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Letter to DHS on Accreditation, May 2019

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ELIZABETH WARREN

UNITED STATES SENATE
WASH INGTON, DC 20510-2105
P: 202- 224--4543

MASSACHUSETTS

COMMITTEE S:

BAN KI NG, HOUSIN G, AND URBAN AFFAIRS
HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR, AND PENSIONS

~nitrd ~tatt1, ~rnatr

ARMED SERVICES

2400 JFK FEDERAL BUILDING
15 NEW SUDBURY STREET
BOSTON, MA 02203
P: 617- 565-3170
1550 MAIN STREET
SUITE 406
SPRINGFIELD, MA 01103
P: 413-788-2690

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON AGING

May 31, 2019

www.warren.senate.gov

The Honorable Kevin McAleenan
Acting Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
Washington D.C. 20528
Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan:
I write seeking information about the accreditation system used to hold private detention
facilities accountable for the safety and wellbeing of detainees. The accreditation system is rife
with perverse incentives and has a demonstrated record of failure, resulting in cruel and
inhumane conditions for detainees and prisoners.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detained approximately 40,000 immigrants in 211
detention facilities across the United States as of last summer- a number that grew to nearly
49,000 earlier this year. 1 According to DHS, as of September 2016, 65% of those detainees were
held in private, for-profit companies. 2 Nine of the ten largest Immigrations and Customers
Enforcement (ICE) detention centers are run by private corporations. 3 A recent study showed
that ICE paid over $800 million in fiscal year 2018 to at least 19 privately operated detention
facilities. 4 GEO Group (GEO) and CoreCivic together detain approximately 15,000 people in
immigration detention per day, while the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) holds
close to 2,000.5 These companies run over 200 federal, state, and local corrections and detention
facilities. 6

1 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "ICE's inspections and Monitoring of
Detention Facilities Do Not Lead to Sustained Compliance or Systemic Improvements," June 26, 2018,
https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/fi les/assets/20 l 8-06/0IG-18-67-Jun 18.pdf; The Washington Post, "Shutdown
looms as border talks break down over immigration enforcement," Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Seung Min
Kim, February 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/border-talks-at-impasse-as-shutdownlooms-friday-officials-say/2019/02/ l 0/aa8ef08c-2d36- l I e9-813a0ab2fl 7e305b story.html?utm term=.49f59999ccad.
2 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Advisory Council, "Report of the Subcommittee on
Privatized Immigration Detention Facilities," December I, 20 I 6,
https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/DHS%20HSAC%20PTDF%20Final%20Report.pdf.
3 KCET, "Immigration Detention is Profitable for Private Prisons," Pilar Marrero, July 17, 2018,
https://www.kcet.org/shows/socal-connected/immigration-detention-is-profitable-for-private-prisons
4 The Daily Beast, "$800 Million in Taxpayer Money Went to Private Prisons Where Migrants Work for Pennies,"
Spencer Ackerman and Adam Rawnsley, December 27, 2018, https://www.thedailybeast.com/dollar800-million-intaxpayer-money-went-to-private-prisons-where-migrants-work-for-pennies?ref=home&via=twitter page.
5 Freedom for Immigrants, "Detention by the Numbers," https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-statistics.
6 The GEO Group, Inc., "Our Locations," https://www.geogroup.com/locations; CoreCivic, "Find a Facility,"
http://www.corecivic.com/facilities; Management and Training Corporation, "U.S. Locations,"
https://www.mtctrains.com/corrections/.

