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Solitary confinement ‘tantamount to torture’ used at Louisiana ICE facility, rights groups claim

Detained immigrants at a Louisiana ICE facility have been made to drink unsafe water, eat moldy food, forced into solitary confinement for weeks and denied medical care in conditions ‘tantamount to torture’ according to civil rights groups.

Solitary confinement at Pine Prairie is not only used as a punitive measure but also to isolate Covid patients, people seeking mental health treatment, and as retaliation for protests, the complaint alleges.

The GEO Group, the private prison company that runs the facility, has denied the allegations made in the complaint which was filed on June 21.

Detained immigrants at a Louisiana ICE facility have been made to drink unsafe water, eat moldy food, forced into solitary confinement for weeks and denied medical care according civil rights groups. Pictured: Pine Prairie

The report states that the inmates with no disciplinary infractions are kept in conditions ‘virtually identical’ to those in solitary confinement for up to 24 hours a day for weeks at a time without access to medical care. 

‘This pattern of implementing punitive solitary confinement is abusive, unlawful, and tantamount to torture,’ the complaint states.

The complaint was sent to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security and claims detainees reported foul smelling drinking water that appeared to be contaminated in their cells. 

It was signed by groups including the ACLU of Louisiana, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy.

They also claim the facility has been denying detainees access to sanitary supplies and there is a lack of Covid vaccines.

‘One immigrant who works in the kitchen reported that the food is most often poor quality and is also often expired and contaminated,’ the complaint said. 

‘On one occasion, detained immigrants who work as kitchen staff discovered that the bread ICE instructed them to serve was past the marked expiration date and had visible mold.’

The complaint dated June 21 says detainees who speak out about the horrific conditions are subjected to solitary confinement at the center in Pine Prairie

The complaint dated June 21 says detainees who speak out about the horrific conditions are subjected to solitary confinement at the center in Pine Prairie

The report alleges that the facility is in violation of international human rights law and the US Constitution, as well as ICE’s own policies.

ICE’s Covid Pandemic Response Requirements dictates that detainees should be placed in housing that is ‘operationally distinct’ from ‘any form of punitive housing’ if they need to isolate.

But at Pine Prairie, it is alleged they were instead placed in solitary, denied recreational material or activities and received little or no medical attention, even if they had contracted the virus. 

Sarah Decker, from RFK Human Rights, told Nola: ‘We had several clients who had things like asthma or kidney issues who were being placed in solitary while they had COVID-19 — actively experiencing shortness of breath, blurry vision, migraine headaches. 

‘They’re locked in these cells where, you know, there’s a little food slot. And that’s the medical visit that they receive every day. Nobody’s checking their pulse or their oxygen levels.’

It is also alleged that solitary is the ‘default’ for the detainees who seek mental health counseling. 

One of those in the facility who speaks English has been in solitary multiple times for voicing the concern of other detainees, the report says. 

He has been placed in solitary six times, each for around 45 days, three times longer than the internationally recognized legal limit, for merely translating the concerns of his friends, the civil rights groups claim. 

The complaint comes as a separate ACLE report claims detainees who were staging hunger strikes in protest over ICE conditions were force fed by prison staff.

Officers and nurses from the private prison company GEO Group forced plastic tubes down the throats of inmates after they were sedated and held in handcuffs, according to Buzzfeed.

A spokesman for the private contractor that runs the facility denied the claims in an email to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, and said they were being ‘advanced by radical special interest groups with a politically motivated agenda.’

‘For more than three decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, we have been a trusted service provider to the federal government, providing consistent, high-quality services at all our facilities,’ it said.

Louisiana has had a huge increase in ICE detainees, second only to Texas, because of a decline in its state prison population freeing up facilities.   


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