Earlier this month, a report was issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detailing the results of unannounced inspections of 4 select ICE facilities in 2019. One of those facilities is the Baker County Detention Center, located just west of Jacksonville, Florida.
Facilities detaining immigrants for ICE must follow Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS). Baker follows the 2000 standards, the oldest version.
The report found significant violations of the detention standards including:
- Segregation practices which infringed on detainee rights. “Baker logged segregated detainee activities so poorly, it was difficult to know whether detainees received meals, were allowed recreation or visitors, or were allowed showers.”
- Detainee grievances were completely unresponded to or not timely responded to. Of 180 communications submitted by detainees at Baker from February 2019 to July 2019, 45 did not meet the 72-hour response requirement, with 27 taking 10 days or longer to receive any response.
- Allegations of Verbal abuse by staff
- Detainee risk classification errors which place detainees at risk of physical and psychological harm, and
- Living conditions which violate ICE’s own set standards. At Baker they observed “showers with inoperable hot water buttons…faucets and showers that did not work properly, resulting in water leaking on the floor or spraying all over the immediate area.” Images in the report show that Baker detainees even had to rig faucets with plastic straws in order to have an operable sink.
The report concluded that the noncompliance with detention standards of care at the 4 facilities “inhibit the facilities’ ability to establish environments that protect the rights, health, and safety of detainees.”
The findings were addressed to ICE which agreed with the report recommendations and described corrective actions to address the issues. Upon ICE’s indicating they would address the issues, the OIG considers their recommendations “resolved and open.”
This type of internal policing leaves no real way of knowing if the appropriate corrective measures were taken, or if the documented deplorable conditions remain unchanged at these facilities.
The report confirms what our clients have reported to us for years. Immigration detention lacks effective oversight, and that despite immigration detention being civil and non-punitive, immigrant detention centers like Baker hold detainees in dangerous and inhumane conditions. With all of the available and cost-effective alternatives to detention which exist, immigration detention centers like Baker, unable to safely house immigrant detainees, must be shut down.