Private detention facilities used by ICE have a poor record of protecting the health, safety, and
security of their detainees. A 2017 report from the DHS Office oflnspective General (OIG)
found "problems that undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and
the provision of a safe and healthy environment. " 7 The report found that detention facilities had
spoiled and moldy food, a lack of access to hot and cold water, limited access to adequate
medical care, and an overuse of solitary confinement without notice and for minor rule
violations. 8 Another OIG report of a private immigration detention facility found severe health
and safety violations that "pose[d] significant health and safety risks." 9
ICE uses two inspection types and an onsite monitoring program to ensure compliance with
detention standards. Despite these oversight tools, "neither the inspections nor the onsite
monitoring ensure consistent compliance with detention standards, nor do they promote
comprehensive deficiency corrections." 10 According to the OIG, "ICE does not adequately hold
detention facility contractors accountable for not meeting performance standards." 11
In November 2018, I wrote to GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two largest private immigration
detention contractors, and Nakamoto, a private company responsible for auditing detention
facilities, about the standards in these facilities and the lack of effective oversight. Along with
my colleagues, I outlined the problems that independent investigators found with private
immigration detention and requested information on standards and oversight efforts. After the
companies demurred and pointed the finger at ICE, my colleagues and I followed up with a letter
to your office seeking information about these failures.
In addition to the failures of private detention facilities and ICE contractors, I have also opened
an investigation into another quality control measure, the accreditation process for prisons and
detention facilities. I am seeking information regarding the extent to which ICE relies on the
American Correctional Association (ACA) and its accreditation process as evidence of facilities'
compliance with detention standards. According to an ICE Detention and Removal Operations
(now Enforcement and Removal Operations) staff training document on detention standards for
"contract detention" and other facilities, detention standards are based on the ACA's "4th Edition
Standards for Adult Local Detention facilities," and facilities "holding ... ACA Accreditation
must adhere" to the standards in the ACA's guidelines. 12
Relying in part on the accreditation of a private organization is a recipe for disaster. In industry
after industry, outsourcing accountability has allowed corporations to evade standards with little
7 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "Concerns about ICE Detainee Treatment
and Care at Detention Facilities," December 11, 201 7,
https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017-12/0lG-18-32-Dec 17.pdf.
8 Id.
9 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "Management Alert -Issues Requiring Action at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California," September 27, 2018,
https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2018-l 0/OlG-18-86-Sep 18.pdf.
10 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "ICE's inspections and Monitoring of
Detention Facilities Do Not Lead to Sustained Compliance or Systemic Improvements," June 26, 2018,
https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/20 I 8-06/OIG-18-67-Jun 18.pdf.
11 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "ICE Does Not Fully Use Contracting
Tools to Hold Detention Facility Contractors Accountable for Failing to Meet Performance Standards," January 29,
2019, https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2019-02/0IG-19-18-Jan 19.pdf.
12 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "ICE/DRO Detention Standards, Staff Training," December 2,
2008, https://www.ice.gov/doclib/dro/detention-standards/doc/staff training.doc.

2

to no consequences. If ICE is relying heavily on the accreditation system for detention centers
operated by private contractors, it would raise my concerns about the lack of oversight of private
facilities.
ACA Accreditation is Rife with Problems
The ACA is a conflicted party with twisted incentives, a lack of transparency, and lax inspection
policies that appear to have turned accreditation into a rubber-stamp process that does little to
hold facilities accountable.
Conflicts of Interest
The ACA's problems begin with the perverse incentives arising from its conflicts of interest. The
ACA is attempting to act as an objective accreditor while it simultaneously serves as the primary
trade association on behalf of the corrections industry, including private prisons. The ACA has
lobbied Congress on criminal justice, corrections, and detention-related issues. 13 CoreCivic,
GEO Group, and MTC are all members of the ACA; as the ACA provides accreditation for their
facilities, it also receives member dues from these organizations, 14 and advocates and lobbies on
their behalf.
The three primary private facility corporations provide a significant amount of funding to the
ACA. ACA-accredited facilities pay the ACA to conduct audits, creating an incentive for the
ACA to grant accreditation so it can continue to receive fees. As of 2014, those fees ranged from
$8, 100 to $19,500 per facility. 15 In 2013, the ACA earned over half of its $9 million in revenue
from accreditation contracts, much of this from GEO, MTC, and CoreCivic, that have hundreds
of accredited facilities throughout the nation.16 The big three private prison corporations also
sponsor the ACA's annual conferences. At the ACA's annual conference in 2018, for example,
GEO and CoreCivic sponsored the ticket-only E.R. Cass Banquet, and MTC sponsored a
giveaway that included two tablets and a new car. 17
The conflicts of interest seep into the staff that run ACA's accreditation process, which includes
a 30-member Commission on Accreditation for Corrections (CAC), responsible for accreditation
13 U.S. Senate, "Query the Lobbying Disclosure Act Database,"
https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=processSearchCriteria; U.S. Senate, "Lobbying Report: American
Correctional Association," https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=90C1 F6E4C36F-4295-9482-12D9EE23736F&filingTypeID=60; U.S. Senate, "Lobbying Report: American Correctional
Association," https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=0F2DD26F-7C96-494E822E-62DF6F9E4A6E&filingTypeID=3; U.S. Senate, "Lobbying Report: American Correctional Association,"
https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFi IingDetai ls&fi linglD= AB DC64 B0-52CD-41 CB-86852450BAB F0 I 35&filingTypeID= l 1; U.S. Senate, "Lobbying Report: American Correctional Association,"
https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=74C25804-8F8E-4306-BF8348F81ACF941A&filingTypeID=9.
14 American Correctional Association, "Gift Membership Application,"
http://www.aca.org/aca prod imis/Docs/GiftMembershipApplication 2014.pdf.
15 Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet lpsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www .prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-guis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/.
16 ld.
17 American Correctional Association, "2018 Minneapolis Program Book,"
http://register.aca.org/DOCS/Conference/COC2018/20 I 8%20Minneapolis%20Program%20Book FINAL WEB .PD

F.

