August 25, 2010

Recommendations

To the Department of Homeland Security

  • Institute legally binding detention standards applicable across all types of immigration detention facilities.  Issue regulations with standards for conditions of detention in ICE custody, so that the standards have the force of law.
  • Appoint a Prison Rape Elimination Act coordinator. Augment the capacity of the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties by establishing a position dedicated to implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. One function of such a position would be to coordinate trainings for ICE headquarters, field office, and detention facility staff.
  • Publish information on reported incidents of sexual assault.  DHS should also cooperate with the Bureau of Justice Statistics on research into the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse, and make the findings publicly available.

To Immigration and Customs Enforcement

  • Ensure that reports of sexual abuse are thoroughly investigated. Investigations should include an inquiry into the actions or failures to act by all ICE employees and contractors responsible for that facility. Without compromising victim confidentiality, the results and progress of investigations should be made public. ICE should cooperate with the Department of Justice and law enforcement authorities to ensure that criminal sanctions are pursued where appropriate.
  • Expedite implementation of the detention standard on sexual assault and abuse prevention and intervention across all facilities holding ICE detainees. Special attention should be given to the swift implementation of the detention standard on sexual assault and abuse prevention and intervention. The standard was first included in the 2008 Performance Based National Detention Standards. However, those standards have not been put into effect across all facilities, meaning that some facilities have no standards at all on this issue. The 2008 standard has since been revised, but the new version has not been released publicly. ICE should expedite the publication and implementation of the new standard.
  • Improve the monitoring of facility compliance with detention standards. Monitoring should be carried out by multiple independent, nongovernmental organizations that do not contract with ICE for other services. Contracts for monitoring should be non-renewable to eliminate incentives for biased reviews. The monitoring should include random inspections with unlimited access to the facility and should allow for detainees to speak privately with monitors during inspections. The monitors’ findings should be made public.
  • Require detention centers to facilitate on-site access for local community providers of support services for sexual assault survivors. Wherever a willing, reputable community provider of services to sexual assault survivors is available for partnership, facilities should be required to coordinate with the provider on prevention and response programs, including arranging for the provider to have access to the facility for information sessions and consultations with the detainee population.
  • Standardize procedures for ensuring access to appropriate immigration relief and release from detention for victims and witnesses. Formal procedures should be developed to ensure detainees are apprised of and given access to avenues of immigration relief, such as the U- and T-visas, which allow victims of crime and of trafficking, respectively, temporary leave to stay and cooperate in the investigation of the crimes, with the potential to later adjust to permanent status. This should happen as a matter of course on taking someone into custody and in particular following allegations of abuse. Formal procedures should also be developed to prevent deportation of potential victims and witnesses, and to explore possibilities for their release. ICE should create a publically available U-visa certification policy that clarifies a process for certification and how an individual would know she or he is eligible.
  • Eliminate cross-gender searches. Ensure that the recently announced change to prohibit guards from conducting cross-gender body searches is included in the final revised standard.
  • Require reasonable suspicion for pat searches on detainees within detention facilities. After a detainee has been searched upon admission to a facility, reasonable suspicion should be required to justify additional intrusions on their privacy.
  • Ensure that detainees are fully informed about their rights with respect to sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. This should include amending the detainee handbook to include definitions of sexual abuse and sexual harassment so that the prohibition on sexual contact between guards and detainees is clear. Handbooks and complaint procedures at all facilities should be translated into multiple languages.
  • Institute procedures for ensuring the safety of detainees at a heightened risk of abuse. Procedures should address how to determine the safest housing assignments for detainees at heightened risk of abuse, including detainees with mental disabilities and mentally ill detainees, especially those on medication.
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical treatment for survivors of assault. Whether detainees are treated inside or outside the facility for sexual assault, they should have access to the full range of treatment options, including for sexually transmitted diseases and emergency contraception.

To the Department of Justice

  • Issue regulations based on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s recommendations without delay. PREA called for DOJ to propose regulations on prison rape within one year of receiving the recommended standards from the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. That year has passed with no regulations.
  • Review the department’s experience in prosecuting sexual assault and abuse in immigration detention. In conjunction with ICE, conduct a review of reported cases of sexual assault and abuse to identify any procedural obstacles that have inhibited the prosecution of perpetrators of abuse.

To the US Congress

  • Demand disclosure of ICE records related to sexual assault, abuse, and harassment in detention. Require ICE to produce records detailing the number of reports of such misconduct received through multiple possible channels (the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, the DHS Office of Inspector General, and the Joint Intake Center, among others) and the action taken in response to these reports.
  • Pass legislation setting standards. Write into law minimum standards for conditions at all types of immigration detention facilities nationwide.