List of Local Jails Investigated
The findings in this report are based on Human Rights Watch site visits and interviews with more than 200 INS detainees held at the following fourteen local jails:
Berks County Prison, Leesport, Pennsylvania
Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center, Winchester, Virginia
Denton County Jail, Denton, Texas
DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois
Euless City Jail, Euless, Texas
Fort Lauderdale City Jail, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hillsborough County Jail, Tampa, Florida
Howard County Detention Center, Jessup, Maryland
Liberty County Jail, Liberty Texas
Manatee County Jail, Bradenton, Florida
Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana
Pike County Jail, Hawley, Pennsylvania
Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center, Alexandria, Louisiana
Vermilion Parish Jail, Abbeville, Louisiana
Human Rights Watch also interviewed detainees by person or by telephone and received letters from about one hundred INS detainees who were being held, or had previously been held, at the following thirty-five jails:
Kern County-Lerdo Facility, Bakersfield, California
Santa Ana Jail, Santa Ana, California
Yuba County Jail, Marysville, California
Corrections Corporation of America Bay County Jail Annex, Panama City, Florida
Jackson County Correctional Facility, Marianna, Florida
Monroe County Detention Center, Key West, Florida
Ford County Correctional Facility, Paxton, Illinois
Avoyelles Parish Prison, Marksville, Louisiana
South Louisiana Correction Center, Basil, Louisiana
Beauregard Parish Jail, DeRidder, Louisiana
Calcasieu Correctional Center, Lake Charles, Louisiana
St. Martin Parish Correctional Center, St. Martinville, Louisiana
Tangipahoa Parish Jail, Amite, Louisiana
Washington Correctional Institute, Angie, Louisiana
St. Mary's County Detention Center, Leonardtown, Maryland
North Las Vegas Detention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Hillsborough County Dept. of Corrections, Manchester, New Hampshire
Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections, Boscawen, New Hampshire
Mercer County Detention Center, Trenton, New Jersey
Tillery Correctional Center, Tillery, North Carolina
Carter County Detention Center, Ardmore, Oklahoma
Lehigh County Prison, Lehigh, Pennsylvania
Snyder County Prison, Selinsgroove, Pennsylvania
State Regional Correctional Facility, Mercer, Pennsylvania
York County Prison, York, Pennsylvania
Dallas County Jail, Dallas, Texas
Nacogdoches County Jail, Nacogdoches, Texas
Reeves County Detention Center, Pecos, Texas
Victoria County Jail, Victoria, Texas
Wharton County Jail, Wharton, Texas
Piedmont Regional Jail, Piedmont, Virginia
Rappahannock Security Center, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Riverside Jail, Hopewell, Virginia
Virginia Beach Correctional Facility, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Human Rights Watch Access
The lack of consistent responses to Human Rights Watch's requests to gain access to local jail facilities was remarkable, though predictable, given the lack of uniformity in the INS/jail arrangements around the country. The obstacles we faced in obtaining access to local jails was at times farcical, as bureaucrats from the INS in Washington D.C., local district directors, and jail officials passed our requests from office to office with no agency taking ultimate responsibility for either allowing or denying us access.
Using a list of jails generated by the INS in response to the Kattola litigation (see Legal Section), Human Rights Watch made direct requests to local sheriffs' offices to tour the county jails and interview INS detainees housed in their facilities. In some instances, this approach was quite productive, and we received a tour of the facility and interviewed freely and privately any INS detainees who were willing speak with Human Rights Watch researchers. Jail officials at Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center in Virginia, Denton County Jail, Euless City Jail, and Liberty County Jail in Texas, Hillsborough County Jail in Florida and Vermilion Parish Jail and Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center in Louisiana, were very helpful and gave Human Rights Watch full access to their facilities after our first request.
On other occasions, Human Rights Watch asked the INS headquarters or the local district offices to assist us in gaining access to jails holding their detainees; this approach led to limited success. When we began our research in 1997, several local jails and INS officials told Human Rights Watch that our access requests had been denied because the Kattola class action lawsuit was in the discovery stage. This was the explanation, even though Human Rights Watch was not involved in the litigation in any way. Eventually, the INS's Office of Immigration Litigation intervened at our request and issued a specific directive that Human Rights Watch was not to be barred because of the litigation. Other requests for the INS's assistance in gaining access were less successful.
For example, in Louisiana, sheriffs and local jail officials at Orleans Parish Prison, Avoyelles Parish Prison and St. Martin Parish Correctional Center denied Human Rights Watch's request to tour their facilities and interview INS detainees. At Orleans Parish Prison, Human Rights Watch was told that only Sheriff Charles C. Foti could approve a tour, but he never responded directly to us. The director of federal prisoners at the jail, Mary Baldwin Kennedy, told Human Rights Watch that the only way we would be allowed to visit INS detainees who had written to us was to be placed on their visitation lists, after which we would be allowed a fifteen-minute visit. But in order to get on a detainee's visitation list, a visitor had to have a valid Louisiana identification card and a Louisiana address that matched the address on the identification document. This was clearly not possible for Human Rights Watch researchers. We were also told that any lawyer wishing to visit a detainee would need to show that the individual was not already represented and, if already represented, the detainee would need to state that he or she were considering changing attorneys.108 The warden of the House of Detention, one of many buildings of the Orleans Parish Prison system, told Human Rights Watch that if we were criminal lawyers wanting to visit a criminal inmate, a legal visit would be no problem, but since we were requesting a legal visit with INS detainees, our request was denied.109
Jail officials at Avoyelles Parish Prison initially told Human Rights Watch that local INS officials would have to give their consent before we would be allowed to the tour the jail and speak with detainees. Human Rights Watchthen contacted the officer-in-charge of Oakdale who told us that the INS had no objection to our visit and that she would notify officials at Avoyelles Parish Prison to that effect.110 But, she said, the ultimate decision "was up to the jails and their local rules."111 Jail officials denied Human Rights Watch's request. Human Rights Watch researchers then called the warden of the jail, who said we could visit during regular visitation hours. But when Human Rights Watch researchers identified themselves upon arriving at the jail during public visitation hours, a jail official asked us to speak with him in a private office where he angrily, and incorrectly, accused Human Rights Watch of trying to "enter through the back door" in an effort to disobey the jail's decision to deny us access.112
A direct request by Human Rights Watch for access assistance to the then-district director for New Orleans, John Caplinger, proved what had already become evident: despite the federal dollars that INS contracts generated for the local parish economies, local sheriffs wielded all control. Caplinger's conversations with the sheriffs of Avoyelles and Orleans Parish stating that the INS had no objection to Human Rights Watch's interviewing INS detainees, resulted only in the assertion by both sheriffs that they controlled access to their own facilities, regardless of the presence of INS detainees.113 Caplinger eventually brought several INS detainees held at Orleans Parish Prison to the INS District office to be interviewed privately by Human Rights Watch, but he refused to insist that either Orleans or Avoyelles Parish officials allow us access to jails to interview INS detainees.
York County Prison and Pike County Jail in Pennsylvania and Dallas County Jail in Texas flatly denied Human Rights Watch requests for access. The INS district director in Philadelphia, Theodore Nordmark, was unwilling to help Human Rights Watch gain access to local jails in his district holding INS detainees. At Howard County Detention Center in Maryland, jail officials agreed to allow Human Rights Watch to visit the jail and interview INS detainees if the INS would give its permission. INS officials in the Baltimore district office agreed, but when Human Rights Watch arrived at the jail, an INS officer dispatched to meet us said that the jail officials could give us a tour of the facility, if they wanted to, but that we would not be allowed to interview detainees.
Other jails simply provided access as they saw fit. At Fort Lauderdale City Jail, Human Rights Watch was not allowed to interview detainees but was given an extensive tour of the facility. In denying the request for interviews, the jail official in charge told Human Rights Watch, "[E]very time someone comes to talk to [the detainees], they leave and the detainees start saying they don't want to be here. I don't want my staff being harassed and bothered by Immigration coming up here. Groups that visit start asking for these special conditions like a special law library."114
Commingling INS Detainees with Local Jail Populations
Here, our lives are in constant danger where there is no classification of inmates. I'm mixed
with murderers, sexual molesters, armed robbers, and the mentally disturbed.
-INS detainee held in Ayovelles Parish Prison, Louisiana115
INS detainees are not serving criminal sentences, they are not awaiting a criminal trial, and administrative detention is not punishment. But when the INS contracts with local jails to hold detainees, the agency does not require that its administrative detainees be held separately from the general criminal population. The result is that very often, INS detainees may share living quarters and cells where they sleep with criminal inmates who may be awaiting trial for serious, even capital, crimes. Human Rights Watch found that female INS detainees were even more likely than men to be commingled with accused or convicted criminal inmates in local jails.116
International standards for the treatment of detainees require that different categories of prisoners should be held in "separate institutions or parts of institutions according to criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of treatment."117 For example, untried prisoners should be kept separately from convicted prisoners, and civil prisoners should be separated from those serving time for a criminal offense.
Asylum seekers in detention deserve special protection. Although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recommended that asylum seekers not be detained as a general rule, it has also been explicit that asylum seekers should be segregated from convicted criminals when detained.118 Even within INS populations, asylum seekers should be kept separately from detainees who have previous criminal records.119 Furthermore, Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits governments from punishing asylum seekers who arrive without documentation.
Commingling the local inmate and INS detainee populations reinforces the misconception that INS detainees ought to be treated exactly the same as local inmates regardless of their special needs as immigration detainees. An INS spokesman, Russ Bergeron, has publicly stated that INS detainees "will not be placed in the same cell as criminaldetainees" and that "generally speaking...administrative detainees are not placed in maximum security facilities."120 Human Rights Watch, in the course of our research found that this was inaccurate. In the facilities we researched, Human Rights Watch found that INS detainees frequently shared living space with local inmates and in some instances shared cells with them.
The INS has also repeatedly asserted that even if detainees with criminal convictions in their backgrounds are sometimes housed with local inmates, those without criminal backgrounds are not. This assertion is untrue. For example, in Denton County Jail in Texas, Human Rights Watch interviewed a Honduran detainee who was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol Brownsville, Texas before being sent to Dallas. He stated that he had never been convicted of a crime, yet the area of the jail in which he lived held forty-eight men who slept in two-person cells, less than ten of whom were INS detainees, the rest being local inmates.121 We found many detainees in similar circumstances.
Even though they are administratively detained, some jails categorize INS detainees as maximum security prisoners based on their immigration status alone, because they are deemed by jail officials to automatically constitute a flight risk. Other jails use whatever categorization rules they deem appropriate. For example, at Vermilion Parish Jail in Louisiana, where INS detainees are mixed with criminal inmates, the warden defined his classification system as "[y]ou just get a gut feeling."122 At Liberty County Jail in Texas, all inmates, including INS detainees, are classified using Texas Jail Standards. "This allows us to mix federal detainees with the local population. If we did not classify them this way, INS detainees would have to be held separately."123
In the facilities visited by Human Rights Watch where mixing of INS and local inmate populations took place, INS detainees are isolated, through language and detention status. Human Rights Watch interviewed An Mei Weng, a nineteen year-old Chinese asylum seeker at Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Correctional Facility in Virginia, who was housed in an open dormitory-style building with approximately ten female county inmates. The young woman, who speaks very little English, relied on male Chinese INS detainees held in other parts of the jail to translate for her. Isolated linguistically and culturally as the sole INS detainee in the dorm, she admitted to Human Rights Watch that she was afraid of the other inmates with whom she was held.124
Whether commingling takes place at a local facility is ultimately up to the jail officials who make decisions as they see fit. A letter from INS detainee Amara Shahid Kargbo to Human Rights Watch explained the commingling situation in St. Mary's County Detention Center in Maryland:
[The INS] has agreed with the St. Mary's County authorities to transfer all the INS female detainees from Wicomoco County [Maryland] to this place. So far, six INS female detainees have arrived. However, both female INS detainees and the local county female inmates areheld together in section E. Also, the male INS detainees are now held together in the same section with the local county inmates. This is about to cause a very serious problem.125
Kargbo wrote that the assistant director of the detention center told him that commingling was taking place (male INS detainees were previously held separately) because there was no longer enough room for the country prisoners. "Some conflict is already brewing up."126
Commingling of local inmate populations and INS detainees can put detainees at serious physical risk. J. Anwar, a Pakistani detainee held in St. Martin Parish Correctional Center in Louisiana, had his jaw broken and teeth knocked out when a criminal inmate attacked him on May 3, 1998 in the living quarters they shared.127 Although the living area was supposedly monitored by correctional officers, Anwar told Human Rights Watch that no officer appeared until, already injured, he banged loudly on the door.
Anwar had informed the INS many times that he believed he was in physical danger at the jail. Human Rights Watch also made requests to the INS on Anwar's behalf, asking that he be transferred to another facility several months before the attack that left him with a broken jaw and other injuries. Despite several calls and letters to the New Orleans district office from Human Rights Watch and from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network office in Oakdale, Louisiana, Anwar was still held at St. Martin Parish Correctional Center at the time of this writing and has once again been returned to a commingled living area, sometimes sharing a cell with a local inmate.
Some jails do separate INS detainees from the local inmate populations, but when they do, detainees with previous criminal convictions are treated more like criminals than administrative detainees. In Manatee County Jail in Florida, which has a downtown facility and a central jail, all INS detainees were held separately from local inmates in a separate facility. INS detainees with previous criminal convictions were held in a separate maximum security jail, rather than at the all-INS detainee facility downtown. "[INS detainees with previous criminal convictions] are more demanding and harder to handle," the Corrections Bureau chief told Human Rights Watch. "They get victims and take advantage of them. The others are kind and meek."128
Insufficient jail staffing also contributes to unsafe environments in the jails when INS and local inmates are commingled. In Dallas County Jail in Texas, detainee José Reyes told Human Rights Watch that jail officials monitored the living areas only five or six times in a twenty-four-hour period. Because of the lack of supervision, "there have been fights," said Reyes, "but the officials want to see blood before they intervene. If the officers came around more or if there were cameras, there would be less problems."129
I am locked in a cage twenty-four hours a day. The food is very little. There is no light in my cell. There is no law library. The place is filthy. It looks like a dog pound.
-INS detainee in Beauregard Parish Detention Center, Louisiana130
International standards call for humane treatment of detainees.131 Even such a basic requirement is often impossible for the INS to guarantee when it relies on local jails to house its detainees yet makes no contractual demands that the facilities are nationally or locally accredited or meet necessary conditions of confinement. Many of the hundreds of local jails used by the INS, some built as long ago as 1910, subject detainees to inadequate and sometimes inhumane living conditions that include overcrowding, little or no outdoor exercise, insufficient clothing, limited hygiene products, and insufficient quantities of food.
Local jails are designed to hold accused and convicted criminals on a short-term basis and therefore usually do not offer educational programs or work opportunities, leaving detainees absolutely idle for months or years at a time. Libraries are limited or non-existent, and few facilities have reading materials in the languages of the detainees. Detainee complaints about the physical environment of jails range from cigarette smoke-filled air, to cockroaches and vermin sharing their cells.
The physical environments of the jails used by the INS vary in management, cleanliness, and size. For example, some jails adhere to a "direct supervision" corrections approach whereby a jail officer is present in the living area twenty-four-hours a day. Other jails monitor inmates by video camera and speak to them through microphones, while in other facilities, inmates are visited by correctional officers infrequently.
But jails, new and old, have one thing in common: they are designed to control and contain accused or convicted criminal populations for limited periods. As a result, even the cleanest, newest jails subject detainees to hours of mandatory lockdown; house people in small, crowded spaces; punish people for failure to understand rigid jails rules; and, in general, are inappropriate places to hold administrative detainees, especially asylum seekers.
One of the most inappropriate jail arrangements Human Rights Watch encountered during the course of our research was in the Chicago INS district.132 Because there are no INS-run, or privately contracted for-profit detention centers within the district, all detainees must be held in city and county jails. The majority of INS detainees are held in DuPage County Jail, outside Chicago, but a smaller number of detainees are shipped back and forth daily from an INS building to tiny city jails. As part of this arrangement, a few dozen detainees are sent each afternoon to city jails where they spend the nights and weekends. Each morning they are retrieved and spend each weekday until 3:00 p.m. in large, windowless seating areas at an INS facility called the Broadview Service Staging Area.133
According to detainees, the city jails are little more than police lock-ups, and therefore, have no on-site medical units, no kitchens, no shower facilities and no libraries, nor do they offer outside recreational time. Detainees are not allowed visits from their friends or family and, in some jails, are prohibited from making telephone calls, including to legal counsel.
Fabio Díaz, an INS detainee from the Dominican Republic, was held in Stone Park City Jail in December 1996. He described the conditions as follows:
The jail had no heat and it was thirty-five degrees outside. Six INS detainees were put in a room originally meant for two people - another room meant for two had four people in it. The room is never cleaned, and there are no clean sheets. One time I purposely spilled water on my blanket so that I could get one that didn't stink so badly.
