CIVIC’s weekly spotlight on crimes committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This week’s crime: Solitary Confinement

Adolfo Aguillon, formerly in solitary confinement at the Theo Lacy Jail, added a bible and angel wings to this drawing of solitary confinement cells at the jail originally published in the Orange County Register. He says, “That is how I was living.”

In response to the Trump administration’s creation of its new agency VOICE

(Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) and its publishing a weekly “list”
of crimes committed by immigrants in the United States,
will be running this weekly column listing crimes committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the real perpetrator of human and civil rights violations.

This is not to label people targeted by ICE and in immigration detention as helpless “victims,” but rather to directly counter the false propaganda being promoted by the Trump administration (and the xenophobia that has long-dominated U.S. media and public perceptions that have helped shape U.S. immigration policy). This weekly column is urgent and necessary to highlight the experiences of those victimized by state violence.

This week, the crime we highlight is the use, and abuse, of **solitary confinement **in U.S. immigration detention.

Solitary Confinement

Since President Trump took office, CIVIC has documented 9 separate violations of ICE’s Solitary Confinement Directive in immigration detention. In the last year, we have documented approximately 50 violations of ICE’s Solitary Confinement Directive, but neither ICE nor its contractors such as GEO Group and CCA/CoreCivic have been held accountable.

We receive more complaints about solitary confinement from people at the Adelanto Detention Facility than from any other detention facility we monitor. The number of incidents has increased since the Adelanto Detention Facility expanded in 2015, and women seem to be disproportionately affected by this practice. We have been told by the women put into solitary confinement at Adelanto that GEO Group leaves the lights on at night, making it difficult to sleep and contributing to their torture. At times, there has been no drinkable water for hours, dirty sheets, no blankets, no toilet paper, and no female hygiene products.

Although under ICE’s Solitary Confinement Directive, people are not supposed to be held in solitary confinement, or segregation, for any consecutive 14-day period, CIVIC has documented people in prolonged solitary confinement for as long as 7 months at the Adelanto Detention Facility. Because the Adelanto Detention Facility also does not have enough cells that are ADA/Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act compliant, it is our understanding that the facility uses the solitary confinement cells sometimes to house people who are confined to a wheel chair.

Our independent monitoring efforts are backed up by data obtained from ICE through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Verge earlier this month. The data shows that at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia run by CCA/CoreCivic (this company has no relationship to CIVIC), a man with a serious medical illness was held in solitary confinement for at least 30 days. ICE’s data also shows that CCA/CoreCivic, like GEO Group, placed people in solitary confinement simply because the facility’s medical unit was full.


“Lalo” has been detained at the Adelanto Detention Facility for over seven months. He is 44, born in Mexico, but has lived in the United States since he was 2 years old. His past includes felony convictions, at least one of which can be reduced to a misdemeanor under California Proposition 47. He says he has been out of trouble for the past 11 years, “doing what any right-minded person will do,” until ICE arrested him at his home in August. He is also married to a U.S. citizen and has several U.S. citizen children.

A card Lalo sent to CIVIC in December, 2016

In detention, Lalo makes holiday cards and sells his drawings to the other men. But late in January, Lalo told us that he has been put into solitary confinement. As of the last time we have heard from him, he was still in solitary.

Lalo says he was put into solitary along with several other men after a dispute with a guard over a simple matter — the way he called the men’s names. When Lalo and several others raised the issue, they were accused of threatening the guards. Now, it is their word against the guard’s.

Married in Solitary

On January 25, Lalo got married to his U.S. citizen partner. “A great thing,” he says. But “not how I ever planned my wedding.” The ceremony took place in the detention center’s visitation area early in the morning, with two of his children as witnesses. Then he returned to solitary confinement.

As part of his punishment, Lalo is unable to purchase cards from the commissary that he likes to draw on. He is unable to access the computer to work on the necessary paperwork for his case. He has also been denied visits from his wife and from CIVIC-affiliated volunteers.

He says, “I really can’t do much from in here. I have a strong fight, even though I did wrong when I was young. The judge has told me himself I have a fight. Let’s hope for the best.”