Posted by: Chuck | September 14, 2013

Immigration officials to limit solitary confinement after human rights outcry

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will limit its use of solitary confinement for the tens of thousands of immigrants in custody after complaints from human rights organizations that the punishment was damaging detainees’ mental health. ICE announced this week that punitive solitary confinement should be “used only as a last resort” with detainees who have special disabilities such as mental illness. Holding detainees in isolation for more than two weeks at a time — the point at which mental health experts say irreparable mental harm might be done to a person — should be avoided if possible, the new policy also states. As of March, about 300 of the approximately 30,000 immigrants in the sprawling detention system were held in solitary every day, according to a review by The New York Times. Dozens were held for periods of longer than two months. Under the new policy, ICE officials must justify in writing why they are holding people in isolation for longer than two weeks. (The previous time frame was a month.) The policy also calls for the formation of a subcommittee to make sure immigrants aren’t being held in isolation excessively. Prisons and detention centers that segregate some detainees more than others will be subject to review.

The policy falls far short of ending the practice of isolation altogether, which is what criminal justice and human rights groups have called for. The nonprofit National Immigrant Justice Center wrote in a report released last year that solitary confinement is inappropriately punitive for immigrant detainees, most of whom are not serving criminal sentences. Most detainees are being held to ensure they attend their court date and are eventually deported, not to punish them, the groups argue. Unlike criminal defendants, immigrant detainees are also not appointed defense lawyers by the state, which means it can be difficult for them to appeal their treatment. (Source: Yahoo News 9/5/13)




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