From Friday to Monday we can't shower. We are just in our cells all weekend long. We are not allowed to bring any property, and there is no radio, no TV, no games, no books.134
When Díaz asked jails officials for a grievance form to complain about the conditions, he told Human Rights Watch that he was told that Stone Park City Jail did not have grievance forms.
Worst of all, the INS detainees that are most likely to be placed in the city jails each night were ill or disabled detainees that the larger county jails would not house, and asylum seekers waiting for credible-fear interviews According to the INS, DuPage County Jail would not accept detainees who were taking heart medication, disabled, or who had active tuberculosis. As a result, one blind Jamaican detainee was held in the city jail arrangement for eight months.135 Oscar Flores Guzmán, a Mexican detainee interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the Broadview Service Staging Area, was on crutches and had a cast on his leg because of torn ligaments in his knee. "It is very hard for me to have to go back and forth between the jail and Broadview every day," he told Human Rights Watch, "[I]ts hardclimbing in and out of the van."136 Guzmán also said that although Western Springs City Jail, where he was being held, was clean and not overcrowded, correctional officers there only check on the detainees once an hour, making it difficult to get their attention when detainees have particular needs or requests. Fabio Díaz reported that when he was held at Western Springs City Jail, a detainee from Jordan had an epileptic attack when no correctional officers were around: "If you need any sort of attention during that time, you're out of luck," he said.137
Asylum seekers in expedited removal proceedings may also be placed in the jail/Broadview arrangement pending credible fear interviews. The city jails are inappropriate places to hold asylum seekers because of the lack of essential services and because telephone and visitation policies of the city jails are more restrictive and impede legal assistance.
At the Broadview center, Human Rights Watch interviewed Digafe Wkidan, an Ethiopian asylum seeker who showed a Human Rights Watch researcher scars where he said he had been burned with a hot knife by Ethiopian police.138 He said he felt "very worried" in detention and cried several times during the interview. Wkidan told Human Rights Watch that he did not know what was happening to him - whether he was awaiting a credible fear interview or whether he had already been ordered deported. Upon being detained at the airport the previous day, he was given a two-page instruction sheet in English explaining the credible fear process and a list of legal services providers. Wkidan told Human Rights Watch that he called all the organizations on the list, but they either would not accept a collect call or told him they could not help him. When Human Rights Watch interviewed him, Wkidan said he was not going to make any further efforts to contact anyone else for advice, since he felt it would be futile. He also said he was having trouble making telephone calls at the Broadview center because he needed an officer's permission to do so but stated, "The guards don't talk to you."139
Some of the most disturbing and consistent complaints of inhumane conditions came from detainees at Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, where the jail facility has ten buildings and holds more than 6,000 individuals, approximately 500 to 600 of whom are INS detainees. "My first time here, I thought I'd gone to hell," one detainee recalled upon arriving at the Central Lock Up (CLU) section of the jail.140 "We spend eighteen hours in the cell and are allowed out only between 12 and 6 p.m. When I arrived I wasn't given any bedding. Later, I got a wool blanket that made me very hot [in August]."141
In another building of Orleans Parish Prison, called the House of Detention (HOD), every detainee Human Rights Watch interviewed who had been held in the building complained that cockroaches and mice wereubiquitous.142 Several detainees reported that to pass the time they constructed traps to catch the mice. One Cuban detainee who spent five months in HOD before being released, claimed that in one night, he and his friends caught ten mice in a homemade trap.143 All detainees interviewed reported that the bathrooms were dirty and that the water would alternate between very hot and very cold. According to the detainees, HOD had no air conditioning, and the jail relied on two old fans that were insufficient to cool the humid Louisiana summer air. "Even in your underwear you sweat. You can't sleep at night," one detainee told Human Rights Watch.144
Human Rights Watch also found that INS detainees were sometimes placed in the older or unused portions of local jails. In Berks County Prison, Pennsylvania, where roughly 24 percent of the $40 per diem paid by the INS is profit for the jail, INS detainees were placed in the older, inferior jail sections built in 1933, while regular inmates were housed in the better, newly renovated areas.145 The area in which the INS detainees with previous criminal convictions were held was by far the worst area of the jail, with very low ceilings, stuffy air and a small dayroom. One detainee in this section told Human Rights Watch that for five days during a period of overcrowding he slept on a mattress on the floor of the cell under the toilet which left him, and his mattress, splattered with urine.146
In Liberty County Jail in Texas, Human Rights Watch found eighteen female INS detainees living in one large, cold, damp room in the old part of the jail built in 1936. The women reported that there were not enough cots for all the detainees, forcing several women to sleep on mattresses on the floor of the cells; several of the women complained that they were sick. Liberty County Jail, a for-profit enterprise run by the Corrections Corporation of America, receives $52.50 a day for each INS detainee but charges only $25 to house each county inmate. On the day of Human Rights Watch's visit, almost half of the INS detainees were in the old jail, rather than the new facility built in 1991.147
Indian Sikh asylum seeker Rajinder Singh, who had been detained by the INS for nearly two years when Human Rights Watch interviewed him, described the conditions he experienced during his six months of detention at Bay County Jail Annex in Panama City, Florida, which is also operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America.
The people in the jail were behaving like animals. There was mixing of criminals and INS detainees. The criminals would steal and rob food. There were only four showers in the bathroom for nearly sixty people, and the criminals would take one-or two-hour showers. They would also masturbate in front of the women guards....The jail did not wash our clothes. I got a pillowcase to pray, and it was dirty. I washed it, and it was like mud.148
Prompted by the abysmal jail conditions and frustration about the progress of their immigration cases, about twenty-two Sikh asylum seekers at Bay County Jail Annex went on a hunger strike for approximately thirty days beginning in October 1996.149 Despite the risk to the hunger strikers' health - twenty-one were fed intravenously - and the seriousness of their complaints, detainees claimed that the jail administrators did not adequately respond and that the INS gave little direction to the jail about how the detainees should be treated.150
Euless City Jail, located outside Dallas, is used by the INS because of its proximity to the international airport. It is a small facility of forty-eight beds built almost thirty years ago and intended to hold people only on a temporary basis. It has no on-site food preparation, no doctor or nurse on staff, no outside recreational facilities, no library, and one shower for all inmates. There are no windows in the living area, where detainees spend all day on bunk-beds in cold dark cells. When Human Rights Watch visited the jail at midday, all of the INS detainees were lying on their beds wrapped in wool blankets.
Even full ACA accreditation does not guarantee satisfactory living conditions. At Hillsborough County Jail in Florida, where the director of the jail is on the ACA standards committee and a past president of the American Jail Association, there was such severe overcrowding that inmates had to sleep in "boats" (blue, plastic cradles with bedding) on the floor of the cells and in the hallways.151 Two different units, each meant to hold sixteen individuals, housed twenty-two and twenty-three people on the day of Human Rights Watch's visit.
Exercise and fresh air are fundamental to maintaining adequate physical and mental health, especially when people are detained for months or years in poorly ventilated, smoke-filled jails with few other activities.
International standards dictate that prisoners should receive one hour per day of exercise in the open air.152 The American Correctional Association standards also provide that inmates should be allowed one hour daily of physical exercise outside the cell, and outdoors when weather permits.153
The INS itself has a policy on detention that has been in place since 1996.154 Currently, it is the only INS detention standard expressly applicable to detainees held in local jails. This written policy clearly states that detainees held in Service Processing Centers and INS contract facilities "shall be offered the opportunity to participate in daily recreation" a minimum of one hour per day outside the detainees' living quarters. The policy further states "[W]here available, a minimum of one hour per day, seven days per week of outdoor recreation shall be offered to each detainee."
For detainees held in local jails, the standards state that "[i]n general, it is the policy of the INS not to use detention facilities that do not provide for indoor or outdoor recreation of INS detainees."155 In "exceptional circumstances," facilities that provide no recreation may be used for "temporary, short-term housing," which the policy later describes as a forty-five-day period that may, in certain circumstances, be extended to sixty days. "In no case," read the standards, "will the total time in detention exceed sixty days in a detention facility where no recreational activities are available, unless the detainee has been afforded the option to transfer to a facility which provides recreation."156 The standards even incorporate a procedure for transfer of a detainee who has been held, whether in a local jail or Service Processing Center, for a period of six months without regular access to outdoor recreation.157
The INS policy requires that all new and renegotiated contracts stipulate that detainees be given the opportunity to "recreate daily."158 Yet despite the existence of the policy, in place for two years, no warden or jail official interviewed by Human Rights Watch ever responded that the INS required daily recreation when asked direct questions regarding the requirements the INS placed on local jails in order to enter into a contract. In addition, none of the contracts obtained by Human Rights Watch contained any written reference to a recreation policy.159
The lack of the policy's enforcement was evident when dozens of INS detainees told Human Rights Watch that they are seldom or never allowed outdoor recreation time or that recreation often depends on the whims of the correctional officers on duty on any particular day. "We never get to go outside," a Vietnamese detainee held in Dallas County Jail told Human Rights Watch. "[T]here is a weight room, but you have to sign up and share it with other, criminal inmates."160 At Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center in Virginia, jail officials statedthat no inmates are allowed outdoor exercise when the temperature is lower than fifty-five degrees because the jail did not want to have to provide outerwear.161
Human Rights Watch also found that jail officials sometimes described recreation policies that were contradicted by the detainees we interviewed. For example, Liberty County Jail operates under Texas Jail Standards that mandate one hour of recreation, three days a week. The chief of the jail told Human Rights Watch that Liberty County complies by giving detainees one hour of outdoor recreation five days a week.162 But Janet Kumi, an asylum seeker from Ghana detained at the jail, said outdoor recreation was irregular: "Sometimes we don't go out at all, sometimes three days a week for an hour each time."163
At Orleans Parish Prison, a jail official told Human Rights Watch that INS detainees received three hours a week of outside recreation time.164 But detainees we interviewed reported that recreation was usually limited to one hour a week, sometimes outside and sometimes in an indoor gym. One detainee said, "We go once a week to the gym and sometimes once a week outside."165 Another detainee told us that he was taken out to the yard once a week. Yet another detainee reported that when he was housed in one of the buildings of the jail, he was taken to a patio two times week, but when he was transferred to another building in the Orleans Prison complex, he was given recreation once a week and "at times even a month would go by with no recreation."166 What emerged from our interviews was an inconsistent and inadequate recreational policy.
Not all jails limited themselves to the minimum of three hours a week suggested by the ACA. Denton County Jail allows detainees to use an outdoor recreation area every day. DuPage County Jail also allows one hour of recreation a day in a large space with a basketball court and weights surrounded by screens that allow in both air and sunlight. According to the warden of the jail, when detainees get recreation time, "they're easier to deal with."167
Complaints about the quality of institutional food are common among detained individuals, and INS detainees in local jails are no exception. Often, Human Rights Watch was told that food rations were insufficient or served so early in the morning that detainees were hungry by the end of the day. For example, one Somali asylum seeker who had been detained at DuPage County Jail in Illinois for five months at the time of our interview told Human Rights Watch that he had lost twenty pounds because of stress and anxiety and because there was "not good food. Not enough food."168 Another asylum seeker from Liberia, detained at the same jail, claimed that two weeks earlier hehad weighed 155 pounds, but that on the day of our interview he weighed only 146 pounds.169 "They serve us breakfast at 5:45 a.m. and dinner at 3:45 p.m., " he said, "I am very hungry. They are supposed to give me snacks to keep my weight up, but they don't."170
At some jails, detainees complained that they were served food that was still frozen. At Euless City Jail, all meals are kept in the freezer and microwaved before serving, since there are no food preparation facilities at the jail. At Manatee County Jail, food is prepared at the main jail and then rapidly cooled before being sent to the INS facility, where it was sometimes cold or undercooked when served.
Many jails tried to accommodate religious dietary restrictions when ordered by doctors or tried to accommodate detainees who requested vegetarian meals for religious reasons. Still other jails made their own limitations: "We don't do kosher," a jail official at Fort Lauderdale City Jail told Human Rights Watch. "Unconstitutional. We don't have to."171 Hardeep Singh, a Sikh Indian asylum seeker held at Orleans Parish Prison, told Human Rights Watch that when he asked for a vegetarian meal, jail officials told him to just throw away the meat. "But there's not much food left after you throw away the meat, so now I just eat it."172
Clothes/Lack of Supplies
At Liberty County Jail, a private, for-profit operation, there were not enough shoes for detainees. Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed one woman who normally wore a size four shoe but was forced to shuffle around her cell in size fifteen shoes. In the same cell area, a Mexican detainee showed Human Rights Watch a request form she had previously submitted asking for shoes. The answer she received was simple: "We have no size eight shoes at this time."173 Reina Gonzales, from Honduras, told Human Rights Watch:
The jail took away my shoes because they were a different color. I walk around barefoot. The jail does not give us underwear or a bra - even when we have our period. I just have to sit around when I am using a Maxi pad.174
At Denton County Jail in Texas, a Vietnamese detainee reported that correctional officers would not let him wear his underwear because it was black, a color not allowed by jail rules.175 According to the detainee, the jail would not provide any other underwear, so he was forced to purchase a pair from the jail. Another detainee at the same jail stated that sometimes detainees just had to "go without underwear."176
Detainees also complained of a shortage of supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and soap. At Euless City Jail in Texas, one detainee expressed frustration to Human Rights Watch about the lack of writing supplies, since the jail offered no pens, paper, or stamps: "We are incommunicado," he said.177
Since jails are intended to be short-term facilities, many do not have any educational or vocational activities. In addition, detainees are rarely given the opportunity to work in a facility even when other inmates are allowed to do so. Often, jail officials told Human Rights Watch that detainees are allowed to participate in the same programs as the general inmates, yet detainee interviews in some jails contradicted these statements. At DuPage County Jail in Illinois, jail officials said that detainees could participate in Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous programs, high school equivalency classes (GED), college-level classes and anger control classes: the jail official even included commissary (where candy, batteries, etc. are purchased) in the list of programs.178 Detainees held at the jail, however, told Human Rights Watch that no programs are offered to them, so they just sleep and watch TV during the day. One detainee stated that he could take the GED test through the jail but was not allowed to take the preparatory classes.179
Even when detainees take the initiative to try to acquire skills during their detention, some jails thwart these efforts. Soeung Chhunn, a long-term Cambodian detainee in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, made a request to take a correspondence course for which his family had offered to pay. On the request form, he wrote, "I'll pay for the tuition and book, there is no expense to the government." He received a response the next day: "Request denied." No further explanation was offered.180
The ability to take classes is especially important to Chhunn, and others like him who are long-term unremovable detainees, since efforts at self-improvement will help them obtain release in the New Orleans pilot release project. When a jail offers no vocational or educational programs there is no way for people to earn credits toward release. No detainee interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Orleans Parish Prison had ever received classes in anything.
Some jails allow detainees to work. Vermilion Parish Jail in Louisiana even allowed long-term detainees to gain trustee status, such that they could work outside the jail facility. But at Liberty County Jail in Texas, detainees told Human Rights Watch that working in the jail was voluntary but that once one had agreed to work, failure to do so would result in disciplinary action. One female detainee from Mexico said that she fell while she was working in the kitchen at the jail. After four days of recuperating, she was told by jail staff to go back to work. "They told me, `If you quit, there is a penalty.' The usual penalty is getting locked down in your cell."181
When detainees are transferred from facility to facility it is common for their property to be lost or thrown away. "You always have to leave everything behind when you are transferred," one detainee who had beentransferred five times in seven months of detention told Human Rights Watch. "You have to buy them at one place, leave them, then buy them again later."182
Loss of legal papers and other supporting documentation can have serious consequences for asylum seekers and others trying to fight deportation. Harjinder Singh, an Indian Sikh who had been in INS detention for two years at the time of our interview, was unable to receive critical documentation from his family because of frequent transfers. After his lawyer failed to file a crucial appeal, Singh said he decided to represent himself and solicited documentation from the Sikh Student Federation and his family. The documentation was initially sent to Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida, but Singh had been transferred to Bay County Jail Annex in Panama City, Florida (run by Corrections Corporation of America) and never received it. Later he was transferred to Monroe County Detention Center in Key West, Florida where he asked his family in Canada to fax the documents again to him. Singh had still not received the documents when Human Rights Watch interviewed him a year later, when he had once again been transferred back to Krome.183
In a letter to Human Rights Watch sent from Orleans Parish Prison, Chinese detainee Ke Tuo Shan wrote:
I was picked up from the Miami airport and put in Krome. After almost two years in Krome I was transferred to Orleans Parish Prison. When I was transferred I wanted them also to transfer my clothes and money. They said in Miami that they couldn't find the clothes and money. I think they took it or lost it. If I get returned to China, I will have to return in these same prison clothes.184
Francisco Puig, a Cuban detainee held at Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, suffers from asthma. After serving a criminal sentence in New York, he was transferred to INS's Varick Street facility in New York City, then to Pike County Jail in Pennsylvania, before ending up at Berks County Prison. His asthma pump was lost during the transfers. Puig claimed that when he arrived at Berks he was given a used, dirty asthma pump instead of his own.
