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'Slimy, Foul-Smelling' Meat And Other Abuses Found At Orange County ICE Detention Center

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Federal inspectors found that immigrants detained at an Orange County facility were repeatedly served "slimy, foul-smelling" meat, subjected to moldy showers, and kept in overly restrictive solitary confinement conditions, according to a report issued Monday. The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General's report, which urged to ICE to take immediate action on the issues, stems from a surprise visit made to the Theo Lacy ICE Detention Facility back in November.

The Theo Lacy Facility is a maximum-security prison that has been housing ICE detainees since 2010 through an Intergovernmental Service Agreement. As of 2013, this means allocating around 800 of its 3000+ beds for ICE detainees. At the time of inspection, the exact number of ICE detainees at the facility was 478. Some of these men have criminal convictions, while others have violated immigration laws and are awaiting further action (either deportation or an immigration hearing). As of Wednesday, there were 528 immigrants detained at Theo Lacy, according to the Orange County Register.

The report lays out the poor conditions at the ICE facility, focusing on the unsafe food handling practices and the unclean facilities. The inspection revealed several instances of possible health risks for the detainees, including serving spoiled meat and practicing inconsistent storage and temperature control for food. The shower areas also had excessive mold and mildew. The facility's staffs informed the inspector that it was the detainee's responsibilities to clean the showers, which is a direct violation of ICE detention center policies.

The inspector also reported on violations relating to the overly restrictive use of solitary confinement at the facility. Solitary confinement at Theo Lacy is a full 24 hours with no access to visitors, religious services, or recreation. ICE's policies require that detainees being held in solitary confinement still be given at least an hour of recreation time five days a week, as well as limited access to phones, reading materials, and visitation.

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According to the report, the staff at Theo Lacy does not track grievances on the part of inmates, so there's no way for them to determine whether the problems have been addressed or resolved. Oral grievances are not recorded, and written grievances are recorded but maintained in private database to which ICE has no access.

Other problems at the site include no separation between high-risk and low-risk detainees, a lack of protocol and appeals process for moving detainees from barracks to restrictive modules, and no opportunity for detainees to change their risk classification. As a result of the report, ICE and Theo Lacy have taken on a new process of inspection and plan to issue correctives by November 2017.

A spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told the L.A. Times that the concerns outlined in the report have since been addressed, and that they were in the process of retaining a new lunch meat vendor.

The Theo Lacy Facility has a history of neglect and abuse, including a similar report of poor response to grievances and excessive discipline in 2013 and reports of physical and medical abuse of 10 inmates in 2015.