immigrant Detention 2011

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Published by Patricia Dillon
Human Rights First Report Immigrant Detention
Human Rights First Report Immigrant Detention

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Patricia Dillon on Dec 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In 2009, DHS not only committed to making a shift to
non-penal detention conditions for ICE detainees, but
also to make improvements to the immigration detention
system more broadly. These commitments followed years
of reports—by governmental bodies, non-governmental
organizations, and the media—documenting serious
problems in the detention system, including inadequate
medical and mental health treatment, detainee deaths in
custody, excessive transfers undermining access to legal
counsel and families, and noncompliance with existing

ICE’s reform announcements promised
“improved medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal
prudence, and ICE oversight” in the immigration
detention system.172

Over the past two years, ICE has taken a number of
significant steps toward improving the existing detention

The agency has centralized management of all
contracts in a single office and reduced the number of
facilities from 341 to 254. It launched an online detainee
locator that allows family and legal counsel to find out
where an individual is being held, and created a new
internal policy to systematize reporting of detainee
deaths in ICE custody. It also streamlined the process for
detainee health care treatment authorizations and
modified the medical benefits package for ICE detainees
to provide for treatment for serious, non-emergency
medical needs.174

ICE also developed a risk classification assessment tool
for its officers to use to systematize detainee release
and/or custody classification decisions and improve
oversight of these decisions, addressing a major
management gap in the detention system. It revised its
parole guidance so that detained asylum seekers who
pass credible fear screening interviews after arrival are
automatically assessed for potential parole eligibility. ICE
statistics show that this new guidance has significantly
increased the number of asylum seekers assessed for
parole, and that the release rate under the new guidance
has remained within 9 percent of the release rate in
2009, prior to the new guidance. 175

This new guidance

will need to be codified into regulations to ensure lasting

The agency has hired and trained 42 detention service
managers to provide full-time onsite monitoring of the
largest immigration detention facilities, and these
monitors report back to headquarters in Washington. It
has developed an access policy to permit
nongovernmental organization representatives to tour
detention facilities and speak with detainees more easily,
and a detainee transfer policy that, when implemented, is
intended to systematize transfer practices. ICE has also
taken steps it says will reduce detainee transfers– by
geographically re-aligning detention “capacity” and
detention “need” (though ICE has not publicly committed
to closing existing facilities as it makes plans to open new
ones). The ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning—
created to direct the reform efforts—has also improved
transparency and communication, regularly meeting with
nongovernmental organizations that work with detained
asylum seekers and other immigrants, as well as with
other stakeholders in the detention system.

Finally, in June 2011, ICE issued new guidance on the
use of prosecutorial discretion by ICE personnel,176


may impact detention and release decisions. In August
2011, the Administration also announced plans to review
300,000 cases in removal proceedings, including
detained cases, and administratively close the cases of
low-priority individuals, which has the potential to reduce
the backlog of cases in immigration courts and improve
case processing times.177

These last two new policies
may change the composition of the detained
population—though they do not change the need for
reform of conditions.

These are all important and welcome improvements to
policy and practice that should exist for any system that
detains or incarcerates people, whether correctional or
civil in nature.

Jails and Jumpsuits 25

Human Rights First

Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, holds 450 ICE detainees.

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