Jails officials cite security reasons as justification for jail rules prohibiting or limiting the property that inmates and detainees can receive or possess. For example, an Amnesty International volunteer told Human Rights Watch that in April 1998, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker detained in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana requested her assistance in obtaining a Tamil-English dictionary. Jail officials explained to her that jail policy requires that all books sent to detainees must be soft-cover, new, and mailed directly from the publisher to the jail. Unable to find the requested dictionary without a hard cover, the volunteer asked if the jail could remove the cover before giving the book to the detainee, which the director of federal prisoners for the jail, Mary Baldwin Kennedy, agreed to do. The volunteer described what happened next:
When I called the publishing company, they asked me if I wanted an inscription placed in the book. I said, sure, and told them to write "Best of luck in your studies." I waited for a couple of weeks, but when the detainee told me he hadn't received it, I called Mary Kennedy. She told me that she received the book and that it had come with the inscription paper clipped to a page in the book. She told me she wasn't going to give the detainee the book because the paper clip could be used as a weapon. I felt like she was insinuating thatI tried to sneak it in, even though it came from the publisher. I asked Ms. Kennedy if she could just remove the paper clip and the note before giving the dictionary to the detainee. She told me that she had already done enough and that she would not give it to him. The book was supposed to be put in his property, but he never got it when he was deported.185
When asked about the incident, Kennedy told Human Rights Watch that security protocol demanded the action she took: "If someone could get a paper clip into the book, they could get also get liquid narcotics onto the pages of the book."186 The policy is confusing, however, since the dictionary was sent directly to Kennedy from the publisher as is required by jail rules. If there were doubt that this book was tainted by the publisher, then presumably any book could be, yet the jail normally allows these books to be given to inmates.187
You'd be surprised what can be done with hand gestures.
-Director of the INS Facility at Manatee County Jail in Bradenton, Florida when asked by Human Rights Watch what he does when INS detainees do not understand the jail's orientation session.188
When detainees from countries like Pakistan, China, Ecuador, or Afghanistan find themselves in local jails around the United States, communication between jail officers and detainees is often impossible. Many local jails holding INS detainees are located in rural parts of the country where authorities may never have encountered non-English speaking inmates before the INS began paying them to hold its detainees.
Language barriers make everything from receiving medical attention to understanding jail rules extremely difficult. Without translation assistance, detainees cannot understand legal services lists, call attorneys, make requests or file grievances. Most jail officials interviewed said they never or only rarely had communication problems with the detainees, an assertion contradicted by many detainees interviewed.
In May 1998, Human Rights Watch received a letter from fourteen Hispanic detainees, all of whom spoke only Spanish and some of whom were illiterate, who were held commingled with criminal inmates in Riverside Regional Jail in Virginia. "We are asking for your help," they wrote:
In this place, there is no medical or security personnel that speaks or understands Spanish and if they ever use the Spanish that they know it is to tell us that we are dogs and other vulgar and sexual expressions. We can't say anything because they are very violent andsome of the police and medical personnel say that Hispanics are the worst people in the world and that they don't like us.189
Over and over both, detainees and jail staff told Human Rights Watch that detainees who did not speak English had to rely on other detainees to translate for them. We interviewed two Chinese asylum seekers who had been in INS detention for almost two years and who spoke no English at all. While in Monroe County Jail in Florida, one of the men, L.J. Ying, complained that he had a rash that needed medical attention and had to use hand gestures to get correctional officers to understand his problem. "It was very difficult to get them to understand what was happening. I don't understand the correctional officers or understand what they want from me."190
Some detainees are totally linguistically isolated without other detainees to translate for them. For example, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker who speaks no English has been detained at Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana since December 1995, more than two-and-a-half years at the time of this writing. For a time, another Tamil-speaking detainee translated for him, but once the other detainee was deported, he had no way of communicating with jail staff or other detainees.191
Some local jails have bilingual or multilingual staff but, as is characteristic of the INS/jail arrangement, there is no uniformity among jails used by the INS and no requirement that the jails accommodate detainees' linguistic needs. When asked how the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana dealt with language needs of INS detainees, the director of the federal prisoners at the jail said, "We make it work. We make ourselves understood. They make themselves understood if they want it bad enough."192 She added, "We have staff members who speaks Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Oriental [sic], which basically covers the needs of the people. I don't speak any of these languages and I can understand detainees just fine."193
Communication with the Outside World
Locked behind bars in criminal jails, limited in their English language ability and fearing possible deportation, immigration detainees are both physically and emotionally isolated. A key element in overcoming this isolation is communication with friends and family in the outside world. Outside sources not only provide critical emotional support, they also often provide the only financial and logistical resources available to help the detainee obtain legal counsel.
International standards recognize the importance of detainees' ability to communicate with and receive visits by friends and family.194 The ability to communicate is especially important when detainees need to inform friends or family that they have been detained or to notify them that they have been transferred.
In many jail facilities visited by Human Rights Watch, jail rules governing the daily communication with the outside world, in particular, phone access and visitation, were inadequate to meet the needs of INS detainees.
Most local jails do not offer coin-operated pay telephones, making it difficult for detainees to contact family, friends or legal counsel. Available telephones are equipped to make collect calls nationally but not internationally. This puts immigrants, especially asylum seekers, at an extreme disadvantage, since many detainees have no contacts in the United States and must rely on people in their home countries to send them money or to provide critical documents needed to prove an asylum claim.
In some jails we visited, the telephones did not permit toll-free calls. The meager budgets of non-profit immigration organizations mean they often cannot accept collect telephone calls, but sometimes they have set up toll-free lines. The availability of collect-only telephones unduly limits a detainee in obtaining and maintaining legal representation.
Other limits on telephone access, such as restrictions on the use of calling cards and limited hours of access, were reported to Human Rights Watch. "The phone is turned off at the jail's discretion," a woman from Nigeria detained at Liberty County Jail in Texas told Human Rights Watch. "[T]he jail turned off the phone in our living section for a week one time. They only turned it back on after somebody's attorney called in a complaint."195
INS detention standards on telephone access, issued in January 1998, attempt to remedy similar problems encountered by detainees in INS service processing centers and contract facilities. They provide many improvements for detainee telephone access, but shortcomings include an unnecessary limit on free telephone calls to legal service providers, which are allowed only when they are attempts to obtain legal assistance rather than calls to maintain communication.196 The standards also limit the receipt of incoming calls to emergencies only, instead, for example,of allowing lawyers to arrange a time to call their clients in detention.197 Their primary shortcoming, of course, is that they do not establish telephone access rules in local jails.
In most local jails inspected by Human Rights Watch, INS detainees could receive visitors only according to the limited rules of the local jails intended for local inmate populations.198 Visitation schedules varied in length and frequency, but rarely was any consideration given to the special needs of immigration detainees who often found themselves held in local jails thousands of miles from where they were living or where family, friends or legal counsel were located. Visitation schedules varied from fifteen minutes to one hour, one to three times a week. Visitation by friends and family was almost always "non-contact," meaning that thick plastic barriers or metal bars separated detainees from their visitors. Detainees we interviewed reported that relatives could not touch or embrace them or pass important papers to them containing addresses, phone numbers, or other pertinent information. Visitation rooms for friends and family lacked privacy: in some jails, detainees spoke with their visitors through phone receivers, in others they simply had to talk loudly through the bars or holes drilled into the plastic. Many jails did not allow minor children to visit, citing health risks and insurance liability. However, a few jail officials said they would make special arrangements in extraordinary circumstances, such as a visit from a newborn child.
Little apparent consideration was given to how far a family would have to travel to visit a detainee or whether a visit with a spouse or child might be the last before a detainee was deported. Leslie García, a Nicaraguan detained in Euless City Jail in Texas, told Human Rights Watch that his wife and young daughter were turned away by jail officials after driving an hour-and-a-half to see him. During the two months he had been at the jail, García's family had been allowed to visit him on three occasions, but he had never been allowed a contact visit. Jail officials told Human Rights Watch that although the regular hourly visits were usually non-contact, "exceptions are made for INS detainees, especially when they are being deported. We try to let them get outside with their family [where picnic tables are located]."199 Garcia said he had never received nor was even offered the option of a contact visit.
Some jails required that all visitors be placed on a visitor list, which often limited the number of visitors per detainee. Visitors lists are unnecessarily cumbersome and can unreasonably restrict a detainee's access to the outside world. In Orleans Parish Prison, for example, an individual must be named on a detainee's visitation list in order to visit once a week for fifteen minutes. To be placed on the list, however, an individual must have a Louisiana identification card and an address in Louisiana that matches the identification document. The restrictions are inappropriate for INS detainees, who are often sent to Louisiana from other states, as their families and friends would be unable to meet the visitation requirements. The restrictive requirements also cannot be met by representatives of human rights groups and immigrant advocacy groups who are concerned about detainees in Louisiana but who reside out of the state.
I filled out a [request] to see a doctor four days ago, but I haven't seen one yet. I have a fever and nausea. I told the guard I want to see a doctor and he just told me to fill out a [request]. I haven't been told anything.
-INS detainee from Mexico held in Dallas County Jail, Dallas, Texas200
When contracting with local jails, the sole INS requirement concerning medical care is that twenty-four hour emergency care be available to detainees.201 The contracting jail is not required to have a doctor, nurse, or medical unit on staff. Initial health screening for such things as infectious diseases is not required. The INS has no discernible policy regarding which medical services should or should not be provided by local jails or whether there are monetary limits that require INS approval.202 This situation has resulted in a lack of prompt treatment, requirements that detainees pay for medical treatment, inadequate diagnosis or treatment of mental problems, inability to communicate with detainees seeking medical treatment, and a dental policy in which extraction is the sole remedy for every dental problem.203 The lack of appropriate mental health care and counseling in local jails is especially detrimental to asylum seekers.
Prompt Attention to Medical Needs
While international standards and ACA guidelines dictate that ill prisoners seeking medical attention should be seen daily, INS detainees report long waits following even the most basic requests and complain that serious ailments often go untreated.204
An INS detainee held for two years in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana told Human Rights Watch:
I broke my finger three weeks ago playing basketball. I was taken to a nurse and saw the doctor the same day, and he said I should get an x-ray. Every day I have asked about the x-ray and they tell me they put me on a list. I am still waiting. My finger hurts, and I cannot bend it. If you tell the deputies, they never listen to you. Instead they threaten you. It's very hard to get their attention when you need a medical form.205
In Avoyelles Parish Prison, a Cuban detainee recalled, "One guy got pneumonia. He asked for medical treatment, and they put him in a lockdown cell. He never got medical treatment. He was in the lockdown room for a long time. He got skinny, skinny, then they let him go."206
At Liberty County Jail, Human Rights Watch interviewed a Salvadoran woman who appeared quite ill. She had dark circles under her eyes and was pale and shivering under a blanket. She had been sick for five days and had not seen the doctor, despite several requests.207 At the same jail, Jennifer Wright from Jamaica told Human Rights Watch, "It can take up to seven days for the jail to answer a medical request. I requested a pain killer for my period cramps and never got it."208
Some jails have clearly inadequate medical facilities. For example, Euless City Jail in Texas is a tiny local jail not equipped for long-term detention, yet some of the immigration detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been held at the facility for three months. According to jail officials, when there are illness complaints, the paramedics are summoned, and if necessary detainees are transferred to the hospital. Such a system does not adequately address common ailments or illnesses such as headaches, stomach aches, cuts, or bruises.
Payment for Services
International standards provide that "[medical] care and treatment shall be provided free of charge,"209 yet county and state inmates in local jails are frequently asked to pay a fee for each visit to the doctor to reduce frivolous visits. In most facilities we investigated, immigration detainees were exempt from paying for treatment, but not in all.
DuPage County Jail in Illinois charges a $10 fee per medical visit for all inmates, including INS detainees. According to the warden, if a detainee is indigent, medical visits are credited against his or her commissary account; if money is ever received into that account, the medical debts are paid first. The result, according to all of the INS detainees we interviewed, is a second-class status for indigent detainees. "When you have money in your account, the doctor calls you quickly," stated one asylum seeker form Liberia. "When you don't have money, they don't call you for a long time."210
At Denton County Jail in Texas, jail officials were uncertain whether or not detainees were charged for medical care. A jail doctor told Human Rights Watch, "[I]nmates are charged $3 [for medicine]. I'm not sure about the INS detainees; they may be charged a dollar."211 Detainees at the jail are likewise confused about what they must pay to receive medical attention. One detainee told Human Rights Watch that he understood that "you have to pay $10 to go to a check-up, and then they charge you more when they give you something," while another detainee said that he "won't go see the doctor because they charge you $16."212
Initial medical screening upon admission to a facility is critical in order to identify infectious diseases and to insure that detainees receive proper care without putting other inmates at risk.213 Screening is also important to identify other chronic or serious conditions, such as HIV, that require special attention. Although most of the newer and bigger jails visited by Human Rights Watch provided initial medical screening, smaller, older jails without medical facilities were unable to provide this service and were less able to care for individuals with infectious diseases.
Human Rights Watch received letters from INS jail detainees infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS. "I would like to request a transfer to another detention center with a better medical facility due to a very severe AIDS case I have," wrote a detainee held in Kern County Jail in California. "I feel I'm not getting the right medical treatment here. I've had four appointments to visit an outside doctor and they have all been canceled."214 A Vietnamese detainee held for twenty-eight months by the INS at the time he wrote Human Rights Watch from Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, also expressed fear and concern over the treatment he was receiving:
I myself have full-blown AIDS, my "T" cell count is way below 200, I fear for my life daily due to insufficient medical care and a diet negligent of the basic vitamins and minerals needed to stabilize my health and condition...[The medical tier] is a very cramped, unhealthy place. This place is designed to hold twenty-one patients, but on any given occasion there are thirty to thirty-five patients sleeping on the floor!215
J.G., a Honduran detainee held at DuPage County Jail in Illinois who was discovered to have active tuberculosis, provides another illustration of the dangers of INS's reliance on medical policies of local jails. J.G.'s attorney told Human Rights Watch that his detained client failed to appear for a deportation hearing in a Chicago immigration court.216 After examining his file at the hearing, the INS trial attorney discovered that J.G. had been released from detention more than a week earlier because he had active tuberculosis. Jail officials told Human Rights Watch that about a week after arriving at the jail, correctional officers noticed that J.G. was showing symptoms of active tuberculosis. The jail then notified the INS that it did not have proper facilities to keep someone with active tuberculosis and returned him to INS custody. A senior INS official in Chicago told Human Rights Watch that the INS was not able to find another facility that would take J.G., so he was released.217 According to the official, the INS dropped García off at a local homeless shelter. He was not given any medicine, nor was the public health department properly notified.
The INS also never notified J.G's lawyer of his client's release, instead allowing the young man with an active infectious disease to wander off with no resources. Although the warden at DuPage County Jail later reported that "the Health Department finally tracked him down at a local hospital," his lawyer has not heard from J.G. again.218 "For all I know, " his lawyer told Human Rights Watch, "he could be dead."219
At every jail Human Rights Watch visited, detainees reported that the only dental care they were offered was tooth extractions. Both international standards and ACA guidelines explicitly refer to the provision of dental care for detainees; the ACA guidelines explicitly state that dental treatment should not be limited to extractions.220 Nevertheless, the INS's new detention standards on medical care (limited only to SPCs and contract facilities) fail to include a policy for dental care.
In Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, Moroccan asylum seeker Musbah Abdulateef said he had ten teeth pulled in less than a year because the INS would not approve the dental treatment he needed. Abdulateef spoke almost no English. When Human Rights Watch interviewed him, Abdulateef began to cry from confusion about the loss of so many teeth, saying he was very afraid about his continuing dental problems and explaining that it was difficult for him to eat.221
Because the INS has no uniform practice or policy for medical treatment, jail officials themselves are often confused about which services INS detainees should or should not receive. For example, the warden at DuPage County Jail told Human Rights Watch that dental care is available two times a week only to "finish something that is already started. No fillings, just extractions."222 Later, when the corrections officer designated as the INS liaison was asked about dental care, he responded "Oh, I'm sure they give them fillings."223 At Orleans Parish Prison the director of federal prisoners at the jail told Human Rights Watch that she didn't know whether or not detainees received dental fillings, stating dismissively, "I don't know...I'm not a dentist."224
At the Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center in Virginia, jail medical staff told Human Rights Watch, "[D]ental work is always denied by the INS. INS considers fillings and crowns elective and will only approveextractions."225 Keo Chek, a twenty-five-year-old Cambodian man held at the facility, told Human Rights Watch that he saw the dentist on two occasions for dental problems, and the dentist told him that the INS would only approve extractions.226 Chek refused to have his teeth pulled.
