Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees have been fed spoiled food and subjected to deteriorating conditions at a jail in Newark, New Jersey, according to a report released last week by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.
Inspectors found numerous violations during an unannounced July 2018 visit to the Essex County Correctional Facility, which has a capacity of 928 male detainees. Some of the transgressions the facility was obligated to report to ICE but never did.
The report revealed that in April, a loaded firearm was found unattended by an inmate worker cleaning the staff bathroom. Facility staff admitted during interviews with the inspectors that at the time, they had instructed the individual who found the weapon refrain from mentioning the incident to anyone else.
According to the report, the event represented “the fourth time in less than a year that the facility failed to notify ICE of incidents involving detainees and raises serious concerns about the facility’s ability to handle security issues.”
The IG also confirmed reports by Human Rights Watch of rotting food and unsanitary kitchen conditions, including leaking bags of raw chicken, stockpiles of moldy bread intended for future use in bread pudding, and hamburgers that were unidentifiable as food.
Though the facility began housing individuals in 2010 and has been subject to an ICE requirement for available outdoor recreation space, the Essex County facility has never had such an open-air area. “Based on our review of the contract and ICE inspection records, ICE officials have never documented concerns regarding outdoor recreation in their weekly inspections or cited the facility for failure to meet this detention standard since it began housing detainees,” the report said.
According to the IG, ICE agreed with the oversight agency’s findings and has been working to address them, an effort that has included replacing the food service contractor and cleaning the detainee living areas.
The facility is expected to complete by the end of June a review of the feasibility of an outdoor recreation area. Essex County Correctional Facility is one of approximately 800 local facilities that contract with ICE via intergovernmental services agreements (IGSA) to hold immigrant detainees.
You can read the full report embedded below.