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Accreditation Report -Port Isabel Detention Center, Los Fresnos, TX, 2007

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COMMISSION ON ACCREDITATION FOR CORRECTIONS
STANDARDS COMPLIANCE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE VISIT AUDIT
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Port Isabel Detention Center
Los Fresnos, Texas
30 July - 1 August 2007

VISITING COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Chairperson
Assistant Superintendent
Milwaukee County House of Corrections
8885 South 68th Street
Franklin, Wisconsin 53132
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(414)
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Deputy Superintendent
Hampshire Jail & House of Correction
205 Rocky Hill Road
Northampton, Massachusetts 01061-7000
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(413)
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Program Manager
MHM Services
250 Meeks Way
Monticello, Florida 32344
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850-

A.

Introduction
The technical assistance audit of the Port Isabel Detention Center was conducted on
July 30 - August 1, 2007 by
Chairperson;
and
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Members.

B.

Facility Demographics
Rated Capacity

:850 (on first day of audit 1090).

Actual Population

:1090

Average Daily Population for the last 12 months

:800

Average Length of Stay
(audit team believes average length is longer)

:18 days

Security/Custody Level
(Minimum, Medium, Close)

:Level I-II-III

Age Range of Offenders

:18-60

Gender

:Male/Female

Full Time Staff
:174 Immigration and Custom
Enforcement. (3 Administrative, 12 Support, 159 Detention, 414 Contract Security and
29 Other).
C.

Facility Description
The Port Isabel Detention Center is located in the southern part of Texas along Rural
Route 510 in the eastern part of Cameron County, approximately 20 miles north of
Brownsville, Texas and 30 miles east of Harlingen, Texas. The Mexican border is
approximately 22 miles south of the Port Isabel Detention Center.
The Cameron County Airport to the north, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife to the
east, agricultural fields and a shrimp farm to the south and agricultural fields to the west
surround the Port Isabel Detention Center.
The Port Isabel Detention Center is on 350 acres with 162 acres of developed land and
188 acres of undeveloped land with wildlife, which includes the endangered Ocelot
species.
Formerly the site was part of the military and used by the Army Air Corps in the 1940’s
as a gunnery training facility. The Navy and Air Force utilized the facility for training
activities, which also included an auxiliary airfield for defense purposes. The facility was

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closed in the 1960’s. With realignment and closure of the facility portions of the property
was turned over the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) between 19611963. Other portions of the property including the hanger and airfield runways were
turned over to the Cameron County Commissioners for the Port Isabel airport in 1963.
In 1962 to 1963, the INS performed major renovations to several buildings on the site and
established a Border Patrol Training Facility and Detention Center. In 1977, the Training
Academy expanded and relocated to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in
Glynco, Georgia and the detention center remained.
Currently, the detention center is a self-supporting facility that continues to house
individuals detained for allegations of violations of the immigration laws of the United
States. These individuals comprise both male and female detainees who will appear
before an administrative immigration judge with the Executive Office for immigration
review. In 2006, the facility experienced an expansion with a new administration and
medical building which also encompasses processing and visitation.
The Port Isabel Detention Center has a rated capacity of 850 beds. At the time of the
technical assistance, there were 1090 detainees. When questioned by the auditors, the
accreditation manager indicated the rated capacity was 1200 but no one could should
documentation to indicate that the rated capacity has expanded. Although a previous
audit indicated an average length of stay to be about 18 days but from the number of
detainees interviewed it appears to be longer. This is an area that needs to be corrected
before the next technical assistance.
The center does not provide housing for detainees awaiting formal criminal prosecution
but it does have a high security level for detainees with a previous history that are
classified as close custody.
D.

Pre-Audit Meeting
The team met on July 29, 2007 in South Padre Island, Texas to discuss the information
provided by the Association staff and officials from the Port Isabel Detention Center.
The chairperson divided standards into the following groups:
Standards #4-ALDF 1A-01-2D-03,
Standards #4-ALDF 3A-01-4D-29,
Standards #4-ALDF 5A-01-7F-07,

E.