Mental Health Care
The stress of months or years in INS detention takes a severe emotional toll on INS detainees. The punitive environment of a jail, the detainees' frequent fear of local inmates, and the uncertainty of when, if ever, they will be released or deported is often too much to bear and has led to depression and suicide attempts. Asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable as detention often evokes memories of past persecution and anxiety over being returned to the countries from which they fled.
International standards for the treatment of prisoners call for medical staff who have knowledge of psychiatry and require that the effect of continued detention on the mental health of prisoners be considered.227 ACA standards also contain several provisions for the diagnosis and mental health care needs of inmates.228 Unfortunately, the new INS Detention Standards, applicable only to Service Processing Centers and contract facilities, make no mention of mental health care needs of any detainee, much less any reference to the special needs of asylum seekers.
Again and again, detainees expressed to Human Rights Watch the emotional anguish caused by incarceration. In Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, Guy Mbenga-Mondundou, an asylum seeker from the former Zaire, explained to Human Rights Watch that he attempted suicide by hanging himself after he learned that his wife had miscarried while he was detained. "I have become depressed," wrote Chinese detainee Chen Sie En from Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana. "I can't stand it any more. I don't care if I am sent back to China or released on bail. I just have to get out."229 An Indian asylum seeker at Krome Service Processing Center, who had been detained more than two years at the time of our interview, echoed this sentiment: "I want deportation. No more jail-if I die, then I die. Fine."230
One of the most disturbing and complicated cases Human Rights Watch discovered during our research was that of Yahia Meddah, an Algerian asylum seeker who, at the time of this writing, has been detained by the INS in four local jails, one INS Service Processing Center, and three mental hospitals during a two-year period. His prolonged detention and the punitive treatment received by jail officials has had an extremely negative effect on themental health of Meddah, who stated that he escaped Algeria under threat from the opposition forces after they had allegedly kidnapped his father and sister and killed many of his relatives.
Meddah was detained by the INS in August 1996 in a hospital room in West Virginia where he was recuperating after being assaulted by a relative of his wife. Despite the fact that he had not been accused of any crime, he was transported to York County Prison in Pennsylvania in shackles and immediately placed in an isolation room at the jail. For four consecutive months he was held in a disciplinary segregation room, subject to twenty-four-hour lockdown.
When Human Rights Watch met Meddah in February 1997, he had been transferred to Berks County Prison, also in Pennsylvania. At the time of our visit, Meddah was being held in the medical unit after a suicide attempt; he showed Human Rights Watch researchers approximately thirty deep cuts across his chest that he had inflicted on himself. Meddah accused the jail officials of cruel and indifferent treatment towards him and said that it was destroying his fragile psychological state. At the time of our visit, Meddah was serving more than fifty consecutive days for disciplinary infractions for such things as refusal to obey orders and creating disturbances. At one disciplinary hearing in January 1997, Meddah tried to defend himself by explaining: "I didn't have anyone to talk to me....I tried to talk to the correctional officer, and he refused. I was upset. The correctional officer refused to give me a mattress, and I was forced to sleep on the floor. Why is this happening to me? They also took my clothes from me. I need the psychiatrist to talk to me, please."231 At the hearing, he was found guilty of refusal of orders, disturbance, and safety violations and given thirty-four days of disciplinary segregation.
A psychologist contracted by Berks County Prison who treated Meddah found that the abusive treatment he received during his detention in the jail was directly responsible for the psychological trauma he suffered. In a sworn statement, the psychologist wrote:
I was a psychologist at Berks County Prison where I met Meddah in (approximately) January 1997. Meddah at that time was polite, respectful and mentally stable....I would describe him as a high-spirited individual who was unable to fathom the conditions he was forced to live with.
One particular Nurse was verbally abusive and antagonistic and after one of many negative encounters with her, Meddah cut himself all over his chest with a razor and was taken to the disciplinary unit. He was stripped and tied down in four-point restraints in the disciplinary unit so he could not hurt himself. I went to his cell and he said to me, "My life is over. I want to just die now." I eventually got him back to the medical unit, but he wasn't the same. His dignity and self-respect were gone. He had no desire to try to go on. In my opinion, Meddah was mentally stable when I first saw him, and then was subjected to conditions that most normal people would succumb to (i.e. language barrier, different culture, accused of false ulterior motives, solitary confinement, little communication with another person, etc.) I notified the INS that Meddah was deteriorating and needed treatment and that he was not doing well in the conditions at the medical department, since he had never been in jail before and he was not the type of person who could handle it.
While Meddah did not initially have psychological problems, his incarceration experience, in general and specifically, has caused a mental trauma that may not be reversible at this point.232
In March 1997, the INS sent Meddah to a state mental hospital in New Jersey for ten days and then once again to York County Prison. In April 1997, he was transferred to Harrisburg State Hospital in Pennsylvania, where he remained until June. His treating psychiatrist wrote to his attorney saying that he "would strongly urge that Mr. Meddah not be returned to a prison setting as this environment appears to exacerbate his symptoms....In his case his anxiety disorder is manifested by recurrent distressing recollections of the traumatic events in his past which at times cause him to become agitated and acutely suicidal."233
Without knowing what was happening to him, Meddah was then suddenly transferred back to the mental hospital in New Jersey where he had previously been held. During his several-week stay, Meddah repeatedly told Human Rights Watch that he did not care if he lived or died and that hospital staff were indifferent to his situation and would not tell him what was happening to him.234
In July, Meddah's attorneys requested an Asylum Pre-Screening Officer program to secure his parole before his asylum hearing, since his attorneys did not feel he could adequately prepare for his hearing in the agitated state provoked by detention. Even though one of his attorneys offered to let Meddah live in her home, the INS never formally issued a decision on the APSO interview and denied Meddah a bond.
The INS also disregarded the exhortations by doctors treating Meddah that he not be returned to a prison-like setting, and returned him once again to York County Prison in July 1997. For four days after his arrival, Meddah was placed in four-point restraints. An intravenous feeding was forcibly inserted, which on one occasion he bit from his arm.
Believing that Meddah's poor mental state would undermine his ability to testify on his own behalf, Meddah's pro bono political asylum lawyer asked that his political asylum court hearing be postponed. The request was denied, and Meddah was forced to go forward with the hearing in September 1997.
Meddah's situation then took a turn for the worse. After thirteen months of being held in jails, subjected to four-point restraints, placed in disciplinary segregation and sent to two different mental hospitals, Meddah was denied asylum based on "secret evidence" submitted by the INS under authority of the 1996 anti-terrorism legislation.235 Neither Meddah nor his attorneys were allowed to know or rebut the evidence used to deny him protection in the United States. His lawyers immediately appealed the decision, and Meddah was transferred once again, this time to Manatee County Jail in Florida, and eventually to Krome Service Processing Center in Miami.
Not surprisingly, Meddah's mental health continued to deteriorate after the denial of his asylum claim, the new transfers, and his continued incarceration. In Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Meddah began a hunger strike desperately hoping that "the INS will do something about my situation."236 When the INS did not respond, Meddah attempted suicide on March 30, 1998 by ingesting cleaning fluid. The INS then sent him to a local hospital, where Meddah claims he was shackled to the bed for four days and four nights. "My feet began to bleed," he told Human Rights Watch.237
After intervention by his lawyers and Human Rights Watch, the INS transferred Meddah to a mental hospital in Miami, where he remains at the time of this writing. The treating psychiatrist there wrote yet another appeal to the INS, which continues to exhibit indifference to the seriousness of Meddah's mental illness. In a letter to the INS District Director in Miami, the doctor wrote: "Mr. Meddah is presently at the Windmoor Psychiatric Hospital following a serious suicide attempt by ingestion of a corrosive fluid. Although his mental status has improved in that his affect and mood are generally brighter, he suffers from a Post-Traumatic Stress disorder and he continues to express tremendous frustration and anxiety with regards to his current INS situation. It is my impression that continuing prolonged detention will increase the likelihood of potential self destructive behavior."238
The INS still refuses to respond appropriately to the ample evidence of the destructive effect detention has had on Meddah. After two years of incarceration, Meddah is a desperate man. "I don't care anymore," he told Human Rights Watch, "I am tired. If I die in Algeria, I die. You are killed only once. It is better than being in prison, and not knowing if you will ever get out."239
It's easier to visit my clients on death row than it is to visit an INS detainee at Orleans Parish Prison.
Carol Kolnichak, pro bono political asylum attorney, New Orleans, Louisiana240
Basic notions of due process dictate that immigrants have a right to legal counsel, a right codified in U.S. immigration law.241 Although immigration detainees are not guaranteed legal counsel at the expense of thegovernment, U.S. law does require that detainees be given a reasonable opportunity to secure representation and requires that there be no undue interference with their access to attorneys.242
Nonetheless, access to counsel is usually seriously compromised when immigrants are detained by the INS, especially in local jails. Incarceration far from friends and family who can locate and pay for lawyers, frequent transfers from facility to facility, restrictive visitation policies and limited telephone access create significant obstacles to adequate representation. The remote location of local jails - sometimes hundreds of miles away from an urban center - permits only infrequent visits by attorneys of record for interviews and case preparation.243
Statistics maintained by the immigration court of the INS, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), reveal that only about 11 percent of all detained immigrants are represented by legal counsel in immigration court, compared to almost 60 percent of immigrants who are not detained.244 The statistics also indicate that legal representation makes it more likely that an individual will avoid being deported.245
During 1997, the American Bar Association (ABA) undertook a collaborative effort with the INS to create four detention standards regarding detainees' access to legal representation: visitation policies; access to legal materials; group legal rights presentations; and detainee telephone access. A year later, in January 1998, the INS published a final version of the standards. Although the standards represent a welcome and substantial improvement toward guaranteeing detainees' rights to legal counsel, their major flaw is their inapplicability to local jails, rendering them essentially meaningless to more than half of all people in INS detention and all of the individual cases described in this report.
Communication with Legal Counsel
Two very basic requirements for adequate legal representation are not being met when INS detainees are held in local jails: the ability to make initial contact with attorneys for possible representation and the ability to maintain ongoing communication once an attorney is retained.
The first obstacle is the difficulty of simply obtaining a list of legal service providers who will represent immigrants at little or no cost. Immigrants in detention are likely to be indigent, especially newly arrived asylum seekers and immigrants released from correctional facilities to INS custody who may have not been employed for several years. Since the INS does not consider the location of family and friends when making decisions about where to detain people, most detainees rely on the list of free legal service providers that each INS district should provide.
Internal INS procedures require that the list of legal service providers be given to detainees at the same time the Notice to Appear is issued (usually upon their initial detention by the U.S. Border Patrol or when transferred intoINS custody).246 But Human Rights Watch found that this rarely happened in the districts we visited. Many detainees only received a list of legal service providers after they were brought to immigration court - in other words, when it was too late to make a difference.
When detained immigrants are forced to wait until their first appearance in immigration court to receive the list, many of the benefits of the right to counsel have already been compromised. If detainees have not been able to consult with a legal representative before their first hearing, they may have no idea about what relief from deportation is available to them; as a result they run the risk of accepting deportation when they in fact, have other options. Such ignorance of legal rights can have deadly consequences in the cases of refugees fearing persecution who may not know that they have a right to apply for asylum.
At the Dallas County Jail, Human Rights Watch interviewed a Mexican detainee, José Reyes, who had been held for four months and had yet to appear before an immigration judge.247 After living illegally in the United States since 1990, Reyes did not believe that he was eligible for any immigration relief and wanted to accept deportation to Mexico, a process that normally takes days after appearing before a judge. Reyes wanted to contact a lawyer, but since he had not been to court, he was never given a list of legal service providers. As the weeks went by, Reyes said he wrote to the INS several times about his case but never received a reply. He told Human Rights Watch that he did not even have an immigration case file number that he could use to check the status of his case.
Once a detainee actually receives a list of legal service providers, the obstacles to legal assistance are still not removed. Virtually all of the advocates with whom we spoke told us that the lists provided by the INS featured outdated, incorrect, or useless information. Also, telephone access at jails is usually limited to collect national calls only.248 International collect calls are rarely allowed, which may prejudice asylum seekers who need documentation from their countries of origin. Restrictive telephone policies make it hard for detainees to know what is happening to them procedurally. For example, an INS detainee reported that at Dallas County Jail in Texas, the INS's toll-free number that provides information on court dates and immigration case status is blocked on jail telephones.249
Written correspondence can also be difficult. When Human Rights Watch wrote to detainees in Orleans Parish Prison responding to their requests for assistance, many of the letters were returned with "unable to locate" written on the envelopes.
Even if legal mail does get through, its contents may be confiscated by jail officials. For example, during an interview at Orleans Parish Prison in June 1998, an INS detainee gave Human Rights Watch researchers original complaint forms that he and other INS detainees had filed with jail officials. The papers also contained a handwritten list of names of INS detainees and local inmates who claimed to have suffered mistreatment by the deputies at the jail. Human Rights Watch returned the original documents to the detainee in an envelope marked "legal mail." Thedetainee never received the documents (which contained papers not copied and therefore unreplaceable) nor were they returned to Human Rights Watch.
Emanuel Obajuluwa, an unrepresented Nigerian asylum seeker detained in Dallas County Jail, told Human Rights Watch that none of the legal assistance organizations on the list the INS had provided to him would accept his collect telephone calls, so the only way he could communicate with the organizations in order to find a lawyer was by writing a letter. 250 But, he stated, he did not have any envelopes and stamps to write a letter since the jail would only provide two sheets of paper and one envelope once or twice a month. In early February 1998, Human Rights Watch sent Obajuluwa a package marked as "legal mail" containing copies of Human Rights Watch reports on Nigeria and blank writing paper and white envelopes. In a letter dated February 22, Obajuluwa sent Human Rights Watch an original receipt (no photocopiers were available) that said, "[T]he above correspondence has been denied you access while incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail and in accordance with the Dallas County Sheriff's Department's rules regarding inmate correspondence."251 Although the human rights reports were given to Obajuluwa, the writing paper and envelopes he needed to write letters in search of a lawyer were confiscated by the jail.
Frequent transfers also seriously impede detainees' and attorneys' efforts to maintain contact. Attorneys are not notified of transfers. For example, Abdallah Ali Mohammed, a Somali asylum seeker, found free legal counsel after seventeen months of detention in INS's Krome facility in Miami only to be transferred to Manatee County Jail in Bradenton, Florida, more than eight hour's drive away.252 Mohammed called Human Rights Watch collect because the telephones at Manatee County Jail would not allow him to make a toll-free call to his attorney, who he feared did not know that he had been transferred.253
Visitation by Legal Representatives
In Louisiana, lawyers and law students representing immigrants in local parish jails housing INS detainees have encountered many difficulties obtaining access to detainees.254 Attorney Carol Kolnichak was refused entrance to the Orleans Parish Prison in November 1996 when she attempted to visit her client along with representatives of Amnesty International. Later that day, when Ms. Kolnichak returned to interview her client alone, she was flatly refused.255
In January 1998, attorney Rebecca Feldman was barred by the superintendent of Hillsborough County Detention Center in New Hampshire from giving general legal advice to detainees who asked to see her.0 Previously, Feldman had visited the facility every Monday to counsel groups of detainees who signed up to speakwith her.1 The superintendent accused her of misrepresenting her purpose and inciting unrest among the immigration detainees and disallowed the legal visits, permitting her only to visit clients and other specifically named detainees. 2 The legal rights presentations were often the only legal advice unrepresented detainees received.
Legal Materials/Law Library
Because the vast majority of individuals detained by the INS are unrepresented, access to legal materials in detention facilities is a critical element in defending themselves in immigration court. For asylum seekers, it can be a matter of life or death. ACA standards require that inmates have access to legal materials when there is not adequate free legal assistance to help them with criminal, civil, and administrative matters.3
The local jails visited by Human Rights Watch usually had minimal and/or outdated immigration law materials. Since the INS does not require local jails to maintain law libraries before entering into INS contracts, have little reason to incur the expense of establishing an updated set of materials useful to immigration detainees.
When Human Rights Watch asked jail administrators whether their jail had immigration materials, they almost always responded affirmatively. Yet when Human Rights Watch researchers examined the actual materials available, we found few, if any, current or useful immigration law books. Many jails possessed a copy of the U.S. Code where statutory federal law is found. These books are of little help without auxiliary immigration resource materials, since immigration law is famously complicated and technical, and statutes mean little without an updated explanation of their interpretation by the courts.
The INS detention standards defining which legal materials should be available at INS contracted facilities and service processing centers contain an excellent list of immigration law resources. The cost for the entire set of materials is estimated at $1,500, but since the standards do not apply to local jails, none of the facilities we visited maintained these essential materials.
Below are examples of some of the shortcomings in law libraries in jails visited by Human Rights Watch:
-At Pointe Coupee Parish Jail in Louisiana, the library had one copy of the relevant U.S. Code section on immigration with a 1996 update. No immigration regulations were available.
