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Private Immigration Detention Center Says It Has Already Fixed Problems Identified In Watchdog Report

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
  • GEO Group, the operator of an immigration detention center in California, says it moved to address problems identified in a surprise government inspection well before they were detailed in a report released in early October.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found several deficiencies in its May inspection of the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, including inadequate medical care and improper use of restricted housing.
  • In a letter to ICE officials, Adelanto’s warden said the facility took action as soon as the problems were noted and had corrected the issues by early September.

A privately owned immigration detention center in California says it had fixed problems identified in a surprise government inspection by early September, nearly a month before the results of the inspection were released to the public.

Inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) conducted an unannounced inspection of the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in May.

The OIG’s findings, which included allegations of inadequate medical care and inappropriate use of solitary confinement, were published Oct. 2 in a memo that sparked outrage among immigration activists and civil rights groups. (RELATED: Watchdog Finds Hanging ‘Nooses,’ Lack Of Medical Care At ICE Detention Facility)

But GEO Group, the owner and operator of the Adelanto center, disputed some of the problems noted by OIG auditors and said it took corrective action on others as soon as they were identified.

“We take the findings outlined by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the Adelanto ICE Processing Center very seriously,” company spokesman Pablo Paez said in a statement. “While we believe that a number of the findings lacked appropriate context or were based on incomplete information, we have already taken steps to remedy areas where our processes fell short of our commitment to high-quality care.”

GEO Group, one of the country’s largest operators of private prisons and immigration detention centers, bought the Adelanto facility in 2010 and began housing ICE detainees there the following year. Today, Adelanto houses about 1,700 detainees, making it the largest immigration detention facility in California.

DHS-OIG’s surprise inspection of the facility turned up three issues the watchdog said were “significant threats” to detainee health and safety. Inspectors discovered braided bed sheets — referred to as “nooses” by staff — hanging in several inmates’ cells, even though detainees had previously used similar sheets in suicide attempts.

Additionally, inspectors determined that detainees were being prematurely placed in disciplinary segregation before they were found guilty of a rule violation and were not given “timely and adequate” medical care — both violations of ICE national detention standards. In some cases, detainees had to wait years for basic dental care, leading to tooth loss and “unnecessary extractions,” the OIG report stated.

Adelanto managers took steps to correct the problems immediately after the inspection, according to a letter from warden James Janecka to ICE officials obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. In the letter dated Sept. 6, Janecka noted that detainees often used the braided bed sheets as privacy barriers between cell beds and toilets, but added that he had instructed staff to remove “any improvised curtains or any other visual obstructions.”

With respect to the improper use of disciplinary segregation at Adelanto, Janecka conceded that detainees had been placed in the center’s restricted housing section while their cases were still in pending status. He said the mistakes were the result of delays in putting disciplinary records into detainees’ files, leading to confusion about whether inmates met the threshold for restricted housing.

Under a corrective action plan implemented in May, “timelines will be met, and each detainee’s status in the disciplinary process will be readily discernible,” Janecka wrote.

As for concerns about inadequate medical and dental care, GEO Group says it is conducting a review with its medical services subcontractor “to ensure all medical and dental care is provided at the highest quality and in a timely manner, and to hold accountable those who are not meeting these expectations.”

As of Sept. 6, there was no longer a backlog for dental cleaning at Adelanto, Janecka said.

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