WASHINGTON – Authorities failed to maintain adequate health and safety standards for some of the suspected illegal immigrants housed at five detention centers, according to an audit report by the Homeland Security department's inspector general.
The report released Tuesday found health care violations at four of the five sites inspected and environmental health and safety concerns at three of the five.
It found noncompliance with "general conditions" of confinement at all five, "including disciplinary policy, classifying detainees and housing together detainees classified at different security levels."
The report said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials failed to provide non-emergency medical care for some inmates in a timely matter and sometimes improperly limited access to relatives, lawyers and immigration authorities.
For example, it found that eight inmates did not receive the required medical screening among 101 files examined to check on that requirement at one facility and that another sampling found 15 of 111 inmates did not receive the fuller physical examination prescribed by department guidelines.
One safety complaint documented in the report involved excessively hot water at a shower when nearby toilets were flushed. It said the problem was corrected within a week by replacement of a mixing valve.
Another addressed whether top bunk beds had adequate ladders and railings to keep inmates from falling out of bed and whether "hot" food was served cold.
It also said authorities failed to establish an adequate system for reporting abuse and violated their own rules by neglecting to monitor prisoners on hunger strikes or suicide watches.
In a written response to the report, DHS Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers concurred partly with nine of 13 findings and promised changes. But she said they "do not indicate any systemic failure" at nearly 400 facilities where ICE is authorized to house as many as 27,500 people a night.
The IG report acknowledged that it's audit did not represent a scientific sampling and that the spot findings could not be interpolated to the entire inmate population.
The audit examined the U.S.-owned and operated Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, a contract Corrections Corporation of American facility in San Diego, and local jails and prisons in Berks County, Pa., and Hudson and Passaic counties, N.J.
Critics complained the report ignored the most serious allegations of abuse, which they maintain included physical beatings.
"It took two years for them to come out with this? It's incredibly disappointing," Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the ACLU immigrants rights project, told The Washington Post.
Eric Lerner, a spokesman for the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee, told the Post the report was a "whitewash."