@palomaesquivel and I found a system involving ICE, private prison companies, local law enforcement and prosecutors in which violence can be perpetuated against detainees with impunity. I hope you’ll read our story.
They told police they were groped in the bathroom, inside their cells, in line for food. One woman said she was taken to the hospital after a detainee punched her head repeatedly, causing swelling. Another said a fellow detainee tried to shove a broomstick in his anus.
Most of the calls we examined alleged abuse or violence against detainees but we found only three cases in which detainees said they were victimized and a suspect was charged. In two of those, the suspects were deported before they could be arrested. The other case is pending.
Some private detention centers brokered agreements with law enforcement agencies that dictated which crimes officers would respond to. The Bakersfield facility, for example, has an agreement that police said limited their role to investigating “major criminal conduct."
Sometimes police were prevented by staff from speaking to detainees who had alleged abuse and instructed not to pursue cases they said had merit, according to police reports. We found several instances in which suspects were deported before cases were finished.
ICE bans detainees from calling 911, forcing them to rely on others to report allegations on their behalf.
It’s likely many crimes in detention go unreported, advocates say. Detainees may be unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system, distrust police, fear retaliation or worry that reporting could negatively affect an immigration judge’s view of them
For detainees like J. Lee, who said he was sexually assaulted by his cellmate while he was asleep in June, the system is overwhelming. Lee started having panic attacks. He wrote to an ICE agent, “How can I do to get out of this nightmare?”

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