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Illinois jail housing ICE detainees cited for COVID-19 violations

Since February 2020, more than 100 people in immigration custody at the Pulaski County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General recently found the Pulaski County Jail, located in southern Illinois, was in violation of five detention standards including enforcing social distancing and mask wearing. The report included a photo from Nov. 27, 2020, depicting a jail worker wearing a face mask below his nose and mouth while near someone in immigration custody.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General recently found the Pulaski County Jail, located in southern Illinois, was in violation of five detention standards, including enforcing social distancing and mask wearing. The report included a photo from Nov. 27, 2020, depicting a jail worker wearing a face mask below his nose and mouth while near someone in immigration custody.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General

An Illinois jail where more than 100 people in immigration custody had tested positive for COVID-19 was recently cited for not enforcing mask wearing and social distancing, according to a recently released report.

The Pulaski County Jail, located in the southern part of the state, is one of three county facilities in Illinois that has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants facing deportation. Between November and January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General conducted a remote, unannounced inspection in which it found the jail was in violation of five detention standards, according to a report about the violations.

Officials reviewed surveillance footage at the jail and found instances where those in immigration custody were gathered in groups while not wearing masks, according to the report. One photo in the report showed a jail worker wearing a face mask below his nose and mouth while near someone in ICE custody. The jail had restricted some services, such as the dining hall, to limit in-person contact.

In the report, the inspector general stated the lack of enforcement of the guidelines could have contributed to repeated transmissions of the virus.

At least 114 people at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19 since February 2020, according to ICE statistics. There were two active COVID-19 cases as of this week at the facility.

The jail’s average daily population was 107 last September, according to the report.

The Pulaski County Jail was found to be in violation of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recently released report. More than 100 people in immigration custody at the jail located in Southern Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19 since February 2020, according to ICE statistics.
The Pulaski County Jail was found to be in violation of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recently released report. More than 100 people in immigration custody at the jail located in southern Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19 since February 2020, according to ICE statistics.
Oficina del Inspector General del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de Estados Unidos

Officials from the jail did not respond to a request for comment. A letter from ICE was included in the report stating that 35 people in ICE custody at the jail received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine March 10. The vaccine was also being offered to those entering the jail, and it would be offered again to those in custody.

The inspector general also recommended the facility improve its medical care for those with chronic conditions. It also found the jail didn’t have emergency dental services available. In response, ICE said it was working on a corrective action plan and it was in the process of adding a dentist to its medical services.

Others have also raised concerns about the medical treatment at the facility. In March, the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, on behalf of three people detained at the Pulaski County Jail.

One of the detainees, who is 61 years old and has diabetes, was told he had to amputate his leg, but he feared the medical treatment while in immigration custody, according to the complaint. He stated that he was among those who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Another man said he was worried about spitting up blood, according to the complaint. A third man said he wanted further medical attention because of blood he’s noticed in his urine.

Julián Lazalde, the civic engagement and policy analyst for the center, said since the complaint was filed, the 61-year-old agreed to be deported to Jamaica so he could get outside medical treatment.

He said the inspector general’s report shines a light on conditions immigration advocates have been speaking out about throughout pandemic. The National Immigrant Justice Center will continue to urge elected officials to make sure the changes are implemented at the Pulaski County Jail, he said. He would like to see the report prompt long-term changes that will improve conditions at the jail.

“We know that these jails aren’t built with a pandemic in mind,” Lazalde said. “Our hope is that people — not only the public — elected officials and ICE is going to take this seriously. Not only are we concerned about individuals who are detained, but this is all taking place in an unprecedented public health crisis.”

The inspector general’s report also found the Pulaski County Jail needed to implement a color-coded visual identification system after someone with a criminal history was placed in an area with those in immigration custody without a criminal history. ICE stated the jail had ordered color-coded wristbands to differentiate those in custody.

Another violation stemmed from the jail staff not always properly doing welfare checks for people in segregation. In response to the violation, the jail staff was expected to undergo further training, according to ICE.

The last violation called for detainees to have better access to a deportation officer. The jail in March hired a detention services manager that would assist with providing detainees an opportunity to speak to a deportation officer, according to ICE.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.