In the latest installment of Our Hellish Country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are reportedly putting undocumented immigrant detainees in solitary confinement for refusing to take on work duties deemed “voluntary.”
Shoaib Ahmed, a Bangladeshi immigrant, told The Intercept that last November, ICE officials at a detention center run by the private, for-profit prison company CoreCivic locked him in solitary for 10 days because an officer overheard him saying “no work tomorrow,” which he says was out of frustration that his weekly $20 paycheck for kitchen work had been delayed. ICE’s labor program is supposedly “strictly voluntary.”
Solitary confinement is torture. If you have any doubts on this front, read how Ahmed, who remains in ICE custody, described his experience to The Intercept:
Ahmed said that because no one outside his room could hear him talk at a regular volume, his only opportunity for human interaction would often be to shout out, though he was prohibited from raising his voice—an infraction that would only cause his sentence in isolation to be extended. “Sometimes I think my head is not working, and I think I want to loudly call them: ‘Release me. Please, take me to some open site,’” Ahmed recalled. “Sometimes I think the segregation will kill me.”
ICE provided little specific comment on Ahmed’s case to the site, but claimed the “use of restrictive housing in ICE detention facilities is exceedingly rare, but at times necessary, to ensure the safety of staff and individuals in a facility.” (Splinter reached out to ICE for further comment and will update this post if and when they respond.)
Ahmed’s story is unfortunately far from an isolated incident. In December, immigrants at a detention center in San Diego—also run by CoreCivic—filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging they were subjected to forced labor. According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit “contends that facility staff have threatened to put detainees in solitary confinement or take away visitation rights if they said they didn’t want to work.” Just how lucrative were the jobs detainees were passing up? At most, they were paid $1.50 per day.