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ICE Changes Solitary Confinement Policy, Gets Praise From Advocates

The federal government has issued new policies that will change the way it places detained immigrants in solitary confinement. The move has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out new guidelines Wednesday that require additional oversight and protections for vulnerable detainees, including those with mental illness and the disabled.

A senior-ranking manager must be notified within 72 hours if a vulnerable detainee is placed in solitary confinement. Upon reviewing the case, agents must remove the person from segregation if the confinement has harmed the person's health.

The ACLU's Legislative Policy Analyst Ruthie Epstein issued a statement praising the reforms:

"The new ICE directive sets a good example for the prison system writ large when it comes to monitoring the use of solitary confinement. It also sets important limits on the use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement in both immigration detention and the criminal justice system is cruel, expensive, and ineffective."

Solitary confinement leads to hallucinations, paranoia, and increased rates of self-mutilation and suicide, according to the ACLU.

ICE has been working on detention reform since 2009. The agency has more than 32,000 beds at about 350 facilities nationwide. The agency says it's trying to move away from these penal-based systems, and create practices more appropriate for civil detention while immigrants await hearings or deportation.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in March the agency would review solitary confinement practices after a New York Times story described detainees being placed in isolation for weeks at a time.

Fronteras Desk reported the story of a mentally ill detainee, and issues with solitary confinement back in 2011.

Read the new ICE policies.

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