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(Member)
(Member)
(Member)

The Audit Process
1.

Transportation
The team was picked up at the hotel at 7:30 a.m. by Officer
b6,b7c
Accreditation team member. The team arrived at the Port Isabel Detention Center

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at 8:00 a.m. and proceeded to the executive conference room where the entrance
interview occurred.
2.

Entrance Interview
The audit team met with
b6,b7c
b6,b7c Acting Officer in Charge, and

Acting Field Office Director, b6,b7c
b6,b7c
Assistant Officer in Charge.

The Chairperson introduced the team and gave a brief background of their
correctional experience as well as outlining how the technical assistance would
proceed. It was emphasized that following the tour a concentrated effort would be
made on scrutinizing the mandatory standards at depth. A pre-audit meeting was
held with the accreditation team of the Port Isabel Detention Center.
The following persons were in attendance:
Assistant Field Office Director
, Acting Officer in Charge
, Assistant Officer in Charge
Acting Chief Immigration Officer
COTR
Accreditation Manager
ACA Team Member
ACA Team Member

b6,b7c
b6,b7c
b6,b7c
b6,b7c
b6
b6
b6

It was explained that the goal of the visiting team was to be as helpful and nonintrusive as possible during the technical assistance visit. The chairperson
emphasized the goals of accreditation toward the efficiency and effectiveness of
correctional systems throughout the United States. The audit schedule was also
discussed at this time.
3.

Facility Tour
The team toured the entire facility from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The remainder of
the tour was conducted on the following day from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on the
following day. The team broke up the tour to review the mandatory standards on
the first day from 3:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m. The following persons accompanied the
team on the tour and responded to questions concerning facility operations.
b6
b6
b6

Accreditation Manager
Accreditation Team Member
Accreditation Team Member
COTR

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4.

Conditions of Confinement/Quality of Life
During the tour, the team evaluated the conditions of confinement at the facility.
The following narrative description of the relevant programmatic services and
functional areas summarizes the findings regarding the quality of life.
Security
The Port Isabel Detention Center has a contract with uniformed security services
from Asset Protection and Security Services.
Asset Protection and Security Services has had the contract since 2001 and are
presently on a contract extension. From the time of the last audit based on
information provided the staff has doubled. The audit team was significantly
impressed with their training, organization of officers, responsiveness of officers
and documentation of post orders being read, and their techniques of supervising
detainees. All posts were filled. Key control was examined by the audit team and
was found to be very detailed and providing good accountability. Tool control in
food service and maintenance was found to be very acceptable. The armory is
manned by ICE and all weapons and ammunition were accountable. The CERT
team is also staffed by ICE agents. Training and documentation of equipment
was accounted for as observed by the audit team. There is perimeter security with
razor wire. There is a seven-cell segregation area that is double bunked.
Observation sheets were noted appropriately but it was pointed out to possibly
move the segregation board with names and significant identifying information to
another area.
Environmental Conditions
During the tour, the team found the noise levels throughout the facility to be low
with the exception one housing unit Delta Unit. However, the documentation in
the files indicated that noise levels were higher at night. Temperature ranges in
the housing units were well within the comfort level. Lighting conditions in the
housing units were above standards. Overall, the living conditions and general
environmental conditions were above minimum standards.
Sanitation
The team found the overall maintenance and sanitation very acceptable except in
the housing unit showers. There appeared to be little emphasis on the
housekeeping plan when it came to shower areas and lack of soap dispensers
throughout the housing units. With the addition of a new administration and
medical area where sanitation was emphasized it was not adhered to in the living
units. Chemicals were controlled with MSDS sheets. It was pointed out that the
cleaning contract workers should eliminate bleach and have bottles marked
appropriately.