-At Manatee County Jail in Florida, no immigration law materials existed in either of the two facilities holding INS detainees. A jail supervisor assured Human Rights Watch that he had asked the INS fora copy of a law book for the special use of INS detainees; the book turned out to be Black's Law Dictionary.4
-At Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, the INS officer stationed at the jail described to Human Rights Watch how well-stocked the law library was, claiming that copies of the new 1996 immigration law were available.5 When Human Rights Watch toured the jail, we found one copy of the relevant U.S. Code that had not been updated since 1991 and a Federal Code Reporter from 1987. No immigration regulations were available, and there was no copy of the 1996 immigration law.
-At DuPage County Jail in Illinois, the library was large with ample seating and even a typewriter. But the only immigration law material available was an old copy of the relevant U.S. Code with no updates.
-At Euless City Jail in Texas, there was no library at all, much less any specialized immigration law materials.
-At Vermilion Parish Jail in Louisiana, the large library contained only one copy of the U.S. Code that had not been updated since 1991.
Use of Disciplinary Sanctions
On July 2, 1998, they sent me to segregation without any disciplinary hearing or any inquiry or investigation and they gave me forty days in segregation. I don't know what to do - they make our lives miserable in here and we cannot say anything because I see they beat people. Even right now, I'm writing this letter, but I'm scared if they find out they are going to give me more hard time.
-INS detainee in Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana6
We don't treat INS detainees any differently than any we do the regular inmates.
-Sheriff Charles C. Foti, Criminal Sheriff of New Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana7
Most jail administrators and wardens interviewed by Human Rights Watch sought to prove that INS detainees were not discriminated against and were treated just like any other inmates at the jail. For INS detainees, "equal treatment" means that they are thrust into a criminal environment where rules and regulations must be followed regardless of whether inmate handbooks, if available, are understood. "Equal treatment" means that an asylum seeker may find himself or herself sharing living space with a convicted felon. For INS detainees who have previous criminal convictions, "equal treatment" means that although they have completed their criminal sentences, they are still serving time.
The punitive and rehabilitative environment of a jail invites discipline. Once in this criminal atmosphere, Human Rights Watch found that INS detainees were often disciplined by jail officials.8 Disciplinary sanctions were frequently arbitrary or excessive, imposed without proper hearings, or given for infractions of jail rules that detainees could not understand because of language barriers.
International standards contemplate the use of disciplinary sanctions or restraints in a criminal context, when they are governed by specific rules and limited by principles of humane treatment.9 ACA guidelines contain a number of standards requiring facilities to establish rules of conduct and sanctions, and procedures for violations that are defined in writing and communicated to all inmates.10
The INS does not require that local jails inform it when detainees are the subject of disciplinary sanctions, although some INS districts informally ask that jails report any serious incidents involving INS detainees. Consequently, the INS is seldom aware of the kind of treatment received by the detainees who are still legally in the agency's custody.
Bernard Igbedion, a detainee from Nigeria, was placed in disciplinary segregation at Beauregard Parish Jail in Louisiana in April 1997 for covering himself with a blanket during the day when he felt ill and cold. At his disciplinary hearing he was found guilty of violating jail rules and charged with "unsanitary practices." The written report by the charging correctional officer states: "I observed Inmate Igbedion in bed under his blanket....I had told him earlier about the rule and policy. Inmate stated he was cold and felt sick. I told him to put in a request if [he] was sick but he had to obey the rules."11 For covering himself with a blanket when he felt ill, Igbedion was given five days of segregation.
In Denton County Jail in Texas, Mario Edgardo García, a native Spanish speaker with minimal English ability, tried to express to an officer that he felt ill and could not perform the mandatory daily cleaning routine of the jail. According to jail officials, "[T]he guy didn't understand" and could not express himself to the officer who was ordering him to work.12 A disciplinary report against García was filed, and he was ordered confined to his bed fortwenty-four hours as punishment. With no one to translate, García did not understand the sanctions or what was expected of him and did not remain in his bed. For violating the terms of his punishment, he was then sentenced to an additional two days in disciplinary segregation. Eventually, he was given a disciplinary hearing on charges of "malingering" and, with the translation help of the English teacher at the jail, he was found not guilty.13 He had already served the disciplinary sanction by the time of the hearing.
In Wharton County Jail in Texas, detainees reported food deprivation as a form of discipline. Vietnamese detainee Than T. Ta explained to Human Rights Watch:
We have to pick up our breakfast in the hallway at 7:30 exactly, and jail rules say we have to be fully clothed. One day a guy had the top button of his jumpsuit unbuttoned, so the jail officer wouldn't let any of us eat breakfast. Another guy protested to the officer, then me and a bunch of people got put in segregation for three and four days. When I had my hearing they tore up my case and put it in the trash.14
Almost all jails have an established disciplinary procedure in their jail rules, but there is no guarantee that the official procedure will be followed. "You get bad treatment if you complain," a Nigerian detainee in DuPage County Jail in Illinois told Human Rights Watch. "[D]etainees always lose their disciplinary hearings. At the disciplinary hearing, no matter what you say, even if [you are] right, they will at the end rule in favor of their fellow officer."15
Some detainees in local jails reported that they were punished without a chance to defend themselves. For example, in Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania, Guy Mbenga-Mondundou, an asylum seeker from the former Zaire, was placed in disciplinary segregation for eight days without a hearing in January 1997 after the INS tried to deport him but was prevented by judicial order. "For the first three days I was handcuffed," he told Human Rights Watch. "[T]hey only gave me a mattress at night. Between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., I had to lay on a cold stone floor in a room with no windows."16
Another asylum seeker held at Berks County Prison, Moses Pessima, a university student from Sierra Leone, told Human Rights Watch that he was twice put in disciplinary segregation for seven days, each time without a hearing.17 On the second occasion, he claimed an article he wrote criticizing the jail was confiscated and he was then charged with using the wrong kind of envelope. After seven days of segregation, he was finally given a hearing where the charges were dismissed.
Soeung Chhunn, a Cambodian detainee in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, claims he was beaten by jail deputies and placed in disciplinary segregation with local inmates for violating jail rules by playing a board game in the cell of another detainee. In the jail building where Chhunn was housed, detainees are allowed out of their two-person cells for two hours and then required to return for another two hour period. This schedule is in place between 12 and 6 p.m.- at other times the detainee are locked in their cells. Chhunn told Human Rights Watch that on April 27, 1998, he remained in his cell playing a game with a fellow detainee during a two-hour period when he should have been locked in his own cell. Chhunn explained:
Later that day, an officer called me to sign a piece of paper. He took me to a small room, like a lunch room where inmates aren't usually brought. He punched me hard in the stomach in front of another jail deputy. I couldn't breathe for five minutes. He said to me, "Shut the fuck up. I don't want to hear you talk." I know the deputy's name, but he only wears a T-shirt with a star on it, he never wears a nametag or a uniform. The other deputy saw what happened and told me he would be a witness.
Then I was brought to a segregation room and left there alone for a couple of days, then I was put with a state inmate. They put us in a small room with a light on twenty-four hours a day. We were allowed ten minutes a day to shower, once a week to the yard and not allowed to make phone calls.
I was in the hole [segregation] for two weeks, and so I asked the officials when I would have a hearing. He told me the hearing took place without me and that I had been sentenced to 150 days. I appealed the decision and they let me out after twenty-eight days.18
Two other INS detainees at Orleans Parish Prison told Human Rights Watch rough treatment by this same deputy. Chinese detainee Min Phin claimed the deputy handcuffed him after Min Phin had an argument with another inmate. "After the handcuffs were on," he wrote, "...he pushed me toward the door. He brought me to a small room and slapped me three times on the face and one time on the back of the head. He also choked me and pushed my face against the wall."19 A second detainee from Orleans Parish Prison described how he witnessed the same deputy beat another detainee over and over with a broomstick. Afraid the conversation was being monitored, the detainee passed a note to Human Rights Watch researchers with the name of the deputy written down.20
In York County Prison in Pennsylvania, several INS detainees claimed that they were placed in disciplinary segregation for five days without a hearing after a criminal inmate started a fire in the dorm. According to the detainees, who were housed in a living area with county criminal inmates, a special security unit entered the cell area with electric shields and locked everyone in their cells, including three INS detainees. Cuban detainee Luís Cortez told Human Rights Watch: "We were locked down twenty-four-hours a day. We were not allowed to bathe until the fifth day, and we weren't given anything to eat except peanut butter sandwiches. There was a toilet in the cell, but the guards took the toilet paper when they searched the room."21 In the same incident, Luis Dutton from Panama was locked in a cell with a criminal inmate who threatened to hurt him if he used the bathroom while they were lockeddown together. "After sixteen meals of peanut butter sandwiches, I felt faint, so they took me to the nurse."22 After seven days total, the detainees were let out, but Cortez claimed none of those subject to the lockdown was ever given a disciplinary hearing.
Inmate Grievance Procedures
International standards for the treatment of prisoners and ACA standards provide that imprisoned individuals have a right to lodge complaints against jail officials those ultimately responsible for their care when they feel they have not received the appropriate treatment.23
Many INS detainees told Human Rights Watch that filing a grievance with the jail officials was at best a futile effort, and at worst an invitation to retaliation by jail correctional officers. Jail wardens and chief administrators interviewed by Human Rights Watch indicated that they never received many complaints from INS detainees and that those they did receive usually concerned minor things regarding food or haircuts.
At Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, one INS detainee told Human Rights Watch that approximately eighteen INS detainees filed a grievance about a deputy who was often verbally abusive towards them. None of the eighteen ever received a response. The same detainee wrote two grievances claiming that he was having problems with two particular deputies, whom he named. One grievance was never answered, and the other was dismissed because there was no evidence against the officer. "Now things are worse than ever with this deputy," he said."24
"The officers won't help you," a Jamaican woman detained at Liberty County Jail in Texas told Human Rights Watch. "I put in requests and get no answer. Last night I got locked down in the area where the toilet didn't work. I told the guard during the night that I had to go to the bathroom and that the toilet didn't work. They told me to hold it until the morning...I had to go to the bathroom in the shower."25
Notice of Rights/Inmate Handbooks
In local jails, INS detainees suddenly find themselves subjected to rules and regulations promulgated to control violent or uncooperative criminals. Without a clear understanding of these rules, INS detainees may find themselves in disciplinary proceedings that can lead to severe punishment.
International principles make clear that even when detainees are in the care and custody of the local wardens and jail staff, the INS still remains the "authority responsible for the arrest, detention, or imprisonment" and as such, it retains the duty to provide detainees promptly with "information on and an explanation of [their] rights and how to avail [themselves] of such rights."26 In addition, when the detainee does not adequately understand English, he or she is entitled to receive the information in a language he or she is able to understand.27
Human Rights Watch believes that international standards obligate the INS to provide detainees with notice of their rights - not only their rights in immigration proceedings, but also their rights and obligations particular to the facility in which they are detained. In practice, the INS relies on local jail authorities to explain detainees' rights and responsibilities, but imposes no contractual obligation on the jails to do so and exercises no oversight to ensure that it is actually done.
The result is that in some local jails, INS detainees reported that they were never given a copy of the rules and regulations. Others reported that they received a copy in English, but they were unable to understand it. In some instances detainees were asked to sign acknowledgments that they have understood the rules, when in fact they did not. Than T. Ta, from Vietnam, wrote to Human Rights Watch that he been detained in the Wharton County Jail in Texas for nine months before he saw a copy of the rights handbook.28
The warden of Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania told Human Rights Watch that inmate handbooks were available in each unit but were not handed out to detainees upon arrival for "budget reasons."29 Yet the same warden admitted that only between $.60 and $.75 of each dollar paid by the INS is spent on care for detainees; the rest is profit.
I heard the metal pipe drop and I thought, my god, they're going to kill me.
-Cuban detainee Enrique Rodriguez Posada describing the beating he received while held by the INS at Tensas Parish Detention Center in St. Joseph, Louisiana30
Human Rights Watch learned of many troubling incidents of abuse of INS detainees by jail officials. Threats, intimidation, and physical mistreatment exceeded acceptable discipline and violated detainees' rights to humane treatment.
Pike County Jail, Pennsylvania
INS detainees in Pike County Jail in Pennsylvania first contacted Human Rights Watch in November 1996 with serious complaints of excessive disciplinary sanctions and mistreatment. One detainee, Ramón Medina, told Human Rights Watch that he had been placed in solitary confinement in September 1996 after telling correctional officers that he was going to file a complaint against them.31 According to Medina, he was brought to the solitary confinement cell with his hands and feet handcuffed and was hit and kicked in the head and arms by four correctional officers at the jail. Medina claims that one of the officers, Brian Bain, took off his uniform and told Medina, "[W]e can do this as men," before proceeding to beat him with the three other officers present. "I was hit in the eye and head and am in a lot of pain. I can't sleep at night," he told Human Rights Watch. "I also have a bone sticking out of my left hand."32 In the solitary confinement cell, Medina said he was kept naked without a mattress, using toilet paper to keep warm.
Medina filed a complaint against Officer Bain, who was subsequently dismissed from the jail. According to a Pike County Jail official, Officer Bain was dismissed because of "burnout" after jail administration officials twice ordered him to undergo counseling.33 Because of the seriousness of Medina's allegations, Human Rights Watch contacted the INS in April 1997 to alert the agency about his situation. An INS official called Human Rights Watch by telephone to say that the agency would investigate Medina's complaints; she told us, however, that Medina's injuries were not due to mistreatment but were caused by his hurling himself against the walls because he was frustrated by his long detention since he was Cuban (in fact, Medina is from the Dominican Republic).34 When asked about Officer Bain's alleged participation in beating Medina, and his subsequent dismissal, the INS official simply stated that it was no longer an issue since Bain had been dismissed, adding that it was not "any of the INS's business" whether or not Bain might be subjected to criminal prosecution or even whether the county prosecutor knew of the incident.35
After Human Rights Watch alerted them about the mistreatment, the INS did send a representative to Pike County Jail to investigate the allegations, but detainees who were interviewed claimed that the INS representative threatened them at the beginning of the interviews, warning them that if they were lying, the detainees themselves would be prosecuted.36 In the meantime, at the end of April Medina was again placed in solitary confinement until June 1997.
Tensas Parish Detention Center, Louisiana
Enrique Rodriguez Posada was among several INS detainees being held at Tensas Parish Detention Center on October 31, 1996, when an argument broke out involving both INS detainees and local inmates. According to Rodriguez, correctional officers at the jail ordered him and five other Cuban detainees to strip naked and brought them to a laundry room. In the room, Rodriguez says all six men were beaten, one at a time, with what appeared to Rodriguez to be a pipe covered with tape. Rodriguez claims that three correctional officers, one of whom he identified as Capt. Benjamin Britton, beat him in front of the jail's warden, injuring his head and hand. According to Rodriguez:
I was crouching down to block my head. Another guy had his thumb broken. The beating lasted three or four minutes. Afterwards, they put all of us and one American in lockdown while we were still naked. The isolation room they put us in had two beds for six people, and for the first twenty-four hours we had no blanket or mattress. No medical attention wasgiven to any of us, and it was not until seven days later that they brought us to medical services because there were no marks or bruises that looked so bad at that time.37
According to Tensas Parish Detention Center medical records, Rodriguez was examined on November 6, 1996 while in lockdown.38 The records state that Rodriguez complained that his right wrist and shoulder hurt and that they had been injured during the October 31 incident. Rodriguez was referred the next to the emergency room at Conway Medical Center, where his injured right arm was put in a sling39.
After thirteen days in isolation, Rodriguez was given a disciplinary hearing where he was found not guilty. In mid-November, he was transferred to Avoyelles Parish Prison, and by December he had been transferred to Vermilion Parish Prison, where he continued to complain of pain in his left eye, headaches and blurred vision that stemmed from the beating. According to medical records, the chief of the Vermilion Parish Prison ordered Rodriguez to receive a special eye exam during which doctors noted blunt trauma and damage to the iris of his eye.40
INS District Director for New Orleans John Caplinger told Human Rights Watch that the INS learned of the October 31 incident during a routine visit to the Tensas Parish Detention Center, after which investigations by the FBI, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Justice (OIG) and the INS's Office of Internal Audit (OIA) were initiated.41 Rodriguez confirmed to Human Rights Watch that officials from the INS took pictures of his bruises and other injuries and that a representative of the FBI had come to talk to some of the victims.
In February 1998, three Tensas Parish deputies pleaded guilty to two counts of civil rights violations of county inmates also involved in the October 31, 1996 incident.42 One of the three who entered a guilty plea was Benjamin Britton, the same deputy Rodriguez identified to Human Rights Watch as having beaten him. The sheriff of Tensas Parish, Jeff Britt, was also indicted on separate charges of beating a local inmate at the Tensas Parish Detention Center with a blackjack in January 1997 and lying to the FBI.43 Sheriff Britt's trial ended in a hung jury in July.44
Although it appears that the abusive jail deputies in this case were brought to justice, the incident provides one more example of the risk inherent in the INS's policy of using jails to house its detainees and relying on local jails to police themselves. It is a difficult enough task for the INS to screen and monitor its own thousands of agents, over whom it has direct control. When detainees are farmed out to local law enforcement agencies whose officers the INS has had no involvement in hiring, training or monitoring, they are placed in an unnecessarily vulnerable situation.
