[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called for the immediate release [press release] of immigrants being held in the immigration detention units of the Pinal County Jail (PCJ) [official website] in Arizona. The ACLU sent a letter [text] to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] alleging that conditions in the prison are unsanitary and a violation of the US Constitution. The group asked the DHS to either immediately release all detainees or immediately improve the conditions of the prison. The ACLU said the conditions of the prison were effectively a form of punishment for the detainees:
The confinement of immigration detainees at PCJ, at least under current conditions, has no place in any system that aspires to civility. … The continued pattern of inhumane treatment and deficient conditions at PCJ—conditions inconsistent even with constitutional minima for convicted prisoners—not only make a mockery of the administration’s stated commitment to humane detention reform, but also present an invitation to suit.
The ACLU reports that prisoners at PCJ are denied basic hygiene needs, medical attention, and face-to-face visitation rights.
US prisons have been criticized for conditions leading to human rights abuses and overcrowding. An investigation by Amnesty International (AI) in April reported that solitary confinement conditions in Arizona’s maximum security prisons violate international human rights law [JURIST report]. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its annual World Report and criticized US illegal detention programs [JURIST report], pointing to extreme prisoner rights abuses and a high level of incarceration of illegal immigrants and racial minorities. A week earlier, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) criticized the US human rights record, including the indefinite detention [JURIST report] of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detainees, in a report that called the situation in Guantanamo “the main outstanding [human rights] issue” in the US. Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Plata [Cornell LII backgrounder] to uphold an order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners [JURIST report] to remedy the state’s overcrowded prisons [JURIST news archive].