Since 2012, ICE has used solitary confinement as a routine punishment for thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers locked up in immigration jails across the country. We look at a new, damning investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that has revealed this widespread abusive use of solitary confinement in immigration jails overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture says solitary confinement should only be used in exceptional circumstances, and defines extended use of solitary as “inhuman and degrading treatment.” Despite this, a review of more than 8,400 reports of solitary confinement in ICE detention found that immigration officers repeatedly used isolation cells to punish gay, transgender and disabled immigrants for their identities and to target other jailed immigrants for actions like kissing consensually or hunger striking. Almost a third of the people held in solitary confinement suffered from mental illness. In at least 373 cases, immigrants were put in isolation for being potentially suicidal. In nearly 200 instances, immigrants were held in solitary confinement for more than six months. The investigation is called “Solitary Voices.” We speak to one of its lead authors, Spencer Woodman.
- Spencer Woodmanstaff reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.