Avoyelles Parish Prison, Marksville, Louisiana
During our research, Human Rights Watch received many telephone calls and letters from INS detainees in Avoyelles Parish Prison in rural Louisiana alleging poor physical conditions and mistreatment by jail officials. When Human Rights Watch tried to interview detainees at the jail in March 1997, we were denied both a tour of the facility and direct, private with detainees.
Then INS district director for New Orleans, John Caplinger, told Human Rights Watch that "about five or six years ago a guard or two [at Avoyelles Parish Prison] got indicted or convicted" after which the jail went through a period of probation with the INS.45 The district director told Human Rights Watch, "Now the INS tries to use Avoyelles only for receiving and processing detainees." Yet Human Rights Watch interviewed or received correspondence from more than a dozen detainees who had been held at Avoyelles Parish Prison for many months .
Jawaid Anwar, from Pakistan, told Human Rights Watch about an incident of mistreatment at Avoyelles Parish Prison.46 At the time the incident took place, Anwar had been detained at the facility for over fifteen months.
According to Anwar and other detainees, on the night of October 19, 1997, there was a disturbance involving a fire in a part of the jail called the A dorm. At the time, Anwar was being held in the lockdown area of the jail, where he was allowed out of his cell only one hour a day.
On October 20, 1997 about 6:00 in the morning a correctional officer pulled me from my cell and threw me into the hallway. In the day room, several officers began to beat me: two or three hit me in the face with their fists, and another kicked me in the hip. Then they dragged me to a holding cell about six feet by ten feet wide and put me in there with about fourteen other people. My head was spinning and my face was swelling. I was in that cell for about eight or nine hours and kept asking for medical attention, but no one would pay attention to me. I have high blood pressure and a history of stroke and had surgery before on my back and have a big hole in my back. Finally an officer came by and saw me in the holding cell and asked, "Why is that guy in there? He had nothing to do with it." Several hours later, they came and put me back in "lockdown." When they pulled me out of my cell,they also took my legal papers, my clothes and personal belongings and threw them on the floor. I never saw any of these belongings again; I guess they threw them out.47
Anwar was transferred to Beauregard Parish Jail in DeRidder, Louisiana on October 30, 1997; on November 18 he was transferred again to St. Martin Parish Correctional Center in St. Martinville, Louisiana, where he remains. The INS told Anwar that they were investigating the incident, but he has yet to hear of any action taken against the officers involved.
Anthony Deveaux, an INS detainee from the Bahamas, was transferred to Avoyelles Parish Prison from INS detention in Miami on May 17, 1997. Since he arrived at the jail, he has been in a restricted area where fifteen people are held - INS detainees and local inmates alike. Since there are not enough cells for all fifteen people, Deveaux and four other men sleep on cots in the common living area. Deveaux, who has only one eye and wears special sunglasses, described the following incident that took place on May 4, 1998.
I was standing in the area with fifteen other INS detainees and criminal inmates looking out the window. One of the jail sergeants told me I should not look outside. I told them I didn't see why I couldn't look outside. Sergeant Mark came in my cell and told me to step outside. Then he grabbed my head and slammed my face against the wall, breaking my shades. When I told then that they would have to buy me new ones because these cost me $350, they sprayed a whole can of mace on my face. I couldn't breathe.
The captain came out with a gas mask on his face and asked me to come to the property room to talk. He asked me if I would make some kind of deal with him - maybe they could glue the shades if I didn't say anything about what happened. I refused to accept his deal, so I was taken to a holding cell in the front of the jail near the booking cell.
The guards shackled my two hands together and my two feet together and chained both my hands and feet to a metal bars on the floor - I couldn't sit or stand up, only lay on my left side.
For five days I was left like this, from Monday to Friday. I wasn't given any food or water for five days. One time they put a tray of food near the door, but I couldn't get up to reach it. There was a toilet in the room, but I couldn't get up or even pull down my pants so I had to urinate on myself. On Friday, I begged them to let me out and told them I would pay for my own shades. Then they let me out.48
Length of Detention
In India they have a law called TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act]. It allows for arbitrary detention, they arrest you and hold you for six months without a charge or court. The United States said it is a bad law. But in the United States, they hold us for years. It is worse.
-Amar Singh, Sikh Indian asylum seeker detained by the INS for three years in two local jails and INS-run detention centers.49
Immigrants in INS detention may find themselves behind bars for years, essentially "serving time" in local jails with no known end to their sentences and little likelihood for parole. No exception is made for most asylum seekers, about whom the INS does not even keep accurate statistics or know their numbers in detention.50 Human Rights Watch found that many detainees, including asylum seekers, are imprisoned for exceedingly long periods of time, even for as long as three or four years. In Vermilion Parish Jail in Louisiana, the chief of the jail told Human Rights Watch that the average length of detention for INS detainees in his facility was fourteen to sixteen months.51 In Chicago, an INS supervisor for detention stated that in a six-month period preceding the interview, all the asylum seekers in the Chicago District had been granted asylum, but only after having been held in local jails for seven and eight months.52
The length of time asylum seekers are detained is alarming. Although international standards state that as a general rule asylum seekers should not be detained. Human Rights Watch found asylum seekers held in detention for years, transferred from jail to jail and from state to state, while trying to prove their claims for political asylum. For asylum seekers in local jails, waiting in detention can be psychologically devastating. Post traumatic stress disorders, lack of language skills, ignorance of legal rights, lack of access to lawyers, fear of government authorities, and a criminal environment where they may be housed with convicted criminals all combine to exact special suffering on asylum seekers. While in detention there is little to do but sit and worry if you will ever get out of jail or if you will be deported back to a situation you fear.
Long periods of detention affect the mental health of detainees and increase the likelihood of mistreatment and abuse. Harpal Singh, an Indian Sikh, has been in INS detention since March 1995. According to Mr. Singh, he left India after being arrested and tortured for being an active member of his religious sect. "I was threatened many times," he wrote, "so I was afraid to live in my county, then I decided to come to America to save my life."53 When he arrived at the airport in New York, he was arrested and has been behind bars ever since.
In our site visits, Human Rights Watch interviewed the following asylum seekers who had been in criminal jails for many months, even years at the time we met them. Some of the individuals named below may now have been released, some may have been deported; many others have now been detained for even longer periods.
-Liu Jun Ying, from China, detained one year, ten months.
-F.A., from Nigeria, detained one year, five months.
-Mohammed Gado, from Ghana, detained two years, three months (subsequently released).
-Abdallah Ali Mohammed, from Somalia, detained two years, one month.
-Rajinder Singh, from India, detained one year, ten months.
-Yahia Meddah, from Algeria, two years.
International law prohibits arbitrary detention and requires that detained persons be brought promptly before a judge or other judicial authority (see Legal Section). This requirement extends to all held in detention, whether they are criminally accused or administratively detained.54 Human Rights Watch was surprised to find a number of INS detainees held for considerable lengths of time before being brought to immigration court. Some of the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch wanted only to be deported back to their home countries.
When detainees wait more than a year to see an immigration judge, it is hard to imagine that such detention is not arbitrary. For example, a Nigerian detainee in Virginia Beach Correctional Facility in Virginia told Human Rights Watch that he had been detained by the INS for nineteen months and had not ever been to a hearing in immigration court . "I want you to know," he wrote, " that I am not trying to fight deportation, on the contrary, am trying to be deported ...so that I can be reunited with the family that I have been away from."55 Lost in a local jail, with no money to pay for an attorney, and ignored or forgotten by the INS, he has no idea when he might ever get his wish.
Abdallah Ali Mohammed from Somalia contacted Human Rights Watch after he had been waiting for nine months to be deported; he had spent twenty-five months in INS detention, where he was denied asylum and did not appeal. "My mind is absent," he told Human Rights Watch. "I am very, very tired."56
INS detainees are frequently transferred from facility to facility and state to state. Decisions about when and where detainees are transferred are made at the district level and informed by such things as court appearances, immigration case status and availability and cost of bed space, but the INS rarely considers the location of families, friends, or legal counsel. In many cases, legal counsel are not even notified when their clients are transferred.
International standards and ACA guidelines provide that the detainee should be kept in a place of detention that is, if possible, near his or her usual place of residence.57 Such standards exist to allow detainees to receive the practical and emotional support they need. In some cases, a detainee is the financial provider in a family, and whenhe or she is detained, the family has trouble surviving. Most families could never afford the plane fare or general travel costs associated with visiting a detained relative in another state. Frequent transfers also mean that families do not know where their loved ones are since the INS does not notify families of transfers.
The family of Cuban detainee Luís Cortez spent more than $2,000 traveling from California to Pennsylvania to see him, only to end up visiting six jails during a ten day period to find him58. No one at any of the Pennsylvania jails could tell the Cortez family where to find their relative. Finally, they found him at Snyder County Jail in Pennsylvania and were allowed one two-hour non-contact visit before they had to return home.
Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of detainees transferred at a dizzying rate from jail to jail and state to state. Below are some examples of the transfer histories of the INS detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch:
Hardeep Singh, from India
8/94-12/94 Wackenhut, Queens, New York
12/94-2/95 Esmor contract facility, New Jersey
2/95-4/95 Lehigh County Jail, Pennsylvania
4/95-Back to Esmor
4/95-8/95 Back to Lehigh County Jail
8/95-Wicomoco County Jail, Maryland
8/95-9/95 Dorchester County Jail, Maryland
9/95-Back to Wicomoco County Jail
9/95-? Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana
Abelino Barroso Gonzales, from Cuba
8/8/96 Krome Service Processing Center, Florida
8/10/96-11/96 Stewart County Jail, Florida
11/96-1/97 Bay County Jail Annex (CCA), Florida
1/97-3/97 Avoyelles Parish Prison, Louisiana
3/97-? Pointe Coupee Parish Prison, Louisiana
Mohamud Hassan, from Somalia
10/94-1/95 Esmor contract facility, New Jersey
1/95-5/95 Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
5/95 Back to Esmor for immigration hearing
5/95 Back to Lehigh County Jail
5/95-7/95 Wicomoco County Jail, Maryland
7/95-9/95 Dorchester County Jail, Maryland
9/95-10/96 Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana until release
After being detained at J.F.K. airport in New York at age nineteen, Mohamud Hassan was transferred seven times to five facilities in four different states. Hassan was given lists of legal service providers, but frequent transfers made it impossible for him to find an attorney to represent him in his asylum claim. Unrepresented, he lost his initial asylum hearing and was transferred to Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana to await the outcome of his appeal. Hassan told Human Rights Watch that at Orleans Parish Prison, five correctional officers came to his cell, handcuffed him, and kicked and beat him because another INS detainee told the jail officers that Hassan had threatened the correctionalofficers.59 After the beating, Hassan was given forty days of disciplinary segregation. Hassan eventually found an attorney after relatives in Canada called Amnesty International in San Francisco which was able to recruit a volunteer lawyer in New Orleans. After two years in detention, Hassan was granted asylum and released.
The guards used to tell me `You'll be here until you're dead.'
-Nestor Campos from Cuba, describing what deputies at Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana told him about his detention60
Unlike criminal prisoners, INS detainees have no exact sentence or set date when they can expect to be released from detention. They must patiently endure long INS, immigration court, and appellate delays before they know the outcome of their cases. And these are the lucky ones. About 1,800 INS detainees live daily with no guarantee that they will ever be let out of detention.61 These "long-term unremovables" under final orders of deportation are held indefinitely by the INS, the majority in local jails, because the INS will not release them and neither their countries of origin and no third country will accept them.62
Arbitrary detention is clearly prohibited by international law. Even when the initial detention is justified, Human Rights Watch believes that detention becomes arbitrary when detainees, who are not serving a criminal sentence, do not know when they will be released and have no genuine mechanism to challenge the indefinite nature of their detention. In recent decisions, U.S. courts have ordered INS detainees released from long and indefinite detention citing violations of constitutional due process guarantees.63
Most indefinite detainees are citizens of countries with whom the United States has limited, or no, diplomatic relations or which simply refuse to accept their citizens who have emigrated or fled. Among these countries are Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, and Libya. Other detainees are held indefinitely because they are "stateless," meaning that no legal state will recognize their nationality. Such "stateless" people may include Palestinians, those born in refugee camps, or citizens of governments that no longer exist. Still others are heldindefinitely because political upheaval or war has destroyed state infrastructure and eliminated functioning governmental offices.
The majority of indefinite detainees are detained after finishing their criminal sentences, but asylum seekers may also be held indefinitely if their countries will not accept them after their asylum claims fail.64 For INS detainees who have served previous criminal sentences, indefinite detention means that they will remain incarcerated in criminal facilities for years after they complete their criminal sentences. For example, Human Rights Watch interviewed a sixty-five- year old man from Afghanistan who had been arrested and convicted on a drug charge in 1993. He satisfied the criminal sentence in only seventy-five days and was then handed over to the custody of the INS. At the time of our interview, he had been detained in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, two other jails, and one Service Processing Center for four years; he remains in jail at the time of this writing.65
The INS recognizes that it "is not suited to handle long-term criminals and those with no hope of release."66 While INS headquarters may be sensitive to the agency's limits in regards to long-term detainees, detainees report little sympathy for their plight from the INS at the local level. Mam Vang Du, a Vietnamese national who has been detained in the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana for four years, told Human Rights Watch that when the INS brought him to Louisiana, the head of deportation told him. "[I]f your country doesn't accept you, it's life for you."67
Vietnamese citizen Than T. Ta was transferred to INS custody after serving a criminal sentence in a Texas prison. The INS ordered him deported to Vietnam in March 1997 and Ta did not object. But almost a year and a half after the final order of deportation was entered, Ta remains detained at the time of this writing at Wharton County Jail, Texas with no hope of being released or being deported.
INS detainee Joseph Essel, also at Wharton County Jail, was born in Ghana and moved to Liberia at age six. According to Essel, after his parents were killed in Liberia during the civil war, he entered the United States in 1991 and was detained as a stowaway. "The only document I had in my possession," he wrote Human Rights Watch, "was my Liberian I.D. card. I had no time to get any kind of document in my possession during my escape from my country."68
According to INS documents, Essel was released in 1992 due to the "dim prospect of acquiring a travel document" from Ghana, the country of his birth.69 Then, in March 1997, while he was visiting a friend detained at an INS contract facility in Houston, the INS detained him again based on a prior conviction for which he had served 120 days in 1992. In April 1997, Essel was sent to Wharton County Jail in Texas. He wrote to Human Rights Watch, "[M]y deportation officer ordered me to provide him a document that I did not have...He told me that my failure to produce this document which I cannot get during my escape from my country will be an indication to the INS that I am a flight risk and will allow the INS to continue to hold me. I am an immigrant that came to the USA for freedom,not incarceration."70 At the time of this writing, Essel has been detained for sixteen months in Wharton County Jail where he languishes, waiting for a document that will likely never be produced.
Human Rights Watch is aware of dozens of detainees in local jails in the same desperate situation. Ohia Kalasho, for example, is an Iraqi citizen who has been in INS custody since March 13, 1997 awaiting deportation to his country. He wrote to Human Rights Watch from Orleans Parish Prison seeking release from a place he claims "is not equipped for long term detention."71 Tuan Truong, a Vietnamese detainee in Nacogdoches County Jail in Texas has been waiting for deportation for seventeen months at the time of this writing. Truong, who cannot afford an attorney, said he was told by the INS deportation officer who arrested him that he "will be in INS custody indefinitely until the Communist government in Vietnam issues [his] travel documents."72
Cuban detainees, victims of poor diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, also receive what amount to life sentences in jail simply because of their immigration status. Mariel Cubans (as they are called) are given an annual opportunity every year to have their cases heard before a panel of INS officers (Cuban Review Panel) who review the detainees' files and judge whether they merit parole. Detainees must supply evidence of good behavior, rehabilitation and prove they are no longer a danger to society in order to be released.
Although all Cubans have a right to counsel at the panel interview, such a right means little for detainees housed in rural local jails far from any possible legal help. Most of the detainees who do receive legal counsel benefit from a handful of lawyers and law students who are willing to take on the cases free of cost. Still, representation is often of little help because lawyers are not allowed to review files and panels take place without the representatives present.73
Alternatives to Long-Term Detention
The INS is undertaking, on an informal basis, panel interviews to assess whether any of the indefinitely held non-Mariel Cubans or INS detainees of other nationalities should be released. The INS has established a pilot program of interviews in California, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, in which it attempts to determine whether the nature of a detainee's crime permits release and whether they would have material support once released from detention. The INS has been very quiet about this program, and some immigration detention attorneys working in pilot states report that they were unaware their clients may be eligible for such a program.
