While some immigration detention centers seem to provide their detainees with less-than livable conditions, others seem closer to a hotel than a prison. With such a wide range of options, the system for keeping individuals without citizenship or proper immigration forms, the centers reflect a clear need for more standardized practices in U.S. immigration procedures.
According to a new report from the New York University School of Law Immigration Rights Clinic, “Immigration Incarceration: The Expansion and Failed Reform of Immigration Detention in Essex County, N.J.,” the detention facility has undergone much criticism by outsiders and detainees alike.
Although detention services laws dictate that detainees will be given nutritious meals that accommodate for ethnic, cultural and spiritual needs, as well as for “therapeutic medical diets,” many detainee’s formal greivances have shown that they are fed diets that support fewer than 1,500 calories per day.
The study found that many detainees are not given proper medical attention from previous or current injuries, as well. One inmate, who was in an automobile accident before being detained, was only given two weeks worth of over-the-counter pain relief medication, despite continuing to suffer from neck bulges and the aftereffects of several dislocated spinal discs. While this particular inmate was told that his wanted medication was too expensive for the detention facility to afford, another individual suffered through an ear infection for four months before receiving medication.
The circumstances in Essex County are a far cry from those found in Karnes City, Texas. A new facility with room to hold 608 detainees, inmates are given access to the internet, a full library, cable TV, and exercise facilities, which include an indoor gym, basketball courts and soccer fields. The facility, which will be a model for two other planned facilities in Illinois and Florida, is a step by the Obama administration to make conditions for detainees more humane.
“We needed to do better. We needed to improve our detainee treatment,” Gary Mead, executive associate director for removal operations with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press.