An audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not always comply with segregation reporting requirements and did not ensure detention facilities complied with records retention requirements.
There are limited federal regulations for segregation use at immigration detention facilities. Congress and the public have expressed concerns regarding prolonged or excessive use of segregation at ICE detention facilities. Additionally, academic research has found segregation can have negative psychological effects, particularly for those with preexisting mental illnesses and those with an established risk for suicide.
ICE operates a network of more than 200 detention facilities with several different contractual parties. This is the first time OIG has conducted a systemic review on the oversight of detainees placed in segregation.
In analyzing a statistical sample of detention files for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, OIG determined ICE did not maintain evidence showing it considered alternatives to segregation for 72 percent of segregation placements; record 13 percent of the segregation placements as required; and ensure detention facilities complied with the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) retention schedules.
According to ICE officials, 24 of 265 detention files were destroyed, which OIG found was done before NARA’s minimum retention requirements. These problems occurred because ICE does not have effective oversight and clear policies to ensure accurate and comprehensive tracking and reporting on the use of segregation, as well as proper record retention.
In addition, OIG found that ICE’s own reporting policy prevents transparency with Congress and the public about the prevalence of segregation use. Ultimately, OIG found that ICE does not know the full extent of detention facilities’ use of segregation, which hinders its ability to ensure compliance with policy, and prevent and detect potential misuse of segregation.
OIG recommended in its October 13 report that ICE updates its policy and guidance and tracks all segregation placements to better ensure that facilities’ use of segregation is necessary and in compliance with detention standards. ICE concurred and said it is updating a directive that will require all segregation placements to be entered into its Segregation Review Management System. In addition, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Custody Management and Field Operations will establish processes, policy and guidance to facilitate complete and timely reporting. ICE estimates a completion date of August 31, 2022.
OIG also recommended that all detention facilities collect and track standardized information for all segregation placements and provide this information to ICE for entry into the official system of record. ICE concurred.
Finally, OIG recommended that ICE update all policies, guidance, and contracts for detention facilities to ensure compliance with NARA record retention schedules. ICE agreed and said it would undertake a comprehensive review of ERO policies, guidance, and detention center contracts to ensure that they are not in conflict with records control schedules.
ICE estimates a completion date of August 31, 2022 for all work required to meet the recommendations.