Detention in local jails undermines long-term detainees' chances of being released under the program. To receive a favorable decision, detainees need to demonstrate that they have changed; that they have been rehabilitated during their time behind bars and are no longer a threat to society. Local jails, because they were never intended for long-term incarceration, rarely offer educational or vocational classes through which detainees could prove rehabilitation or commitment to self-improvement. Many of the indefinitely held detainees Human Rights Watch interviewed had no opportunity to participate in classes or programs of any kind.
One of the few hopes long-term INS detainees have of ever being released and resuming life with their families is a program offered at the Orleans Parish Prison called About Face. This intensive nine-month program begins with twelve weeks of strict boot camp. The leader of the physical training component, a veteran of the Vietnam War, described the heavy emphasis on discipline and responsibility by referring to military-style bed-making by saying, "If the coin don't bounce, they bounce."74 The remainder of the program is dedicated to drug treatment, where participants address their own personal addictions which include, according to a written overview of the program provided by the jail, addiction "to the money which the sale of [drugs and alcohol] provides."75 According to the jail, detainees whose crimes involved drug use are prioritized and detainees with convictions for certain crimes may not participate at all.76 Once the program is completed, detainees may be released to a halfway house, or other supervised situation, where they are still under an order of deportation in the event their deportation becomes possible.
The program is positive in that it offers what may be the only hope for release to those who previously had none. Human Rights Watch believes, however, that a program that requires individuals who are administrative detainees to earn release by participating in a boot camp, professing their criminal natures and admitting addictive behavior is not appropriate. INS detainees who have been previously criminally convicted, have already served their criminal sentences in state and federal facilities where any punishment or rehabilitation should have taken place. The program also fails to provide any solutions to the underlying political reasons detainees find themselves in indefinite detention in the first place. The complex and arbitrary results of an immigration policy that allows detainees to serve life sentences in administrative detention cannot be answered simply by creating more programs like the one at Orleans Parish Prison.
108 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mary Baldwin Kennedy, director of Federal and Communications Division, Office of the Criminal Sheriff Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 13, 1997. A year later, the policy of the jail had changed, and in June 1998, a Human Rights Watch lawyer was allowed legal visits with detainees without meeting the previously stated requirements.
109 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Warden Short, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 19, 1997. Warden Short also told Human Rights Watch that a legal visit was not necessary since immigration detainees were provided lawyers by the government, which is not the case.
110 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nancy Hooks, Officer-in-Charge, Oakdale Federal Detention Center, Oakdale, Louisiana, March 12, 1997.
112 Human Rights Watch interview with Gerard Guillory, Avoyelles Parish Prison, Marksville, Louisiana, March, 20, 1997.
113 Human Rights Watch interview with John Caplinger, INS New Orleans district director, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
114 Human Rights Watch interview with Lt. Hank Marsh, Fort Lauderdale City Jail, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, February 28, 1997.
115 Letter from Orcalino Eneias to Human Rights Watch dated February 21, 1998.
116 Even in jails that held male INS detainees separately from local inmate populations, separation of female detainees (whose numbers are smaller) was considered too much of a burden to jail officials. This was the case in Fort Lauderdale City Jail in Florida, Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana and Clark/Frederick/Winchester Jail in Virginia. The Women's Commission on Refugee Women and Children found that female asylum seekers in Berks County and York County jails in Pennsylvania were commingled with local inmates, often in maximum security areas, in both sleeping and living quarters. Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Forgotten Prisoners: A Follow-up Report on Refugee Women Incarcerated in York County, Pennsylvania, July 1998.
117 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules, Rule 8. Principle 8 of the U.N. Body of Principles also states that "persons in detention shall be subject to treatment appropriate to their unconvicted status [and]... shall, whenever possible, be kept separate from imprisoned persons."
118 UNHCR Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers, Geneva, 1997.
119 Conclusion No. 44, Detention of Asylum Seekers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Executive Committee, 37th Session, 1986.
120 Leigh Marjamaa and Ben Evans, "No Way Out," Medill News Service, March 13, 1998.
121 Human Rights Watch interview with Alfredo Díaz Ventura, Denton County Jail, Denton, Texas, March 5, 1997.
122 Human Rights Watch interview with Chief Paul Trahan, Vermilion Parish Jail, Abbeville, Louisiana, March 20, 1997.
123 Human Rights Watch interview, Capt. Goldson, Liberty County Jail, Liberty, Texas, March 7, 1997.
124 Human Rights Watch interview with An Mei Weng, Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Correctional Facility, Winchester, Virginia, February 7, 1997. The jail administrator told Human Rights Watch that the jail's contract with the INS does not stipulate that detainees should be held separately from the local inmate population.
125 Letter from Amara Shahid Kargbo to Human Rights Watch, St. Mary's County Detention Center, dated August 23, 1998.
127 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with J. Anwar, St. Martin Parish Correctional Center, May 10, 1998.
128 Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Richard Ference, Manatee County Jail, Bradenton, Florida, March 7, 1997.
129 Human Rights Watch interview with José Reyes, Dallas County Jail, Dallas, Texas, March 5, 1997.
130 Letter from R.P. to Human Rights Watch, Beauregard Parish Detention Center, DeRidder, Louisiana, dated April 16, 1997.
131 Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person."
The UNHCR Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers make clear that conditions of detention should be humane and prescribed by law and make special reference to the applicability of the norms and principles found in the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules and the U.N. Body of Principles. In particular, Guideline 6 states that the following conditions for asylum seekers should be provided:
(I) the segregation within facilities of men and women, and children from adults and
asylum seekers from convicted criminals;
(ii) the possibility regularly to contact and receive visits from friends, relatives and legal counsel;
(iii) the possibility to receive appropriate medical treatment and to conduct some form of physical exercise; and
(iv) the possibility to continue further education or vocational training.
132 In 1994, immigrant advocates and pro bono lawyers filed a constitutional challenge to the Chicago district's detention arrangement alleging deliberate subjection to inhumane conditions of confinement and denial of reasonable access to attorneys and legal materials. Imasuen v. Moyer, 91-5425, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.
133 According to the INS, the city jails most frequently used are located in Western Springs, Stone Park, and Brookfield, Illinois. Usually, between ten and thirty detainees are held in the city jails at night and on the weekends. The Broadview Service Staging Area can hold up to 150 people during the day. Human Rights Watch interview with Terry Bretz, INS supervisory detention officer, Broadview Service Staging Area, April 4, 1997.
134 Human Rights Watch interview with Fabio Díaz, Broadview Service Staging Area, Broadview, Illinois, April 4, 1997.
135 Human Rights Watch interview with Terry Bretz, April 4, 1997.
136 Human Rights Watch interview with Oscar Flores Guzmán, Broadview Service Staging Area, Broadview, Illinois, April 4, 1997.
137 Human Rights Watch interview with Fabio Díaz, April 4, 1997.
138 Human Rights Watch interview with Digafe Wkidan, Broadview Service Staging Area, Broadview, Illinois, April 4, 1997.
140 Human Rights Watch interview with INS detainee, INS New Orleans District Office, Louisiana, March 24, 1997. This detainee requested not to be identified. Other detainees, whose comments appear below, requested various levels of anonymity.
142 In a letter to Human Rights Watch, an INS detainee in the Templeman building of the Orleans Parish prison system wrote that all INS detainees in held in HOD were suddenly transferred to Templeman on August 17, 1998.
143 Human Rights Watch interview with Nestor Campos, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
144 Human Rights Watch interview with Mam Vang Du, Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 5, 1998.
145 Human Rights Watch interview with Warden George Wagner, Berks County Prison, Leesport, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1997. Cells in the old jail, for example, measured fifty-four square feet compared to seventy-two square feet in the newer sections.
146 Human Rights Watch interview with Francisco Puig, Berks County Prison, February 6, 1997.
147 Human Rights Watch interview, Chief Mike Holm, Corrections Corporation of America, Liberty County Jail, March 7, 1998. Less than 20 percent of the county inmates were held in the old section of the jail.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with Rajinder Singh, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, Florida, February 27, 1997.
149 Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc, Florida County Jails: INS's Secret Detention World, Miami, November 1997, p. 44.
150 Ibid. In January 1998, the INS issued detention standards governing detainee hunger strikes that allow detainees on hunger strike to be placed in isolation. The standards do not attempt to address the underlying issues relating to appropriate treatment for detainees in local jails and therefore would not have made this situation of the hunger-striking Sikhs any better.
151 Human Rights Watch visit to Hillsborough County Jail, Tampa, Florida, February 24, 1997.
152 Standard Minimum Rules, Article 21(1). Guideline 6 of the UNHCR Guidelines on the Detention of Asylum Seekers also requires that asylum seekers be given access to physical activity.
154 Internal INS Memorandum titled "Detained Alien Recreation Policy" from INS Commissioner Doris Meissner to Regional Directors, District Directors and Chief Patrol Agents, dated May 9, 1996.
157 Detention Standards, Detained Alien Recreation Policy, Section V. F.
158 This standard is applied inconsistently. For example, Vermilion Parish Prison sent Human Rights Watch a copy of the contract extension and the modification of the Inter-Governmental Service Agreement (IGSA) between the jail and the INS. On December 13, 1996 (when the INS recreation policy for detainees was already in place) the INS sent the Vermilion Parish Prison a letter detailing modifications of the IGSA. The letter lists changes in the payment address and names the new Contracting Officer for the INS in Vermont, but does not mention INS's recreation policy nor specify that the jail should be giving detainees recreation time daily.
159 Human Rights Watch has seen contracts from York County Prison and Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania; Bay County Detention Center and Hillsborough County Jail in Florida; Pointe Coupee Parish Jail and Vermilion Parish Jail in Louisiana.
160 Human Rights Watch interview with Qui Ngyuen, Immigration Court, Dallas, Texas, February 21, 1997.
161 Human Rights Watch interview with Fred Hildebrand, Jail Administrator, Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center, Winchester, Virginia, February 7, 1997.
162 Human Rights Watch interview with Chief Holm, Liberty County Jail, Liberty, Texas, March 7, 1997.
163 Human Rights Watch interview with Janet Kumi, Liberty County Jail, March 7, 1997.
164 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mary Baldwin Kennedy, director of Federal and Communications Division, Office of the Criminal Sheriff Orleans Parish, June 11, 1998.
165 Human Rights Watch interview with Outthaaphay Detphongsone, Orleans Parish Prison, June 5, 1998.
166 Human Rights Watch interview with Leonardo Delis Martin, INS New Orleans District Office, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 24, 1997.
167 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant Knoll, DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois, April 3, 1997.
168 Human Rights Watch interview with A.Y., DuPage County Jail, April 3, 1997.
169 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdoulaye Diakite, DuPage County Jail, April 3, 1997.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with Lt. Hank Marsh, Fort Lauderdale City Jail, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, February 28, 1997.
172 Human Rights Watch interview with Hardeep Singh, INS District Office, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 24,1997. Singh was being held in Orleans Parish Prison, but was brought by the INS to the district office to be interviewed by Human Rights Watch.
173 Liberty County Jail request form signed by L. Smith, jail officer.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with Reina Gonzales, Liberty County Jail, March 7, 1997.
175 Human Rights Watch interview with Long Le, Denton County Jail, March 5, 1997.
176 Human Rights Watch interview with George Albert Rojas, Denton County Jail, March 5, 1997.
177 Human Rights Watch interview with Alejandro Cruz Serpas, Euless City Jail, March 5, 1997.
179 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdoulaye Diakite, DuPage County Jail, April 3, 1997.
180 Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office, Step One Grievance Form dated April 15, 1998.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with Eugenia, Liberty County Jail, March 7, 1997.
182 Human Rights Watch interview with Abelino Barroso Gonzales, Pointe Coupee Parish Jail, March 18, 1997.
183 Human Rights Watch interview with Harjinder Singh, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, Florida, February 27, 1997.
184 Letter from Ke Tuo Shan to Human Rights Watch dated May 25, 1997.
185 Human Rights Watch interview with Emily Chamblin, Amnesty International volunteer, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 5, 1998.
186 Human Rights Watch telephone interview Human Rights Watch with Mary Baldwin Kennedy, director of Federal and Communications Division, Office of the Criminal Sheriff Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 11, 1998.
187 On another occasion, a Laotian detainee requested that he be allowed to receive a Bible from his mother written in his native Hmong language. Initially, jail officials agreed to let a jail chaplain receive the Bible and give it to the detainee, but permission was later revoked. Human Rights Watch interview with Soeung Chhunn, Orleans Parish Prison, June 5, 1998.
188 Human Rights Watch interview with S. Kent Dodd, Manatee County Jail, Bradenton, Florida, February 25, 1997.
189 Letter from INS detainees at Riverside Regional Jail to Human Rights Watch, Hopewell, Virginia, dated May 23, 1998.
190 Human Rights Watch interview with L.J. Ying, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, February 27, 1997.
191 Letter from journalist to Human Rights Watch dated May 8, 1998, describing interview with Sri Lankan detainee.
192 Human Rights Watch tour of Orleans Parish Prison with American Bar Association delegation, comments of with Mary Baldwin Kennedy, director of Federal and Communications Division, Office of the Criminal Sheriff Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 4, 1998.
194 Principle 19 of the Body of Principles states that a detained person "shall have the right to be visited by and to correspond with, in particular, members of his family and shall be given the opportunity to communicate with the outside world." Principle 16(1) states that detainees are entitled to notify family members or other interested persons after they are arrested and when they are transferred from one facility to another. Principle 19 says that a detainee "shall have the right to be visited by and to correspond with members of his family...."
Rule 92 of the Standard Minimum Rules outlines similar rights that ought to be afforded pre-trial detainees (those most akin to administrative detainees) that include the right to inform family members about the detention and "to be given all reasonable facilities for communication with ... family and friends, and for receiving visits from them."
Guideline 6 of the UNHCR's Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers also underscores the importance for detained asylum seekers to contact regularly and receive visits from friends, relatives and legal counsel.
195 Human Rights Watch interview with Felicia Villebardet, Liberty County Jail, Liberty, Texas, March 3, 1997.
196 INS Detention Standard on Detainee Telephone Access, January 28, 1998.
198 In January 1998, the INS issued its own detainee visitation policies applicable to INS-run and privately contracted detention facilities. The policies allow for contact visits between detainees and visitors and allow visitation by children. They permit detainees to receive limited types of personal property, such as small religious items, glasses or address books. None of the policies, however, are currently binding on local jails holding INS detainees.
199 Human Rights Watch interview with Capt. Harland Westmoreland, Euless City Jail, Euless, Texas, March 3, 1997.
200 Human Rights Watch interview with Pedro Jimenez, Dallas immigration court, March 4, 1997.
201 8 C.F.R. 235.3(e).
202 Jail officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch gave widely varying responses to questions about which medical services the INS covered. Some jail officials reported no monetary limit on care, others reported a limit of $200, while others said the only limits were on dental care or corrective eye care, such as glasses.
203 See also Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc., Florida County Jails: INS's Secret Detention World, Miami, November 1997. The report provides many examples of inadequate medical care received by INS detainees in local jails in Florida. Complaints include unavailable services, delayed attention, poor dental care, no eye care, and retaliatory, and punitive actions against detainees who seek medical care.
204 Article 25(1)of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of All Prisoners states that the medical officer "should daily see all sick prisoners, who complain of illness." American Correctional Association guideline 3-ALDF-4E-06 states, "[W]ritten policy and procedure requires that inmate's health complaints are solicited daily, acted on by health-trained correctional personnel...".
205 Human Rights Watch interview with INS detainee, INS New Orleans District Office, Louisiana, March 24, 1997.
206 Human Rights Watch interview with Calixto Palacios Fraga, Vermilion Parish Jail, March 20, 1997.
207 Human Rights Watch interview, Liberty County Jail, Liberty, Texas, March 7, 1997.
208 Human Rights Watch interview, Liberty County Jail, Liberty, Texas, March 7, 1997.
209 Principle 24 of the U.N. Body of Principles.
210 Human Rights Watch interview with INS detainee, DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois, April 3, 1997.
211 Human Rights Watch interview with jail staff doctor, Denton County Jail, Denton, Texas, March 5, 1997.
212 Human Rights Watch interviews with Long Le and Rodolfo Aragus Quintero, Denton County Jail, March 5, 1997.
213 Principle 24 of the Body of Principles states that a proper medical examination should be offered promptly after admission into a place of detention and medical care should be provided whenever necessary. Article 24 of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules provides for initial medical assessment after admission taking into account mental health needs and infectious diseases. INS's newly issued Detention Standards require initial screening for infectious diseases in INS-run and privately contracted detention centers, but once again, the detainees held in local jails are left unprotected by the new standards.
214 Letter from A.S.V. to Human Rights Watch, Kern County Jail, Bakersfield, California dated May 25, 1998.
215 Letter from H.T.P. to Human Rights Watch, Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana dated June 19, 1997.
216 Human Rights Watch interview with Roy Petty, Director of the Midwest Immigrants' Rights Center, Chicago, Illinois, April 2, 1997.
217 Human Rights Watch interview with Terry Bretz, INS Supervisory Detention Officer, Broadview Service Staging Area, Broadview, Illinois, April 4, 1997.
