This week an internal government watchdog group released a disturbing report on conditions inside several Arizona ICE detention centers. The report sheds light on immigrants who were held in Arizona last year, as many were subject to widespread mistreatment, ranging from poor medical care to excessive punishment for peacefully protesting lax coronavirus mitigation efforts. During a remote inspection of the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found violations that jeopardized “the health, safety, and rights” of detainees, according to the report published Thursday. More than 1,300 grievances came from those held at the detention facility, the internal watchdog said detainees depicted “an environment of mistreatment and verbal abuse.” Those who did file grievances had their complaints rejected by detention center employees, the OIG report said.
Immigrants held at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Eloy, which is run by a for-profit prison company, held peaceful protests in April 2020 because they were concerned that staff was not providing them the necessary protective equipment to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The detention center’s staff deployed pepper spray to quell one of the protests on April 13, according to Thursday’s report and surveillance footage. According to the inspectors, those held in segregation reported being denied access to clean bedding and clothing, legal materials, the commissary, haircuts and recreation, which are all required services for detainees. In August, more than 200 of 1,200 immigrants held at the Eloy facility tested positive for the coronavirus. Thursday’s report backed up the detainees’ concerns about the spread of the coronavirus inside the facility. Inspectors said they found that facility staff failed to ensure all detainees had and used face masks and practiced social distancing, noting the lax protocols “may have contributed to the widespread COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.” Inspectors also detailed subpar medical services, which is a common finding in external and internal reports on ICE’s sprawling detention system, which is primarily comprised of county jails and detention facilities operated by for-profit prison companies, like CoreCivic. The reports said the Eloy’s facility medical unit was “critically understaffed,” citing 21 vacancies that inspectors determined may have slowed responses to detainee sick calls and efforts to provide immigrants prescribed medication.