5

Fire Safety
The Port Isabel Detention Center fire department is supervised and operated by a
certified firefighter with collateral duties as safety officer. The department
currently has a Class A fire pumper with a 500 gallon water tank and a rescue
truck with a 400 gallon water capacity. The fire safety officer does a monthly
inspection of the approximately 250 fire extinguishers throughout the facility as
well as vehicles. During the tour, the audit team inspected a number of fire
extinguishers, which were up to date. Monthly fire drills are conducted as
required. The fire safety officer provides adult CPR and first aid training to
include new employee orientation. During the tour, he was observed in the
command center providing orientation to in service contracted employees on the
annunciator panel and pull alarm station. His duties also include the inspection
fire hydrants, training officer fire fighting techniques, and the removal of
biohazard containers.
Food Service
A food service administrator supervises the Food Service Department, with the
assistance of a supervisory cook and twelve food service specialists. They are
responsible along with volunteer detainee labor for all meals served to the
detainee population.
One of the members of the audit team observed special medical diets and
religious diets. This department does provide sack lunches, which consisted of
two sandwiches, fruit, and bag of chips as well as a fruit drink. It was
recommended that all visitors in the kitchen be required to wear hairnets and
beard guards. Temperature ranges in the kitchen were within the required levels.
Detainees eat in a central dining room. Kitchen staff demonstrated tool control,
which was thorough and accountable. On July 30, 2007 the audit team ate lunch
in the officers dining hall. The food was nutritious, wholesome and good. It was
recommended that the dining hall be painted prior to the audit.
Medical Care
The Medical Department at the Port Isabel Detention Center is operated by Public
Health Services with the assistance of 29 full time staff members. Eighteen of the
staff members are commissioned USPHS commissioned officers and 11 are STG
contract employees.
The medical facility is in a new building which opened in 2006 and operates
seven days a week 24 hours per day. The facility provides intake screening and a
radiology unit. It provides an infirmary as well as a special needs unit. At the
time of the audit there were four detainees housed in a separate unit that was
utilized for a tuberculosis unit. On the second day of the audit they were moved
to the infirmary due to mold found in the unit. Physical examinations are
performed by a nurse practitioner and two physician assistants. The new facility

6

has a sick call area and full time pharmacy with a licensed pharmacist. Sick call
is performed five days a week by two registered nurses. In the dormitory areas
located in the pods there is a medical box accessed by nursing staff for sick call
requests.
The medical area has a full time psychologist as well as a full-time dentist. At the
time of the audit the dentist was off-site on temporary duty. However there was a
dental hygienist available. One area of concern was sick calls being done on a
delayed basis. The facility was accredited by the National Commission on
Correctional Health Care in 2006. Sharps are controlled and accounted for.
Additionally the facility was accredited in 2005 by the Joint Commission on
Accreditation on Hospital Accreditation.
Religious Programming
The Port Isabel Detention Center does provide a variety of religious services
through the use of contracted services and volunteers. The center does provide
access to outside religious volunteers who provide a variety of services. There is
an on site chaplain available who is contracted through ICE. Religious diets are
provided when requested by detainees wishing to observe special religious
holidays.
Offender Work Programs
The center does provide volunteer detainee work program. Although the previous
audit report indicated that an ICE agent is responsible for coordinating this
program which provides training, payment of $1.00 per-day for every eight hours
of training and medical screening, there was no documentation available to
substantiate this. It was recommended that documentation be provided to
substantiate this practice. One auditor interviewed several kitchen workers who
indicated that they were not trained.
Academic and Vocational Education
Since the mission of ICE is the detainment and deportation of detainees there are
no academic programs available for ICE detainees. As noted in the last audit
there is a horticultural program that is seasonal and does provide ten detainees to
harvest a garden where the produce is utilized by food service.
Social Services
There are limited social services available to detainees. However when requested
outside eye exams are available, lawyer requested medical examinations and
occasionally outside medical examinations. The center does provide access to
Western Union services by a private Western Union representative and access to
phone cards which can be purchased. Access to deportation officers is also

