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International Human Rights Clinic at John Marshall Law School criticizes solitary confinement for immigrant detainees

A recent report from the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at The John Marshall Law School details deficiencies in current U.S. detention practices and also says that a new directive from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on detainees should go farther to adequately protect detainee’s rights.

The report, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New Directive on Segregation: Why We Need Further Protections,” details the use of solitary confinement of immigrant detainees, noting that some detention facilities have been found to have the worst record on solitary. The report also recommends some measures that it believes could help ensure immigrant detainees are treated humanely.

In September 2013, ICE issued segregation directive 11065.1, establishing a policy and procedures for reviewing detainees placed into segregation. The directive calls for greater attention to the needs of detainees with known mental or serious medical illnesses, for example. But it does not go far enough to ensure that facilities proactively assess detainees for special vulnerabilities prior to segregation, and “allows for willful blindness on the part of the facility,” the report states.

The report recommends several measures to help ensure immigrant detainees are protected and treated humanely, including making sure that monitoring provisions that have been recently adopted by the new ICE directive are strictly enforced. It also recommends that an independent committee composed of civil society must be provided with the power of monitoring ICE’s new directive. Further, that solitary confinement (segregation) should be used as a last resort when there are no alternatives.

“As a human rights clinic, we seek to advocate for the humane and dignified treatment of all people, regardless of their immigration status,” said Professor Sarah Dávila-Ruhaak, IHRC co-director, in a statement.

“This report is the result of countless hours of research by our students and clinic staff, and demonstrates the kind of advocacy that John Marshall champions,” said Anthony Niedwiecki, associate dean for Skills, Experiential Learning, and Assessment. “John Marshall is creating more and varied clinical options for students, and the [IHRC] is a wonderful new addition.”

The IHRC is one of the newest clinical learning experiences offered at John Marshall. The clinic offers law students a background in human rights advocacy through the practical experience of working on international human rights cases and projects. All incoming John Marshall students are required to participate in an experiential learning experience. The IHRC advocates for human rights in international and domestic tribunals and other forums. It also provides resources and research on human rights and engages in public education and outreach.


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