Administration Seeks To Curtail Rights for Detainees in Correctional Facilities
Although it’s hard to believe that any given administration would have the ability to significantly change the specific rules and requirements concerning prisoners’ civil rights, in fact, as recently highlighted by the New York Times, many detained immigrants are now worried over what might happen to their basic rights while being held in prison and facing deportation.
For more than 15 years, mandatory requirements (aka standards) concerning the rights of those being held and potentially facing deportation have been in place; rights that, for example, involve specific procedures that must be followed if a detainee spends two weeks or longer in solitary confinement; procedures concerning suicide checks; mental health evaluations; translators who can advocate in English on the detainee’s behalf; and more.
More Prisons, Fewer Regulations
While all jails are subject to local, state, and federal health and safety rules for criminal detention, past administrations have added these specific requirements for jails that hold individuals accused of immigration violations because of the circumstances of these violations. This is, in part, because these detainees haven’t had access to other rights—such as the right to be provided with an attorney if they cannot afford one—which those facing criminal charges have. These regulations were also arguably necessary in light of investigations revealing mistreatment and abuse of detainees at these facilities. As a result, the number of people who died in these facilities fell from 32 in 2004 to six in 2014.
However, these requirements may now be under threat as the Trump administration increasingly finds itself needing more and more space as it gathers more and more individual detainees to potentially deport. Reportedly, the administration is specifically seeking to curtail these types of rules and regulations in an effort to incentivize local officials into providing more and more correctional facility space. In terms of what’s on the chopping block, translation services and the requirement for a professional to evaluate any requests for medical care appear to be the top low-hanging fruit. In general, these new contracts appear to very broadly replace specific mandates with simply having vague policies and procedures in place. For example, they require that jails have policies in place for suicide prevention, but they do not specify what those policies should include.
Detainees Effectively Presumed Guilty Of Crimes
It is also important to note that the administration is also closing the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which has been developing these types of regulations over the last 15 years, sending a clear signal that they have no intention of abiding by the long-held philosophy that civil detainees being held on immigration violations should not be treated the same as criminal inmates convicted of actual crimes.
Those who have worked at the office have noted that these changes would depart from years and years of work to try and improve the safety and health of detainees held on immigration violations in jails that were built for those often convicted of violent crimes. Even some who oversee jails that house detainees have argued that extra requirements—such as free phone calls to immigration officials and to national consulates—are necessary when it comes to immigration detainees.
Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Attorney Serving New York & New Jersey
As a detainee, you are afforded specific basic rights. If you are concerned that those have been violated, contact the office of Phillip J. Murphy today for a free consultation with criminal defense attorneys who have been serving clients throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 25 years.