Gun left out, rotting food a ‘significant threat’ to NJ ICE detainees
NEWARK — An inspector general's report about the condition of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility at the Essex County Jail found "significant health and safety risks."
An unannounced inspection in July led to concern about unreported security incidents, food safety issues and facility conditions in Newark, where nearly 800 males were being held
"While at the facility, we identified serious issues relating to safety, security, and environmental health that require ICE’s immediate attention. These issues not only constitute violations of ICE detention standards but also represent significant threats to detainee health and safety," according to the report.
Among the specific concerns cited:
- The discovery by a detainee of a guard's loaded handgun in a staff bathroom on four occasions, which was never before reported
- Mishandling of meats and storage of moldy bread, which led to potentially contaminated food being served to detainee. The inspection "validated media reports of concerns about food, particularly meat, which was raw, spoiled, or expired," according to the report.
- Leaking ceilings in detainee living areas, showers laced with mold and peeling paint, and dilapidated beds. Detainees also lack access to recreation space outside of their living areas.
The kitchen and food served was the worst issue in the facility, according to the report. It said detainees filed 200 complaints about the food between January and July 2018, accounting for 12 percent of all complaints.
Conditions in the kitchen were considered to be so bad that the kitchen manager was replaced during the inspection of the facility after "slimy, foul-smelling lunch meat" was served to detainees, who said it caused them diarrhea and vomiting. A "corporate, management-level, food services professional" was hired by the company contracted for food services at the facility.
Moldy bread was served and workers were told to put unused bread into large bags and trash bags to be used as bread pudding, the report said.
Lakes into the facility were being caught by large trash cans or falling onto beds. Shower stalls and the hallways leading to them were unsanitary with mold and peeling paint, the report said.
Detainees used shredded bed sheets to hold their mattresses together and the pillows, which were part of the mattress, were found to be "flat and dilapidated."
A planned soccer field was never built and the facility had no room for outdoor space. Instead, large mesh cages were built over windows in living areas so they could be cracked open for fresh air.
Following the inspection, ICE took steps to improve a number of the issues raised, according to the report. Housing areas were completely emptied and disinfected using stream cleaners, walls and ceiling were repainted and mattresses replaced.
ICE's Newark office was closed on Monday and a spokesman did not immediately return a message.
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