ICE detainees claim inadequate mental health treatment while behind bars in Minnesota

In 2021, a Somali refugee was placed on suicide watch at the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River, where he was kept in isolation for three days, 23 hours a day, including one hour to shower and make phone calls, and without a radio, television or phone. books.

That’s according to a civil rights complaint filed by the refugee, Dahir, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Sherburne and Kandiyohi counties. He claims he was detained for two years in jails in those counties, which are ICE facilities, without receiving adequate treatment for his severe mental illness.

Dashiell asked not to be detained again and sought an investigation into the county jail and a Department of Homeland Security review of the jail’s ICE contract.

His complaint alleges that the prisons violate the Rehabilitation Act, a federal statute that prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs or services administered by federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE.

“therefore, [Dahir’s] His “mental health deteriorated significantly” to the point where he began to consider suicide, the complaint states. Dashiell’s name was completely redacted from the complaint, and his attorneys discussed the case on condition that only his middle name be used so as not to draw attention to others. deport.

Dahir, 31, spent the first few years of her life in a refugee camp in Kenya and has lived in the United States as a refugee for 24 years. His mental illness went untreated, and his attorney said he struggled with homelessness and drug addiction.

He was arrested by Olmsted County police following a drunken argument. The arrest put him at risk of deportation, causing him to be detained for nearly two years while he appealed.

Dashiell was held by ICE at the Sherburne County Jail from January 2021 to May 2022 and was later transferred to the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar. While in Sherburne County, he was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also experienced hallucinations, paranoia and other psychotic symptoms.

A team of attorneys from the National Immigration Justice Center in Chicago coordinated his bail and participation in a rehabilitation program in February. He filed his complaint in March.

“It’s not uncommon for a person to be detained by ICE for years in complex cases,” said Kerry McGuire, Dashiell’s attorney. “We wish that wasn’t the case, but in Dashiell’s case It’s not unique.”

ICE contracts with many county jails in Minnesota and other states to house detainees. It communicates and monitors the standards that prisons must adhere to, including mental health care.

“The more space ICE uses in county jails across the country, the more we see instances of this systemic abuse,” said Jesse Franzblau of the National Immigration Justice Center.

Dashiell’s complaint alleges that officers at the Sherburne and Kandiyohi county jails violated ICE’s national detention standards, which require detainees to have access to “appropriate medical, dental and mental health care, including emergency services.” .

The complaint also says segregation should only be used as a last resort. ICE and its contractors punished Dashiell by isolating him and denying him medication, “causing more paranoia, anxiety, and depression rather than housing it.”

Detention facilities are regularly inspected to ensure they meet standards, including “comprehensive medical and mental health care,” according to an ICE spokesperson. Detained non-citizens undergo a health screening within 12 hours of arrival at the detention facility and a complete health assessment within the first two weeks. Facilities must offer medical appointments and 24-hour emergency care.

Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Tollefson said in a statement that ICE provides the jail with a copy of its standards and conducts regular inspections to ensure compliance. He said the prison received a superior rating from ICE in 2022. Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott did not respond to a request for comment.

As of September, more than 35,000 people were detained by ICE in the United States. Currently in Minnesota, the Kandiyohi County Jail holds 87 detainees; the Freeborn County Jail in Albert Lea holds 28 detainees; and the Sherburne County Jail holds two inmates.

While the national average length of ICE detention is about 37 days, the average length of detention in Sherburne County is longer at 196 days and in Kandiyohi County is 47 days.

“Detention is the worst thing that can happen for a person’s mental health,” said John Bruning, a lawyer with Advocates for Human Rights who works with immigrants who have experienced trauma. “No matter how treated, it always exacerbates mental health problems.”

Mary Georgovich, a senior litigation attorney at the National Immigration Justice Center, said Dashiell is currently in a mental health facility in Minnesota and faces deportation if he is detained again.

However, she said: “He’s doing much better.”

About the partnership

This story comes from you sahan magazine, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to reporting on immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota.Register a Free newsletter Get Sahan’s stories in your inbox.

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