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Treatment of Detainees About to Get Worse

April 19, 2017
Plain English Version

Federal Detention Center.

You can call them prisons or detention centers. They are alike. In both, you have to obey the rules.

Jails are for criminals. Detention centers are for immigrants. The immigrants are not criminals. They are there awaiting their fate. Some were detained at the border. Others came from within the U.S.

The federal government runs some detention centers. Private companies run many of them. State and local governments run the rest. They are often part of their prison system.

Past presidents worked to make detention centers better places. President Trump wants to make them worse. He closed the office that had the job of making the centers better.

Rolling back rules will make it easier to house the many detainees that are coming.

Here are some of the present rules:

  • Notify immigration officials if a detainee is in solitary confinement longer than two weeks.
  • Check on suicidal persons every 15 minutes
  • Review their mental health every day
  • Tell detainees in their languages how to get medical care
  • Make sure an English speaking person can speak for the detainee in hearings.

One reason to get rid of some rules is to motivate local governments to house more detainees.

Obama’s people may have gone a little too far in making rules. Take the number of toilets. Rules call for one for every twelve men and one for every eight women. Another example is that the thickness of trash bags must be at least 1.5 millimeters.

But there is a big difference. Obama officials set standards. Trump officials will issue checklists with goals. For example, “Is the facility kept clean and in good repair?”

Trump’s officials say that the goal still is to take proper care of detainees. It is not that easy. Many detainees are in state and local prisons that also hold criminals.

Medical care is most important. Many detainees are under great stress. Pregnant women and small children are in three family detention centers.

President Obama knew the problem of detainees was not going away. He tried to improve their treatment. President Trump is making the system bigger in a short period. To do this, you have to cut corners.

Source: The New York Times April 13, 2017

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