ESTANCIA, N.M. (KRQE) – More problems have been exposed at the Torrance County Detention Facility. A new report from the Office of Inspector General finds inhumane and unsanitary conditions and has some calling for immediate closure of the facility.
The inspection found a moldy sink that doesn’t work. a toilet clogged with human waste, a detainee filling up a cup of water from a mop sink, and guards unable to adequately monitor and supervise detainees because of blind spots and staffing issues.
Those problems and more were revealed in a 19-page report by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General. Following an unannounced inspection last month at the Torrance County Detention facility in Estancia.
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“We hear from detained people in this facility day in and day out reporting water in the showers being contaminated to where they are getting rashes breaking out,” said ACLU Attorney, Rebecca Sheff.
The facility is being used by ICE to house migrants while their immigration cases are being reviewed. At the time of the inspection, 176 men were being held there.
“We and other legal service providers have been raising concerns about these issues for many months and years at this point,” said Sheff.
Aside from the health issues, the report found only 54 percent of the required amount of staff was employed at the time of the inspection. “They’re not able to get the attention of guards because the understaffing issues are so severe,” added Sheff.
Core Civic, who owns and operates the jail, along with ICE dispute the finding, accused the Office of Inspector General of misrepresenting evidence saying that the photos of the clogged sinks and toilets were taken in vacant housing units and the wet floors were actually in the process of being cleaned by detainees.
They go as far as to say inspectors staged the photo of the detainee drinking out of the mop sink. “Regardless of the authority that agencies like ice may have to detain people there is no justification for holding them in such degrading and inhumane conditions,” said Sheff.
A federal watchdog says based on the findings, everyone being held at the Torrance County Facility should be immediately transferred elsewhere. The ACLU goes a step further, calling for the release of all detainees. “They are experiencing conditions that go to fundamental questions of dignity and safety,” said Sheff.
Core Civic receives about $2 million dollars a month from the government to operate the Torrance County facility. This isn’t the first time the facility has had troubles, two years ago, detainees were engaged in a hunger strike when guards pepper-sprayed them and blocked the exits. detainees later sued Core Civic as well as Torrance County.