California Mental Health Advocates Raise Concern Over Treatment of ICE Detainees
The San Diego Tribune on Monday profiled the La Mesa, Calif.-based private psychiatric hospital Alvarado Parkway Institute. Some advocates say that the hospital is in a network of private hospitals that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses to hold "severely" mentally ill detainees nationwide, often "out of reach of lawyers and even their families," the Tribune reports. The number of immigration detainees has increased dramatically over recent years. According to the Tribune, about 35,000 people are being detained in a system of public or private jails and detention centers awaiting the outcomes of their immigration cases. It is unknown how many of the detainees are mentally ill and how many are held in private facilities.
Some disability-rights lawyers and advocates for the mentally ill say that conditions at many of the private facilities, including API, violate state and federal laws governing treatment of mentally ill people. Ann Menasche, a lawyer with the legal advocacy group Disability Rights California, last month sent a letter to ICE claiming that after visiting API and interviewing detainees, she found that the conditions are "excessive, unjustifiable and punitive." Menasche said that immigration detainees could not socialize, exercise or participate in group therapy, and noted that they also were kept shackled to hospital beds. She said the patients also are being denied their rights to daily visitors, access to a telephone and other lawful permissions. She said other patients were not subjected to such conditions. Earlier this month, Menasche sent another letter to county officials requesting that they investigate the facility.
Hospital CEO Patrick Ziemer said that the measures taken at the hospital are done for security reasons required by ICE. He added, "Patients can move about and walk around, a few steps from their bed." ICE officials declined to answer specific questions about the treatment of patients at API but said in a statement that the agency is reviewing "visitation and telephone access practices for immigration detainees being housed in private psychiatric facilities to ensure they have appropriate access to both." Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also has ordered a broader review of all ICE detention conditions (Moran, San Diego Tribune, 5/18).