Target: Rand Beers, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Goal: Eliminate arbitrary sentencing to solitary confinement of immigrant detainees
The U.S. government detains about 1 percent of immigrants in solitary confinement even though they pose no danger to others. The immigrants are actually being held “to ensure they appear for their civil deportation cases,” making such treatment completely uncalled for. Immigrants are detained sometimes for indefinite periods and allowed out for only one hour a day. Such inhumane conditions are serious cause for alarm as inmates subjected to prolonged isolation are at risk of mental illness and suicide, according to a Los Angeles Times editorial.
In response to this issue, the Department of Homeland Security has instituted new rules to curb solitary confinement in immigrant detention centers. If implemented properly, the measure could protect detainees’ health and ensure detainees would be able to participate fully in their legal cases free from obstacles like one hour daily limits on telephone calls. The new laws require all immigrant detention centers to report to federal officials when a detainee is isolated. Justification in writing must accompany any detention of an immigrant lasting longer than two weeks, a major improvement from the old laws’ required reporting time of one month.
A key provision is the banning of a detainee’s placement in solitary confinement against his or her will due to personal characteristics, such as gender or sexual orientation. Transgender detainees are often placed in solitary confinement, a practice with dubious effectiveness that’s actually meant to protect them. With this provision, along with added reporting safeguards for vulnerable populations such as the mentally disabled and victims of sexual abuse, the measure seeks to eliminate these disparities.
By signing the petition below, you can commend the Department of Homeland Security for protecting immigrant detainees from harmful solitary confinement and urge the measure’s strict enforcement.
Dear Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers,
I want to commend you on your new legislation to curb solitary confinement. Revamping previous rules, you are removing a serious systemic disparity. Your strengthened reporting requirements are increasing immigrant retention facilities’ accountability to federal officials and helping detainees to participate in their cases free from debilitating obstacles like one hour daily limits on phone calls.
I applaud the measure’s key ban on placing a detainee in solitary confinement against his or her will due to personal characteristics, such as gender or sexual orientation. Transgender detainees are often placed in solitary confinement, a practice with dubious effectiveness that’s actually meant to protect them. With this provision, along with reporting safeguards for vulnerable populations such as the mentally disabled and victims of sexual abuse, you are taking an active step to protect these communities. I thank you for this vital update of previous legislation and urge you to ensure strict enforcement of these vital rules in order to maintain humane conditions in our detention facilities.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Bill Cosby via Flickr