A Detention Watch Network report released today documents the grim conditions for immigrant detainees housed at Orange County’s Theo Lacy Detention Center, including widespread abuse and substandard medical care. The ACLU of Southern California joins the Detention Watch Network in calling on the federal government to terminate its contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and stop using the high-security prison as an immigrant holding center.
The report, "Expose and Close," designates the Theo Lacy facility as one of the ten worst immigration detention centers in the country and details a widespread pattern of abuse there, including staff who kick and shove detainees, staff who subject detainees to racial epithets including "nigger" and "camel," and staff who neglect detainees’ medical needs, which, in at least one case, resulted in a death. The report also documents overuse of solitary confinement for minor rule infractions, a punishment that can cause permanent damage to mental health.
"The punitive conditions at Theo Lacy are not fit for housing anyone, and certainly not for immigrants who are being held only on suspicion of committing civil immigration violations," said Michael Kaufman, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "The federal government should honor its commitment to a ‘civil detention’ model by terminating its contract at Theo Lacy."
The report calls on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to close the facility and instead to rely on alternatives to detention -- which have a proven track record and are more cost-effective -- for those housed there. Until the facility can be closed, the report recommends that ICE enact a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of inmates, that it end the use punitive solitary confinement, and that it facilitate better policies for family visitation.
The report is part of a series that focuses on ten detention centers across the nation that highlight the appalling conditions of immigrant detention, including Etowah County Detention Center (AL), Pinal County Jail (AZ), Houston Processing Center (TX), Polk County Jail (TX), Stewart Detention Center (GA), Irwin County Jail (GA), Hudson County Jail (NJ), Theo Lacy Jail (CA), Tri-County Jail (IL), and Baker County Jail (FL). Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/exposeandclose for more information.