Report Criticizes Inspection Process At Eloy Immigrant Detention Facility

By Jude Joffe-Block
October 26, 2015
Jude Joffe-Block
Israel Lopez, a detainee at the Eloy Detention Center, removes his prosthetic leg. He has been waiting for a replacement prosthetic leg.

The privately run immigration detention center in Eloy, Arizona, has been the target of scrutiny in recent months after one detainee committed suicide and reports surfaced of other detainees protesting conditions there.

Now a new report by immigrant rights advocates charges that a faulty inspection process for immigration detention centers allowed Eloy to pass all inspections despite shortcomings in suicide prevention and handling of sexual assault complaints.

The report, "Lives in Peril: How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Detention Center Abuse," charges the inspection process for all ICE facilities is deeply flawed.

Eloy is run by Corrections Corporation of America as a contractor for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to an analysis by the Arizona Republic, there have been at least five suicides at the Eloy facility in the last decade, the highest rate in the country.

The most recent suicide was in May, when a 31-year-old detainee choked himself on a sock while on suicide watch. In the aftermath of the detainee's death, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona called for an investigation into conditions in Eloy.

Current Eloy detainee Israel Lopez Simon said he has wondered if the detainees who took their own lives felt the way he has recently.

“I don’t know if these people passed through the same thing that I am passing through right now, not getting help from nobody,” Lopez said during an interview in a classroom in a detention facility last month. 

Lopez was already deported once after a DUI and is now fighting again for the right to stay in the U.S.

“I have been detained in this facility for five years already, it has been hell.” Lopez said. “People say I am crazy for being a long timer here. But they don’t know the situation that I have right now.”

Twelve years ago Lopez lost his leg after someone he knew shot him accidentally. Lopez uses crutches and a prosthetic leg. This disability makes deportation to Mexico where he has no family — and he says, his life is in danger — all the more daunting.

During a September interview Lopez said he was waiting for authorities here to get him a new prosthetic leg. He was frustrated that he couldn’t take his medical care into his own hands. He said he was in pain and he winced when he moved.

“I’m bleeding, I cannot walk no more with these crutches,” Lopez said.

He said his mental state was deteriorating, too.

“I cannot control myself, I am getting angry, I am feeling upset, sometimes I don’t feel hope no more.”

Jude Joffe-Block
Eloy Detention Center

One of the authors of the "Lives in Peril" report, Mary Small of the Detention Watch Network, said the inspection system is supposed to ensure immigrant detainees are treated humanely. But she said after reviewing years of inspection reports ICE facilities from 2007 to 2012, she is convinced the system is a sham.

“So despite the fact that Eloy clearly has a problem with suicide, Eloy has consistently passed the suicide prevention and intervention standard in their inspections,” Small said.

She said the facility passed the inspection even when inspectors identified serious problems.

“For example there was a finding in the suicide watch room contained structures or objects that could be used to commit suicide, which is just mindboggling,” Small said.

Small and her co-author were able to review the inspection reports after a lengthy legal battle forced ICE to turn over the reports.

She said there are many layers to the shortcomings in the inspection process for federal immigration detention centers.

“The first layer is the inspections don’t check for a lot of things that are really important, the second failure is that when they do check for things that are important they don’t find them even though are happening,” Small said. “And then the third, and perhaps most concerning layer, is even when things are found, there are no real consequences for the facilities.”

Small and her group are calling for changes to the inspection process, such as more transparency, unscheduled site visits and consequences for facilities that are not in compliance.

ICE declined to give an interview but said in a statement that it will review the report.

"ICE remains committed to ensuring that all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a safe, secure and humane manner, and that they have access to legal counsel, visitation, recreation, and quality medical, mental health and dental care,” read the agency's statement.

ICE officials said if inspections reveal deficiencies, they are immediately addressed. Officials also said the Eloy suicide watch room was updated.

As for Lopez, he is scheduled to be fitted for his new prosthetic leg on Monday.

Updated 10/26/2015 at 8:53 a.m.