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provided. It was noted that deportation officers are not being logged into the pods
logbooks and from the detainees interviewed this is a major issue as they
indicated limited access.
Visitation
The facility does provide contact and non-contact visitation. The visitation area is
part of the new administration building. Visitation hours are Monday through
Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. There is no limit to the number of visits that a
detainee may have during the week. Visitors must be on approved visiting list
and children may visit if supervised by an adult.
Library Services
A law library is available for detainee use. The library is in the same area as the
barber shop and beauty shop. Both are scheduled to be moved to another space in
the next few months. The law library is limited but is supervised by a recreation
specialist employed by ICE. There are adequate law library supplies. The law
library can be accessed by detainees upon request which is a written request. The
law library contains a mobile temporary law library for the use by detainees of the
TB unit which are medically isolated from the population.
Laundry
The Laundry services the entire detainee population regarding their clothing
needs. It is operational seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. and is a
two-man post supervised by the contracted security agency. There are five
commercial washers and five commercial dryers. Chemicals are electronically
fed from bulk containers. There is a change out of clothing once a week and daily
for detainee workers. Linen, bed sheets, towels, mattress covers, and pillowcases
are changed out weekly. Detainee workers were familiar with the requirements of
the laundry.
Team Comments
Overall, the team was impressed with the space of the new building, training
areas, visitation, and medical areas. Sanitation of the facility was good with the
exception of the housing areas particularly in the shower areas. The team was
impressed with the contracted security staff particularly in the areas of training
and knowledge of security techniques and their familiarization and documentation
of post orders. The medical area and professionalism of Public Health Services
and the treatment provided exceeded the standards. Training for ICE was
impressive with particular emphasis on accreditation. Key and tool control in all
areas was impressive. Chemical control was good with the exception of two areas
that was pointed out to the accreditation team. Financial services, classification of
detainees, and human resources were all good.

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Suggestion to Improve
It was recommended to the accreditation to outline the tour prior to the
accreditation and review all areas that were on the tour. Additionally someone
with keys to all doors should be included on the tour.
F.

Examination of Records
Following the facility tour, the team proceeded to the file room to review the
accreditation files and evaluate levels of compliance on the policies and procedures. The
facility has no notices of non-compliance with local, state, or federal laws or regulation.
1.

Litigation
Over the last three years, the facility had no consent decrees, class action lawsuits
or adverse judgments.
Files
The team reviewed the 62 mandatory standards to determine the status of the files
as this was indicated as a major reason for the technical assistance by the
Association. After review of the files the team found six files to be in compliance
and 56 to be in non-compliance. All of the files found in non-compliance there
was missing documentation for years 05, 06, and 07. The accreditation team
manager, team, and acting OIC and assistant OIC were notified on the first day.
The technical assistance team recommended to the accreditation manager an
attempt be made to fix at least ten files for the next day. This suggestion was not
followed.
On the second day, the technical assistance team reviewed 150 files in the nonmandatory status and founds 115 to be in non-compliance for the same reason.
The American Correctional Association was contacted. The accreditation
manager was replaced with a new accreditation manager
who is the
b6
b6, b7c
COTR. The technical assistance chairperson notified
ICE
Headquarters, Field Office Director from San Antonio, Assistant Field Office
Director, Acting OIC and the Assistant OIC that the technical assistance team
would provide a three-hour training session to the accreditation team and new
accreditation manager on the last day.

2.

Significant Incidents/Outcome Measures
After review of the Outcome Measure Worksheet, it was apparent that the figures
utilized on the Outcome Measure Worksheet were inaccurate. As an example no
grievances were listed and in one section on fire code violations it was noted there
were 72 fire code violations listed for the year 2006. It was recommended during
the training session that the technology department be contacted and set up a

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monthly spreadsheet. None of the Health Care Outcome Measures were listed.
3.

Departmental Visits
Team members revisited the following departments to review conditions relating
to departmental policy and operations:
Department Visited
Mail Room

**Person(s) Contacted

Intelligence Department

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Maintenance

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Deportation

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Command Center

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Safety Officer

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Key Control

Mechanic

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Fire and Safety Officer
Security Officer
Security Officer
Security Officer

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Health Center

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Food Service

b6
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Special Management

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Security Officer
HAS

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Bravo Building

Deportation Officer

b6,b7c

Processing
Processing III

ICE Enforcement Agent

b6,b7c

Cleaning Contract

Property Room

Security Officer

b6,b7c

Dental Assistant
PhD
Pharmacist
Medical Records
Physician Assistant
Cook
Cook
, Cook
Barbershop Security Officer
Law Library

Alpha Unit Pod 1

b6,b7c

Alpha Unit Pod 2

b6,b7c

Alpha Core Officer
4.

