In accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts unannounced inspections of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities to ensure compliance with detention standards. Between November 2020 and January 2021, OIG conducted a remote inspection of the Pulaski County Jail (Pulaski) to evaluate compliance with ICE detention standards and COVID-19 requirements.
During the unannounced inspection of Pulaski County Jail in Ullin, Illinois, OIG identified violations of ICE detention standards that threatened the health, safety, and rights of detainees. In addressing COVID-19, OIG found that Pulaski did not consistently enforce precautions including use of facial coverings and social distancing, which may have contributed to repeated COVID-19 transmissions at the facility. In April 2020, three immigrants and a correctional officer at Pulaski tested positive for COVID-19, the first reported cases in an ICE detention facility.
Pulaski also did not meet standards for classification, medical care, segregation, or detainee communication. OIG found that the facility was not providing a color-coded visual identification system based on the criminal history of detainees, causing inadvertent comingling of a detainee with significant criminal history with detainees who had no criminal history.
The facility generally provided sufficient medical care, but did not provide emergency dental services and the medical unit did not have procedures in place for chronic care follow-up. OIG also found that the facility was not consistently providing required oversight for detainees in segregation by conducting routine wellness checks. Finally, OIG found deficiencies in staff communication practices with detainees. Specifically, ICE did not specify times for staff to visit detainees and could not provide documentation that it completed facility visits with detainees during the pandemic. On a more positive note, OIG did find that Pulaski generally complied with the ICE detention standard for grievances.
OIG made five recommendations, with which ICE concurred:
- Ensure Pulaski implements a color-coded visual identification system to easily identify detainees based on their classification levels.
ICE responded that Pulaski currently provides a color-coded identification card to each detainee to differentiate classification levels. In addition, Pulaski recently purchased color-coded wristbands to differentiate each of the four classifications and, once received, will distribute the wristbands to all ICE detainees. ICE expects to do this by June 30, 2021.
- Ensure Pulaski meets ICE’s COVID-19 requirements for wearing masks and social distancing.
ICE said Pulaski is working with the Southern Seven Health Department in Illinois, the state’s COVID-19 vaccine resource, to offer the vaccine to all detainees. On March 10, 2021, for example, 35 detainees opted to receive the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson one-time vaccine. The vaccine is also offered to all new intake detainees, and re-offered to detainees every two to four weeks depending on the demand and availability. In addition, ICE said Pulaski continues to constantly remind detainees verbally and visually with posters to wear personal protective equipment and socially distance.
- Ensure Pulaski staff complete and record the results of visual welfare checks for detainees in segregation once every 30 minutes.
ICE concurred and will provide Pulaski staff with remedial training on how a Housing Unit Officer will personally observe all Special Management detainee/offenders at least every 30 minutes. In addition, each staff member will be provided the opportunity to ask questions and receive clarification. On March 23, 2021, ICE assigned a dedicated Detention Services Manager (DSM) to the Pulaski County Jail. The DSM will assist with monitoring welfare checks and provide training to remind officers the proper technique in checking cells as well as timely checks.
- Ensure the Pulaski Medical Unit develops chronic care guidelines, and provides routine and emergency dental care.
The ICE Health Service Corps has performed a full inspection and will assess whether a follow-up audit is required. Detainees with dental complaints are evaluated after hours by nursing staff and can be sent to the emergency room if necessary. Outside of the dentist’s work hours, a medical doctor evaluates and treats any dental issues pending a referral to the dentist, as appropriate. The Pulaski Medical Unit has also procured an additional dental provider and are conducting administrative processes to bring onboard this provider.
- Ensure detainees have consistent and appropriate access to ICE ERO deportation officers and include identifying time, duration, and location of ICE facility visits.
OIG closed this recommendation after ICE provided documentation showing that it hired a DSM at Pulaski to provide daily on-site oversight at the facility including ongoing daily communication with detainees.