Being detained while facing deportation or removal is an extremely scary experience. However, being placed in solitary confinement while being held in an immigration detention facility is even more traumatic. Solitary confinement means being placed in social isolation for 22 to 24 hours a day. Staying for extended periods of time in solitary confinement can even drive people insane.
In recent years, the practice of solitary confinement has been criticized heavily in the United States, and many people believe that it is used too frequently in immigration detention centers.
In fact, the New York Times has reported that more than 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement in the 50 largest immigration detention facilities each day. Additionally, close to half of those individuals are held in solitary confinement for 15 days or more, which has been described as torture by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Thankfully, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced a new directive with regard to the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention facilities. The new directive allows the agency to more easily and effectively monitor the use of solitary confinement at the approximate 250 immigration detention facilities throughout the nation.
The directive also sets limits on the use of solitary confinement by imposing a review of all decisions to place detainees in solitary confinement for more than 14 days at a time, requiring special circumstances to put vulnerable detainees in solitary confinement, and requiring that detainees who are mentally or physically ill to be removed from solitary confinement if their conditions worsen.
Finally, the directive also requires attorneys to be notified in certain situations.
While the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the new directive does not quite reach the limits on solitary confinement that were offered by the UN, it called the change "a major step forward."
Source: ACLU Blog of Rights, “New limits announced on ICE's solitary confinement of immigrants,” Carl Takei, ACLU National Prison Project, Sept. 6, 2013