Security Officer

b6,b7c

Security Officer
Security Officer

Shifts
a.

Day Shift
The team was present at the facility during the day shift from 8:00 a.m. to
4:00 p.m.
The tour was conducted during this shift. Files were reviewed and both
staff and detainees were interviewed. Processing, medication passage,
living units, lunch meal, and change of shift was observed.

b.

Evening Shift
The team was present at the facility during the evening shift from
4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A shift briefing was observed and contact was
made with staff and detainees. Staff and detainee interviews were
conducted. A count procedure was observed.

c.

Night Shift
Since the technical assistance was altered due to the inability to provide a
score the technical assistance team opted to skip this shift and prepare to
do a three hour training session on the last day.

5.

Status of Previously Non-compliant Standards
The team reviewed the status of standards previously found non-compliant, for
which a waiver was not granted, and found the following:
Standard #3-ALDF-2C-01: The facility did not build a new SMU. The SMU
does not meet square footage and is double bunked.
Standard #3-ALDF-3C-20: The facility did implement the new policy and
procedure in reference to removing not guilty on disciplinary hearings from the
detainee file.
Standard #3-ALDF-4F-05: The facility did not comply with the plan of action as
outlined.
Standard #3-ALDF-5B-01: The facility did not comply with the plan of action to

11

implement vocational, educational and vocational training. The mission of ICE
changed during the three-year period.
Standard #3-ALDF-5B-02: The facility did not comply with the plan of action to
access community resources.
Standard #3-ALDF-5B-03: The facility did not comply with the plan of action to
access an educational program.
Standard #3-ALDF-5B-04: The facility did not comply with the plan of action to
access vocational tapes.
G.

Interviews
During the course of the audit, team members met with both staff and detainees to verify
observations and to clarify questions concerning facility operations.
Detainee Interviews
During the course of the technical assistance, the team interviewed over sixty detainees.
The biggest issue was the availability of deportation officers in the housing units to
answer questions regarding their status, availability of ICE officers touring the pods, and
responsiveness to grievances filed by the detainees where they did not receive copies of
grievance that they filed. This was brought to the attention of the accreditation team.
Staff Interviews
The team interviewed nearly fifty staff both ICE and contracted security. All of them
were highly professional. They felt safe where they work and that supervisors treat them
professionally. Contracted staff indicated there should be more recreation particularly
soccer for the detainees. Those interviewed indicated that if they were OIC for a day,
they would expand programs and recreation. Many of the ICE employees were looking
forward to more of a law enforcement role as many areas are slotted for private contracts.

H.

Exit Discussion
The formal exit interview was replaced with a three-hour training session for the
accreditation team in which new members had been added within a one-day period by the
Field Director from San Antonio.
Those in attendance were the following:
b6
b6
b6
b6

new Accreditation Manager’
ACA Team Member
ACA Team Member
ACA Team Member

12

Training Asset Security
-Project Manager Asset Security
b6
b6
-ACA Team Member
b6
-PHS
b6
ACA Team Member
-Training Coordinator
b6
b6
Team Member
b6
-ACA Team Member
b6,b7c

Training consisted of the following:
Protocols
Process Indicators
Documentation-each year consistent with the practice.
Highlight the years with a tab procedure.
Reviewing the previous audit.
Acquainting oneself with the 4th edition manaual.
Sanitation issues.
Chemicals.
Key Control
Tool Control
Critical Walk through of the facility.
Involvement of department heads on the tour.
Developing a system of document collection.
Availability of accreditation team to the auditors.
The chairperson complimented the audit team even though this technical assistance did
not develop into a score. He emphasized that in six months when the next technical
assistance occurs they will be fully prepared.
The chairperson expressed appreciation for the cooperation of everyone concerned and
congratulated the facility team for the progress made during the three-day visit and
encouraged them to make accreditation their number one priority during the next six
months.

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