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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Jim Kouri
Bio: Jim Kouri
Date:  July 13, 2007
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Topic category:  Other/General

GAO Laments Illegal Alien Detainees' Telephone Access

by Jim Kouri, CPP

The total number of aliens detained each year by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased from about 95,000 in fiscal year 2001 to almost 285,000 in 2006.

The care and treatment of these detained aliens is a significant challenge to ICE. The Government Accounting Office was asked by the Democrat-controlled US Congress to review ICE's implementation of its detention standards for aliens in its custody.

To conduct its work, GAO reviewed DHS documents, interviewed program officials, and visited 23 detention facilities of varying size, type, and geographic location.

GAO's observations at 23 alien detention facilities showed systemic telephone system problems at 16 of 17 facilities that use the pro bono telephone system, but no pattern of noncompliance for other standards GAO reviewed.

At facilities that use the ICE detainee pro bono telephone system, GAO encountered significant problems in making connections to consulates, pro bono legal providers, or the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) complaint hotline. Monthly performance data provided by the phone system contractor indicates the rate of successful connections through the detainee pro bono telephone system was never above 74 percent.

ICE officials stated there was little oversight of the telephone contract. In June 2007, ICE requested an OIG audit of the contract,stating that the contractor did not comply with the terms and conditions of the contract. Other instances of deficiencies GAO observed varied across facilities visited but did not appear to show a pattern of noncompliance.

These deficiencies involved medical care, use of hold rooms, use of force, food service, recreational opportunities, access to legal materials, facility grievance procedures, and overcrowding. ICE annual compliance reviews of detention facilities identified deficiencies similar to those found by GAO.

However, insufficient internal controls and weaknesses in ICE's compliance review process resulted in ICE's failure to identify telephone system problems at most facilities GAO visited. ICE's inspection worksheet used by its detention facility reviewers did not require that a reviewer confirm that detainees are able to make successful connections through the detainee pro bono telephone system.

Detainee complaints may be filed with several governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Detainee complaints mostly involved legal access, conditions of confinement, property issues, human and civil rights, medical care, and employee misconduct at the facility. The primary way for detainees to file complaints is to contact the OIG. OIG investigates the most serious complaints and refers the remainder to other DHS components.

Jim Kouri
Chief of Police Magazine (Contributing Editor)

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Biography - Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.


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