USA: Jailed Without Justice

March 25, 2009

USA: Jailed Without Justice

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Amnesty International also documented pervasive problems with conditions of detention, such as comingling of immigration detainees with individuals convicted of criminal offenses; inappropriate and excessive use of restraints; inadequate access to healthcare, including mental health services; and inadequate access to exercise. In 2000, immigration authorities introduced detailed detention standards for facilities housing immigration detainees, covering issues such as access to attorneys and conditions of detention. However, these guidelines are not binding regulations and are not legally enforceable.

Geovanny Garcia-Mejia, 27, from Honduras, died on March 18, 2006. He was detained at the Newton County Correctional Center in Texas. He had been placed in a medical unit, where he was found writing on the floor with his blood, internal records show. But he was returned to the jail's general population after a psychologist wrote in his chart, "No idea why he is in suicide cell." He hanged himself 12 days later, on his 27th birthday. The local sheriff concluded that guards who should have been checking him every 15 minutes "made no rounds through the night… [I]t goes without saying that the incident could have been avoided."[28]


In September 2008, ICE announced the publication of 41 new performance-based detention standards, which are to be implemented over 18 months and will take full effect in all facilities housing ICE detainees by January 2010.[29] Amnesty International welcomes this step toward improving conditions in immigration detention; however these are still only guidelines and are not legally enforceable. Amnesty International findings indicate that conditions of detention in many facilities do not meet either international human rights standards or ICE guidelines.[30] There is an urgent need to ensure that all facilities housing immigration detainees comply with international human rights law and standards. Ensuring that detention standards are legally binding, and creating a mechanism for independent oversight of their implementation, would better protect the human rights of immigrants in detention in the United States.

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