During an unannounced inspection of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Folkston Processing Center and Folkston Annex in Georgia, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that Folkston complied with standards for access to legal services, the voluntary work program, and detainee classification.
However, OIG found that Folkston did not meet standards for facility conditions, medical care, grievances, segregation, staff-detainee communications, and handling of detainee property. The watchdog identified violations that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees.
OIG said Folkston facilities were unsanitary and dilapidated, with torn mattresses, water leaks and standing water, mold growth and water damage, rundown showers, mold and debris in the ventilation system, insect infestations, had a lack of access to hot showers, inoperable toilets, an inoperable thermometer display on a kitchen freezer, and an absence of hot meals.
Facility medical staff did not provide timely access to specialty care or adequate mental health care for detainees, OIG found, and also said that Folkston did not provide timely or complete responses to detainee grievances and requests. Folkston also did not consistently provide required services to detainees in segregation and inappropriately handcuffed detainees.
Further, OIG said ICE did not consistently respond to detainee requests in a timely manner and did not provide detainees with paper grievance forms and submission boxes as required. OIG determined that ICE did not provide detainees sufficient contact with deportation officers, OIG added. The watchdog also found that the facility has improperly handled detainee property.
In addition, OIG said Folkston has not met staffing levels required by the contract with ICE to ensure proper detainee oversight. The inspection revealed that in addressing COVID-19, Folkston did not consistently enforce use of masks and social distancing. In April 2021, Folkston began providing COVID-19 vaccinations to detainees.
OIG made 13 recommendations to improve ICE’s oversight of detention facility management and operations at Folkston, the majority of which it now considers resolved and closed.