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US senators seeking information about ICE’s use of excessive solitary confinement

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The US Office of the Inspector General’s recent report found US Immigration and Customs Enforcement nees to improve its oversight of solitary confinement at its facilities. A cell used for solitary confinement at the ICE detention center in Houston. Source: OIG Report

US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaiʻi and seven other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are requesting the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide information on the use of solitary confinement in its facilities.

The letter to Acting Director Tae Johnson, Hirono cited a concerning recent recent report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General titled: “ICE Needs to Improve Its Oversight of Segregation Use in Detention Facilities.”

The findings of the Inspector General questions ICE’s compliance with internal policies meant to reduce the unnecessary use of solitary confinement, “which can cause irreparable harm to individuals in ICE custody — including those suffering from mental illness and other medical conditions,” the senators wrote.


The letter also was signed by senators Dick Durbin (IL), Patrick Leahy (VT), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Christopher Coons (DE), Cory Booker (NJ) and Alex Padilla (CA).

The Inspector General’s investigation found a number of troubling failures regarding ICE’s oversight of two types of solitary confinement that involve placing detainees in isolated holding cells for as long as 22 to 24 hours a day with limited human contact. 

The report also revealed ICE lacked clear and consistent policies for the use of solitary confinement — stating “ICE’s own reporting policy prevents transparency with Congress and the public about the prevalence of segregation use.”


The report said in one sample of detention files for persons placed in solitary from 2015 through 2019, there was no evidence that ICE considered alternatives in 342 of 474 cases.

The Senators requested answers to questions on ICE’s use of solitary confinement; the scope of its failure to conduct adequate oversight; and the consequences for the health and safety of detainees.

The letter is available here.


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