The federal government was taken to task regarding the over-crowded conditions at the Adelanto Detention Center where the majority of those held there are treated as criminals for merely seeking an opportunity for a better life in the United States.
On Thursday, October 15, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter issued a 15-page order mandating immediate change to how the detainees are being held in crowded conditions despite the threat of COVID-19.
“The Court has been concerned for some time with the lack of candor exhibited by the Government and its counsel in this case. Now, the Court is concerned with probable dishonesty on the part of the Government’s counsel.”
In response, the judge ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reduce the detention center’s population by more than 38% immediately. The facility was required to reduce its population by 50 prisoners per day until the detention center’s population declined from a census of 772 to 475. The judge called on ICE to begin the reduction effort almost immediately. It was ordered to begin Monday, October 19.
The lawsuit which triggered the ruling was among the most recent filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the private prison owner/operator, GEO; the Department of Homeland Security and ICE over the crowded conditions at the facility and for failure to address social distancing and sanitation guidelines despite the deadly threat and airborne spread of COVID-19. The ACLU lawsuit was filed in May.
According to the suit conditions at the facility in the age of COVID-19 are conducive to spreading the virus. For example, four to eight detainees are crammed into eight by ten-foot cells; as many as ten detainees were required to eat together at a single table; bunk beds at the most were three feet apart; and between four and eight detainees are housed together in small cells.
Several months into the deadly COVID-19 pandemic critics say it is unconscionable to detain individuals in such conditions. Last week ICE admitted to 162 confirmed cases of the virus among detainees.
The infamous GEO Group has a long history of deplorable conditions and maltreatment of prisoners and detainees at its facilities across the country.
The Adelanto Detention Center is the largest immigration facility in California.