218 Human Rights Watch interview with Warden Don Knoll, DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois, April 3, 1997.
219 Human Rights Watch interview with Roy Petty, Director, Midwest Immigrants' Rights Center, Chicago, Illinois, April, 2, 1997.
220 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules, Article 22(3) states that "services of a qualified dental officer shall be available to every prisoner." ACA standard 3-ALDF-4E-23 states "...each inmate under direction and supervision of a dentist" should get "screening within 14 days of admission; dental hygiene services within 14 days of admission...and dental treatment not limited to extractions (emphasis added) within three months when the health of inmate would be adversely affected."
221 Human Rights Watch interview with Musbah Abdulateef, Berks County Prison, Leesport, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1997.
222 Human Rights Watch interview with Warden Don Knoll, DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois, April 3, 1997.
223 Human Rights Watch interview with Joe Montesano, jail liaison officer, DuPage County Jail, April 3, 1997.
224 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mary Baldwin Kennedy, director of Federal and Communications Division, Office of the Criminal Sheriff Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 11, 1998.
225 Human Rights Watch interview with medical staff, Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center, February 7, 1997.
226 Human Rights Watch interview with Keo Chek, Clark/Frederick/Winchester Adult Detention Center, February 7, 1997.
227 Article 22(1) of the Standard Minimum Rules states that at every institution one medical officer should have some knowledge of psychiatry. Article 25(2) says that the medical officer "shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner's physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment."
228 ACA Standards 3-ALDF-4E-11, 12, and 13 require "mental health services for inmates." Comments to the guidelines further state that, "[A]n adequate number of staff should be available to deal directly with inmates who have severe mental health problems as well as to advise other correctional staff in their contacts with such individuals."
229 Letter from Chen Sie En to Human Rights Watch dated June 27, 1997.
230 Human Rights Watch interview with T.J., Krome Service Processing Center, February 27, 1997.
231 Berks County Prison Report of Inmate Disciplinary Proceedings, January 22, 1997.
232 Letter from Jay Carter, M.A., Psy.D., licensed psychologist, to Joseph Hohenstein, Meddah's immigration attorney, July 8, 1997.
233 Letter from Robin Miller, M.D., resident psychiatrist, Harrisburg State Hospital, to Joseph Hohenstein, April 29, 1997.
234 A copy of hospital rules sent to Human Rights Watch by Meddah state that hospital policy mandates that INS patients are "No Information/No Visitor" patients.
235 The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 allows the INS to deport immigrants accused of engaging in or supporting groups who engage in terrorist activities based on secret evidence that neither the accused nor their attorneys are permitted to know or rebut.
236 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yahia Meddah, Krome Service Processing Center, March 25, 1998.
237 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yahia Meddah, Kendall Regional Medical Center, Miami, Florida, April 2, 1998.
238 Letter to Robert A. Wallis, INS district director for Miami, from Alphonse Hayak, M.D., June 1, 1998.
239 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yahia Meddah, Kendall Medical Center, Miami, Florida, April 2, 1998.
240 Human Rights Watch interview with Carol Kolnichak, New Orleans, Louisiana, who was commenting on her difficulties getting access to her client, a Somali asylum seeker detained in Orleans Parish Prison.
241 Section 292 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that in "any removal proceedings before an immigration judge and in any appeal proceedings before the Attorney General from any such removal proceedings, the person shall have the privilege of being represented (at no expense to the government), by such counsel...." In addition, ACA guidelines state that inmate access to counsel should be facilitated and that the jail should "assist inmates in making confidential contact with attorneys...such contact includes but is not limited to telephone communications, uncensored correspondence and visits. " 3-ALDF-3E-02.
242 See generally, Margaret H. Taylor, "Promoting Legal Representation for Detained Aliens," 29 Connecticut Law Review 1647 (Summer 1997) for a thorough discussion of the development of immigration detainees' right to legal counsel and current obstacles to representation.
243 There are often no local attorneys with any immigration experience when detainees are held in remote jails.
244 "Immigration Judge Decisions in the First Five Months of FY98 By Custody and Representation Status," Executive Office of Immigration Review. Statistics for previous years are similar: in FY1997, 10.8 percent of those detained were represented in immigration court compared to 56.5 percent of non-detained individuals; in FY1996, 10.7 percent of detained individuals had legal counsel compared to 51.5 percent of the those not detained.
245 Ibid. For example, 95.1 percent of individuals granted legal relief from deportation in immigration court between October 1997 and February 1998 had legal representation.
246 The Notice to Appear is the charging document issued by the INS that lists the grounds on which the INS is trying to remove the individual from the United States.
247 Human Rights Watch interview with José Reyes, Dallas County Jail, Dallas, Texas, March 5, 1997.
248 INS Detention Standards regarding Detainees Telephone Access provide for "special access" calls to legal service providers that are attempts to obtain legal representation or are made in consultation regarding a detainee's expedited removal case. Even if the standards applied to local jails, they would not go far in enough in providing the access to counsel needed by detainee, since detainees held in rural jail are located so far from their attorneys that phone consultation may constitute the bulk of their immigration case preparation.
249 Letter from Emanuel Obajuluwa to Human Rights Watch, Dallas County Jail, April 1, 1998.
250 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Emanuel Obajuluwa, February 20, 1998.
251 Correspondence Denial Form dated February 19, 1998.
252 Human Rights Watch interview, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, Florida, February 27, 1997
253 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abdallah Ali Mohammed, May 6, 1997.
254 The ACA standard's official comments governing attorney visitation state that law students should be considered authorized representatives. In fact, law students are sometimes the only hope for indigent detainees who cannot pay for private attorneys and cannot find pro bono organizations to help them.
255 Letter from Nicholas J. Rizza, national refugee coordinator, Amnesty International, U.S.A. to John B.Z. Caplinger, INS district director, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 6, 1996.
0 The jail housed more than 150 INS detainees.
1 Letter from Rebecca Feldman, attorney, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), to Human Rights Watch dated April 27, 1998.
2 "Legal Aide Accused of Inciting Immigrants: Access Limited," Associated Press, February 16, 1998.
3 3-ALDF-3E-03. The guideline also states that they will have access to paper, typewriters and other supplies. Lack of access to photocopiers is also a common problem for detainees in local jails. Human Rights Watch received many letters from detainees in which they asked Human Rights Watch to copy and return enclosed jail reports or legal documents because they were unable to copy them within the jail. Nigerian detainee Emanuel Obajuluwa, held at Dallas County Jail, wrote to Human Rights Watch that no photocopying was available at the jail, not even for legal copies. "The INS was aware of this fact," he wrote "I personally told them, since I arrived here on Dec. 9, 1997 plus other detainees can attest to this fact who had been here longer than I (from two years or more) We keep them informed. They don't care." Letter from Emanuel Obajuluwa to Human Rights Watch, February 28, 1998.
4 Human Rights Watch interview with S. Kent Dodd, INS facility director, Manatee County Jail, Bradenton, Florida, March 7, 1997.
5 Human Rights Watch interview with Marion Dillis, INS liaison, Berks County Prison, Leesport, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1997.
6 Letter from INS detainee held Orleans Parish Prison to Human Rights Watch dated July 30, 1998.
7 Human Rights Watch tour of Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 4, 1998.
8 Human Rights Watch's findings are supported by detention investigations and reports produced by other human rights and immigrant advocacy organizations. For example, the Women's Commission on Refugee Women and Children reported that a Chinese woman in Kern County Lerdo Detention Center in California was put in solitary confinement because she failed to use the pencil sharpener correctly, even though no one had ever explained the jail rules to the woman in a language she could understand. Another woman in the same facility was given disciplinary segregation for using too much toilet paper after having been denied a request for sanitary napkins. Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Liberty Denied: Women Seeking Asylum Imprisoned in the United States, New York, April, 1997. See also, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc., Florida County Jails: INS's Secret Detention World, Miami, November 1997.
9 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Rules 27, 31, 33-35; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10. The Standard Minimum Rules specifically state that restraint instruments like handcuffs or chains should never be used as punishment.
10 Specific provisions include that: alleged violations are investigated within twenty-four hours of the incident; pre-hearing detention is reviewed within seventy-two hours; disciplinary hearings are held as soon as possible, but no later than seven days after an alleged violation; inmates are allowed to present evidence on their own behalf, including witnesses; and a written record of the hearing is made with a copy given to the inmate. None of these standards are mandatory to receive ACA accreditation.
11 Beauregard Parish Jail Disciplinary Report, April 17, 1997.
12 Human Rights Watch interview with Capt. Roy Davenport, Denton County Jail, Denton, Texas, March 5, 1997.
13 Denton County Jail Inmate History Report, February 23, 1997.
14 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Than T. Ta, Wharton County Jail, Wharton, Texas, June 2, 1998. The inmate handbook of the Wharton County Sheriff's Department states that at mealtimes, each inmate "will be properly dressed with [his] uniform completely buttoned from top to bottom...." It also states that "failure to comply with these rules...will result in disciplinary action being taken..."
15 Human Rights Watch interview with Bashirudeen Atanda, DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, Illinois, April 3, 1997; letter from Bashirudeen Atanda to Human Rights Watch dated April 3, 1997.
16 Human Rights Watch interview with Guy Mbenga-Mondundou, Berks County Prison, Lewisporte, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1997.
17 Human Rights Watch interview with Moses Pessima, Berks County Prison, February 6, 1997.
18 Human Rights Watch interview with Soeung Chhunn, Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 5, 1998.
19 Letter from Min Phin to Human Rights Watch dated June 11, 1998, Orleans Parish Prison.
20 Human Rights Watch interview with INS detainee, New Orleans, Louisiana. March 24, 1997.
21 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Luís Cortez, York County Prison, March 30, 1998.
22 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Luis Dutton, York County Prison, March 30, 1998.
23 Principle 32 of the Body of Principles states that an "imprisoned person or his counsel shall have the right to make a request or complaint regarding his treatment...to the authorities responsible for the administration of the place of detention and to higher authorities." Principle 7 states that any act contrary to the rights and duties contained in the Body of Principles should be subject to appropriate sanctions and that impartial investigations upon complaint should be conducted.
24 Human Rights Watch interview with A.L. INS District Office New Orleans, Louisiana, March 24, 1997.
25 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sharon Deans, Liberty County Jail, Liberty Texas, March 7, 1997.
26 Body of Principles, Principle 13.
27 Body of Principles, Principle 14.
28 Letter from Than T. Ta to Human Rights Watch, Wharton County Jail, Wharton, Texas dated March 29, 1998.
29 Human Rights Watch interview with Warden George Wagner, Berks County Prison, Leesport, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1997.
30 Human Rights Watch interview with Enrique Rodriguez Posada, Vermilion Parish Prison, Abbeville, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
31 Information based on Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Ramón Medina and other detainees at Pike County Jail between November 1996 and June 1997, and personal interviews at Pike County Jail on March 22, 1997. (Medina was in solitary confinement on the day of our visit and officials would not let us interview him).
32 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ramón Medina, Pike County Jail, November 21, 1996. Another detainee housed with Medina reported that he could see marks on Medina's left eye, his arms, and noted that "something is very wrong with his left wrist." Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jorge Viera, Pike County Jail, November 21, 1996.
33 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant Connely, Pike County Jail, March 22, 1997.
34 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Trish Peppy, INS Philadelphia District Office, April 17, 1997.
36 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Miguel López, Pike County Jail, April 21, 1997.
37 Human Rights Watch interview with Enrique Rodriguez Posada, Vermilion Parish Prison, Abbeville, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
38 Tensas Parish Detention Center medical log, November 6, 1996.
39 Examination report and radiology diagnosis, E.A. Conway Medical Center, Department of Outpatient Services, November 7, 1996.
40 Facsimile from Beverly Bourgue, LPN to Joe Finks requesting eye exam for Enrique Rodriguez, Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office, December 11, 1996. Medical diagnosis in examination records, Dr. Emile Broussard, Young Eye Clinic.
41 Human Rights Watch interview with John Caplinger, INS New Orleans district director, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
42 "Tensas Sheriff Indicted in Jail Beating," The Advocate, February 27, 1998.
43 Ibid. A blackjack is a small, leather-covered or heavy rubber bludgeon.
44 "Sheriff's Beating Case Ends in Hung Jury," Dallas Morning News, July 11, 1998.
45 Human Rights Watch interview with John Caplinger, INS New Orleans district director, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 21, 1997.
46 The summary of the incident is based on numerous telephone interviews with, and written statements from, INS detainees Jawaid Anwar, Anthony Pratt and Sergio Santos (all detained at Avoyelles Parish Prison on October 20, 1997) between November 1997 and August 1998.
47 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jawaid Anwar, November 7, 1997. Sergio Santos, an INS detainee who shared a cell with Anwar on October 20 and an eyewitness to the incident, wrote that he "observed [a sergeant] physically assault Anwar and push him to the ground in the day room. Immediately after, Anwar was dragged out of the day room by several officers and physically beat Anwar in the hallway outside of lockdown cell 196." Affidavit of Sergio Santos dated October 24, 1997.
48 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Anthony Deveaux, Avoyelles Parish Prison, Marksville, Louisiana, June 2, 1998.
49 Human Rights Watch interview with Amar Singh, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, Florida, February 27, 1997.
50 Because detained individuals submit asylum applications to the immigration court, the INS's Detention and Deportation Division claims that it does not know the number of asylum seekers in detention at any given time.
51 Human Rights Watch interview with Chief Paul Trahan, Vermilion Parish Prison, Abbeville, Louisiana, March 20, 1997.
52 Human Rights Watch interview with Terry Bretz, INS supervisory detention officer, Broadview Service Staging Area, April 4, 1997.
53 Human Rights Watch interview with Harpal Singh, Krome Service Processing Center, Miami, Florida, February 27, 1997.
54 Principle 11 of the Body of Principles states that " a person shall not be kept in detention without being given an effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial or other authority."
55 Letter from Gregory Osnomi to Human Rights Watch dated April 18, 1998.
56 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Manatee County Jail in Bradenton, Florida, November 1997.
57 Principle 20 of the Body of Principles says that "if a detained or imprisoned person so requests, he shall if possible, be kept in a place of detention or imprisonment reasonably near his usual place of residence."
58 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Robert Cortez, brother of INS detainee Luís Cortez, August 5, 1998.
59 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamud Hassan, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 22, 1997. Hassan claims that his back was bruised and his face was swollen after the beating, but the only medical care he received was an ice-pack. The attorney representing Hassan told Human Rights Watch that she visited her client the day after the incident and saw the bruises on his face.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with Nestor Campos, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 23, 1997.
61 Human Rights Watch interview with Kristine Marcy, senior counsel in the INS Office of Field Operations, Detention and Deportation, Washington D.C., May 29, 1998.
62 For a thorough discussion of long-term INS detention, see Donald M. Kerwin, "Throwing Away the Key: Lifers in INS Custody," 75 Interpreter Releases 649, May 11, 1998.
63 See Hermanowski v. Farquharson, C.A. No. 97-220L (D.R.I. June 1, 1998 Report and Recommendation by Magistrate) finding that the twenty-month detention of a Polish national for whom no travel document could be secured, violated his substantive due process rights; and Cholak v. INS, C.V. No. 98-365 (E.D. La. May 18, 1998) finding that the fourteen-month detention of an Iraqi national violated his procedural due process rights because the INS failed to properly weigh his liberty interest by failing to adequately consider all factors for release. See also Denny Walsh, "`Lifers' of INS Can't Go Home: Jailed Deportees Stuck in Legal Limbo," Sacramento Bee, July 28, 1998.
64 Kerwin, "Throwing Away the Key..." p. 652. Kerwin notes the case of a Chinese asylum seeker with no criminal conviction who has been detained since November 1994.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with A.L., INS District Office, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 23, 1997.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with Kristine Marcy, May 29, 1998.
67 Human Rights Watch interview with Mam Vang Du, Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 5, 1998.
68 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Joseph Essel, Wharton County Jail, Wharton, Texas, November 14, 1997.
69 INS Bond Recommendation recommending parole dated April 13, 1992.
70 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Joseph Essel dated November 14, 1997.
71 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Ohia Kalasho, Orleans Parish Prison, New Orleans, Louisiana dated June 7, 1998.
72 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Tuan Truong, Nacogdoches County Jail, Nacogdoches, Texas dated June 8, 1998.
73 Lawyers working with the Coalition to Support Cuban Detainees (CSCD) reported that in panel interviews in Pointe Coupee Parish Prison in Louisiana, they were unable to review detainees' INS files prior to the interviews. According to the director of the CSCD, review of the files is critical since clarification of past criminal records or past charges appears to make the difference between a positive or negative recommendation for release. Letter to Human Rights Watch from Nathaniel Burke, Executive Director, Coalition to Support Cuban Detainees, Miami, Florida, June 3, 1998.
74 Human Rights Watch tour of Orleans Parish Prison, About Face Program leader, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 4, 1998.
75 Written overview of the About Face Program distributed by the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 4, 1998.
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