A new report details how 8,400 immigrant detainees were placed into solitary confinement over the past five years while they were being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
An MSNBC report detailed the ICE practice after a journalist group filed an open records request from the federal government.
Spanning over both the Trump and Obama administrations, only half of the individuals placed into solitary were found to have broken any rules. The other half, ICE said, were placed into solitary for “safety concerns,” and had not violated any of the rules set forward by the agency for detainees.
Those who were not found to be in violation of rules included the physically disabled. Fully one-third of the detainees placed into solitary confinement were mentally ill. Some of the detainees who were placed in solitary confinement were also put there for being gay, according to a tweet from MSNBC.
Thousands of immigrants forced into solitary confinement by ICE for being physically disabled or gay. https://t.co/XL23IbkkcA
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 21, 2019
ICE policy states that solitary confinement is only to be used as a disciplinary measure and as a last resort. But former Department of Homeland Security policy adviser Ellen Gallagher, a whistleblower who spoke out about the policy, said that wasn’t the case.
“Solitary Confinement was being used as the first resort, not the last resort,” she said, a practice that’s still continuing to this day.
The placement of immigrants into solitary led to some attempting suicide. One woman, who was placed into a cell for more than 11 months on her own, tried to hang herself. She survived; at least 60 others did not, and died by suicide according to the report.
Another immigrant was placed into solitary for more than 390 days.
According to a United Nations statement on torture, the use of solitary confinement should only be used in “very exceptional circumstances.” Any placement of an individual in such circumstances for more than 15 days is considered to be an “inhuman and degrading treatment,” according to reporting from The Intercept.
The report also states that those with mental illness should never be placed in solitary confinement. Many psychologists consider the practice for any inmate to be tantamount to torture.