Sec. Napolitano Questioned About “Lost in Detention”

October 20, 2011

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

“What is the Department of Homeland Security doing to ensure that immigration detainees are safe from sexual abuse, whether they’re in ICE facilities or contract facilities?”

This question — prompted by our film Lost in Detention was posed to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano by Sen. Dick Durbin [D-Ill.] at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration policy oversight. 

“We found that there were little or no standards being applied uniformly,” responded Sec. Napolitano, referring to the state of the system when she was appointed in 2009. Since then, she says standards have been reviewed and some contracts with private prison companies were rewritten. And she says they’re regularly audited.

“We have really tried to emphasize the availability of visas for those who are victims of crime, particularly victims of sexual crime and domestic violence,” Sec. Napolitano continued, emphasizing that DHS is trying to spread the word about them nationwide.

Sen. Durbin worked on 2003’s Prison Rape Elimination Act [PREA], which set up a commission to study the prevalence of rape in all types of U.S. prisons and to recommend national standards to address the issue. Though the commission’s final report emphasized the problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities, these facilities are not required to comply with PREA.

You can watch the exchange here:

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

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