Sexual Abuse in US Immigration Prisons

The USian Immigrations and Customs Enforcement service has recently revised the rules applying to immigrants detained and awaiting their deportation hearings. Most notably for me, they’ve strengthened the absolutely shit regulations regarding sexual abuse in detention.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (which is already inadequate, but at least it’s a step) does not apply to ICE detention centers, which means that there is almost no meaningful steps taken to end the sexual abuse of prisoners. 180 sexual abuse complaints have been reported since 2007, a number that almost certainly undercounts the number of people abused, since many do not speak English and aren’t aware of their rights or are afraid to exercise them for fear of deportation.

The new ICE regulations are supposed to improve supervision of detainees and make it easier to report. Detainees who report sexual abuse will have their names disclosed on a strictly need-to-know basis; retaliation is forbidden; staff will be trained in sexual abuse prevention; all facilities will be required to have policies regarding sexual assault. However, they have several glaring flaws:

  • Little coordination about sexual abuse prevention.
  • No mandatory background checks for employees.
  • No anonymous reporting of sexual abuse.
  • No guidelines about how to prevent retaliation for reporting abuse.
  • No specific, mandated procedures about how to conduct sexual abuse investigations.
  • No required advanced training for medical staff or sexual abuse investigators.
  • Upper management not required to oversee investigations or look for ways to prevent abuse.
  • Unannounced rounds, which have been shown to reduce occurrence of sexual assault and harassment, are not required.

Don’t get me wrong, this is all a good first step. But it’s only a first step. Everyone– whether documented or undocumented– deserves a life free of sexual abuse. It’s time to put some pressure on Congress and the president to create regulations that will help to end sexual abuse in immigration detention centers.

Also, a “fuck you too” to the congressional Republicans, who have accused the new regulations– which, in addition to sexual abuse protection, also give immigrants access to medical care, their families, and legal help– of “coddling illegals.” Representative Lamar Smith of Texas says they make immigration detention “a holiday.” Because God forbid detained undocumented immigrants should be able to get counselling for their mental illnesses and regular exercise, right?

Dude. Basic human rights are not a HOLIDAY. They are the basic expectation.

About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.


  1. I’ve noticed lately that there has been a lot of posts on social justice blogs saying something to the effect of: “well, it’s at least a start, but (dot dot dot)”. It’s incredibly frustrating the snails pace at which this VERY minor victories of human rights are achieved. There seems to be at the heart of most issues a stubborn view not to rock the boat. Fuck the boat. The figure of 180 men reported sexual assault must be woefully wrong – as ozy pointed out. It just makes me feel so helpless that we are meant to feel grateful for the minuscule crumbs thrown our way in order to achieve social justice.

  2. Doug S.: One Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report(*) on prison rape I read a while ago calls it “staff sexual misconduct” when there is sexual contact between prisoners and prison employees. The same report found out that a largest part of sexual abuse/violence/misconduct against male prisoners were from prison staff – and the majority of those again were perpetrated by female staff.

    Human Right’s Watch have criticised BJS of their use of the term “staff sexual misconduct” (**).

    By contrast the report found the opposite result for female prisoners – the majority of sexual abuse/violence came from fellow inmates – most of them other women (as only a very few of the surveyed facilities were co-ed and those who were did not have a higher rate of sexual abuse and violence than those who were not.

    So it seems like what happens in prisons when it comes to sexual abuse/violence is markedly different than what the common perception is. Something one also has seen when it comes to DV and sexual abuse/violence outside aa prison context as well.


  3. Statutory rape is generally refers to underage. I think if you rape someone who can’t consent for other reasons (like they are in your custody) its just called rape. But yes, its pretty much considered rape everywhere in the U.S. Probably why said prison official didn’t come forward to claim child support or get on the news or somesuch. (Well I assume she didn’t from your post, but…)

  4. [threadjack]
    Apparently, Mike Tyson recently made a statement on a TV show that he got a prison official pregnant while in jail. I think that in most U.S. states, sex between prison officials and inmates is statutory rape?

Speak Your Mind