On any given day, about 300 immigrants are in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports the New York Times. Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.
About two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards, or getting into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill. The U.S. has come under sharp criticism for relying on solitary confinement in its prisons more than any other democratic nation in the world. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, the practice is startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. They are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings.