Appalling Conditions in Immigration Jails


Adelanto. Tornillo. Stewart. The names of immigration jails march across the headlines, with reports of abuses, neglect, suicides, and medical malpractice. For those who might be tempted to dismiss news reports, last week brought an official report from the Department of Homeland Security revealing horrific details of routine abuses at Adelanto, a private, for-profit prison in California:

  • “A dentist who said detainees could use “string from their socks to floss” for dental hygiene, as the facility only provides floss to detainees who pay for it.
  • “A disabled man who was confined to his wheelchair for nine days and nights without being allowed to sleep on a bed.
  • “A blind man with limited English and more than a dozen others who were held in disciplinary segregation even though they had not been found guilty of any rule violation.
  • “Detainees waiting weeks or months to see a doctor, and in some cases, more than a year to see a dentist.
  • “Nooses made out of braided bed sheets hung from vents at 15 out of 20 cells inspectors visited, which could aid suicide attempts.”

Adelanto has had at least seven suicide attempts, and one man died in March 2017 after hanging himself with bedsheets.

Another man, a DACA recipient whose status was revoked and who was put in Adelanto after a DUI conviction, reported on the utter failure of medical care:

“During the six months that a 31-year-old man named Mario was held at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, an immigrant detention facility in the Southern California desert, he repeatedly became ill with fevers. Each time, he wasn’t allowed to see a doctor for many days, he said….

“It just came to the point where we were not even putting in medical requests because we said, ‘What for?'” said Mario, who has lived in California since he was 5 years old.

“Mario’s experience is echoed in a new report by federal inspectors …”

Adelanto is one of many immigration jails run by private, for-profit companies. Adelanto is run by the Geo Group, one of the two largest private prison operators in the world. CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the other prison-for-profit giant, runs the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. That’s where Jeancarlo Alfonso Jimenez-Joseph killed himself, after authorities ignored his call to a hotline asking for help. His serious mental illness went untreated, as he told fellow inmates and guards that he was Julius Caesar, and that voices in his head were telling him to kill himself.

“If his altered perceptions didn’t raise serious red flags, Jimenez-Joseph’s more direct attestations of interest in suicide should have. Three weeks after his call to ICE’s help line, he again told an ICE health services official of suicidal thoughts. He said that voices in his head were telling him to kill himself even though he didn’t want to, according to the nurse’s notes from the conversation.

“Just two days after that, on April 27, Jimenez-Joseph jumped off a second-floor platform at the detention center. He survived unscathed but told officials that it was an attempt to hurt himself, insisting again that he was a Roman emperor. That day, despite being repeatedly warned of his suicidal tendencies, ICE signed off on placing Jimenez-Joseph in solitary confinement as punishment for the jump, according to internal documents.”

Tornillo, the tent city in Texas, recently expanded to 2,400 beds from its original 400, and further expansion is underway, despite the original plan that this would be a temporary facility. The facility was supposed to hold children separated from their parents, 403 of whom remain separated, more than two months after the court-ordered deadline for reunification. .

Tornillo’s tents now hold families as well as children, though the government refuses to say how many. Conditions?

The Dallas Morning News this week interviewed people held in a federal immigrant holding center, near the Tornillo tent city for migrant children, and families there reported being crammed in a 15-by-15-foot cell for up to 72 hours. At least 30 people were in the cell, the immigrants said. Some slept under bathroom sinks, next to filthy toilets. One mother and her child were forced to shower together.”

Even with the expansion of detention facilities, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have room for all the immigrants it is holding. This weekend, the Border Patrol started releasing large groups, dumping more than 100 at a Tucson church.  

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Appalling Conditions in Immigration Jails

  1. Pingback: “We can either be afraid or we can fight, and it is much more effective to fight.” | Immigration news

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s