Stop Prisoner Rape Releases Report on Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

October 7, 2004

LOS ANGELES – The nonprofit human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape today released a report calling attention to the problem of sexual abuse of immigration detainees in the United States and urging much-needed improvements to the detention policies of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The report, No Refuge Here: A First Look At Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention, compiles accounts from across the nation of the sexual abuse and harassment of men, women, and youth in detention. It also finds that ICE policies on preventing and responding to sexual abuse are sorely lacking.

“Policies on sexual abuse in detention are outdated and inadequate,” said SPR Executive Director Lara Stemple “With the recent passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, it’s time for the ICE to start addressing this issue in a serious and substantive way.”

Some of the specific issues SPR raises with the ICE detention standards are:

  • The failure to mention the risk of sexual abuse in the handbook given to all detainees;
  • The failure to explicitly prohibit sexual contact between staff and detainees;
  • The failure to prohibit inappropriate or excessive strip and pat searches.

No Refuge Here also documents the refusal by immigration officials to allow SPR access to detainees in Southern California facilities. In many cases, the report notes, this denial was couched in terms of post-September 11 security concerns.

“As shocking as September 11 was for all of us, it can not be invoked indefinitely as an excuse to avoid outside scrutiny of conditions in detention,” Stemple said. “We hope this report will lead to more openness on the part of the ICE and a greater willingness to take concrete steps to prevent sexual abuse.”