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decisions, and a 20 member Standards Committee, responsible for setting standards by which
facilities are judged for accreditation. 18 The former Chair of the Standards Committee, Harley G.
Lappin, is now a member of the Board of Directors at CoreCivic. 19 Todd Thomas, currently a
member of the CAC, works as a Warden for a CoreCivic correctional facility. 20 Mike Murphy,
another member of the CAC, serves as Vice President of Marketing Corrections at MTC. 21
Derrick Schofield, a member of the Standards Committee, works as Executive Vice President for
GEO Care, 22 a division of GEO focused on "in-custody offender rehabilitation programs and
evidence-based treatment.'m
Lack of Transparency and Accountability in the Accreditation Process
These problems are exacerbated by the ACA's ineffective accreditation process and lack of both
transparency and accountability.
The ACA's accreditation process appears to be little more than a rubber-stamp. First, facilities
conduct a "self-evaluation," judging themselves on whether their own "levels of expected
compliance are sufficient for accreditation." 24 The facility also submits their own self-reported
list of "significant incidents."25 Next, a facility may request an audit. The ACA grants facilities
three months' notice in advance of an audit, allowing facilities to prepare before inspectors
arrive. 26 At a facility's request, the ACA will first conduct a "mock audit" to help the facility get
ready for the actual audit. 27 Finally, the ACA then travels for on-location audits.
The problems appear to continue once the audits finally begin. Incarcerated individuals in ACAaccredited facilities have reported never having the opportunity to speak with inspectors, despite
ACA accreditation guidelines indicating that the facility must extend the invitation to all
detainees. 28 The ACA often conducts "paper audits" - it examines the policies a prison has on
paper rather than their actual practices. According to the director of the Private Corrections
18 American Correctional Association, "Standards and Accreditation, Committee on Standards,"
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod IM IS/ ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/Standards/Standards Committee/
ACA Member/Standards and Accreditation/Standards Committee/Standards Committee.aspx?hkey=795 I 05de6a67-4769-b58a-0de6dt7e8324; American Correctional Association, "Standards and Accreditation, The
Commission on Accreditation for Corrections,"
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod IMIS/ ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/ About Us/CACI ACA Member/St
andards and Accreditation/SAC Commission.aspx?hkey=90da0502-afd8-4685-97c2-b8c7e I c803d3 .
19 CoreCivic, "Board of Directors," http://www.corecivic.com/investors/board-of-directors.
20 Linkedln, "Todd Thomas," https://www.linkedin.com/in/todd-thomas-38555533/; American Correctional
Association, "Standards and Accreditation, The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections,"
http://www.aca.org/ACA Prod IMIS/ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/About Us/CAC/ACA Member/St
andards and Accreditation/SAC Commission.aspx?hkey=90da0502-afd8-4685-97c2-b8c7e 1c803d3 .
21 Linkedln, "Mike Murphy," https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-murphy-53876b5/
22 The GEO Group, Inc., "GEO Care Leadership Team," https://www.geogroup.com/GEO Care Leadership Team
23 The GEO Group, Inc., "GEO Care," https://www.geogroup.com/GEO-Care
24 American Correctional Association, "Manual of Accreditation, Policy and Procedure," March 15, 2017, p. 28,
http://www.aca.org/ACA Prod IMIS/docs/standards%20and%20accreditation/ALM-I-3 15 17-Final.pdf.
2s Id.
26 Id. p. 29.
27 Id. p. 27.
28 Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet lpsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-guis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/; American Correctional Association, "Manual of Accreditation, Policy and Procedure," March 15, 2017, p.
30, http://www.aca.org/ACA Prod IMIS/docs/standards%20and%20accreditation/ALM- l-3 15 17-Final.pdf.

4

Institute, for example, "a prison ... can be accredited by the ACA even if officers at that facility
are in fact beating inmates," so long as the prison has a policy that says officers cannot beat
inmates. 29
The final decision on accreditation is neither transparent nor accountable, making it impossible
to tell how private prison corporations and their employees may influence standards and
accreditation. Accreditation decisions do not include public justification, and while inspections
result in a report for the Commission staff, that report is not made public. 30 The ACA "does not
disclose ... specific information in the [facility's] self-evaluation report, Visiting Committee
report, or information discussed in the hearing. " 31 Outside oversight becomes impossible without
evidence of the audits. Decades ago, David Bazelon, a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals,
resigned his position as an ACA board member in 1982 and described the ACA accreditation as
a "conspiracy of silence between corrections officials and the public," noting that the ACA had
"repeatedly refused to open the accreditation process to public scrutiny and participation." 32 The
ACA does not appear to have increased public participation or transparency in the 37 years since
Judge Bazelon resigned.
Finally, the Commissioners are permitted to supply waivers for "discretionary non-compliances"
with ACA guidelines and standards, rendering these standards toothless. 33
The ACA only conducts audits for re-accreditation every three years. 34 The organization allows
facilities to "conduct annual self-reporting" in the off years, judging their own compliance and
submitting their own summary of significant incidents. 35
As former Judge Bazelon put it, "the commission's audit techniques and deliberative procedures
are inherently unreliable."36 Jody Owens, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has referred to

Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www .prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/ jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-quis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/.
30 American Correctional Association, "Standards and Accreditation,"
http://www.aca.org/ACA Prod IMIS/ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/ ACA Member/Standards and Ac
creditation/SAC.aspx?hkey=7f4ct7bf-2b27-4a6b-b I 24-36e5bd90b93d.; Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise
of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July 6, 2016,
https ://www. prison legal news.org/news/2016/ju1/6/betrayi n g-prom ise-accred itation-q u is-c ustod iet-ipsos-custodes/.
31 American Correctional Association, "Manual of Accreditation, Policy and Procedure," March 15, 2017, p. 15,
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod IMIS/docs/standards%20and%20accreditation/ ALM-1-3 15 17-Final.pdf.
32 Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www .prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/ jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-quis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/.
33 American Correctional Association, "Manual of Accreditation, Policy and Procedure," March 15, 2017,
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod IMIS/docs/standards%20and%20accreditation/ ALM-1-3 15 17-Final.pdf
34 Id. p. 51.
35 Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www .prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/ jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-quis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/; American Correctional Association, "Manual of Accreditation, Policy and Procedure," March 15, 2017, p.
49, http://www.aca.org/ACA Prod IMIS/docs/standards%20and%20accreditation/ ALM-1-3 15 17-Final.pdf.
36 Prison Legal News, "Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" Gary Hunter, July
6, 2016, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/ jul/6/betraying-promise-accreditation-quis-custodiet-ipsoscustodes/.

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ACA accreditation as "a rubber-stamping process," adding that problems at prisons are
"overlooked when these grades are passed out. ,m

Notable Failures of Oversight
The flaws in the ACA' s accreditation process are evident at facility after facility that, despite
having received the ACA stamp of approval, allow inmates to live amid unsafe conditions, and
are rife with violence, health and safety hazards, and other systemic problems.
ICE Contract Facilities with Significant Problems
A number of facilities managed under contract with ICE have been accredited by ACA have had
major problems in the last decade.
In May 2018, the Department of Homeland Security OIG conducted an unannounced inspection
of GEO Group's Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, Califomia. 38 The OIG found
"significant health and safety risks," including "nooses in detainee cells[,] improper and overly
restrictive segregation[, and] untimely and inadequate detainee medical care." 39 I wrote to GEO
about this facility last November, asking the company a series of questions about their
compliance with detention standards designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of detainees in
their custody. GEO responded by pointing to their ACA accreditation in 2014 and reaccreditation in 2017, with "a score of 99 .6%". According to the ACA website, they have
retained their accreditation. 40
A December 2017 report from DHS OIG found systemic health, safety, and security violations at
several other privately run immigration detention facilities accredited by the ACA. 41 The Stewart
Detention Center (Stewart) in Lumpkin, Georgia, run by CoreCivic, and the Otero County
Processing Center (Otero), in Chaparral, New Mexico, run by MTC, both violated standards
regarding the "segregation and lock-down of detainees." 42 Detainees at Stewart reported
excessive waits for urgent medical care. OIG observed "bathrooms that were in poor condition"
at both facilities, including a lack of hot water and water leaks throughout Stewart. 43 Both
facilities are currently accredited by the ACA. 44

Id.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "Management Alert Issues Requiring Action at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California," September 27, 2018,
https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2018-1 0/OlG-18-86-Sepl 8.pdf.
39 Id.
40 Office of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, "Response to Information Request from The GEO Group," February 27,
2019, https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Attachment%202a%20%20Response%20Letter%20from%20GEO%20Group%20re%20Compliance%20with%201mmigration%20Detenti
on%20Standards.pdf.
41 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, "Concerns about ICE Detainee
Treatment and Care at Detention Facilities," December 11, 201 7,
https://www .oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/20 l 7-12/0TG-18-32-Dec 17 .pdf.
42 Id.
43 Id.
44 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "PREA Audit; Subpart A DHS Immigration Facilities Audit
Report," March 9, 201 7, p. 2, https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/prea audit/2017-Stewart-0919-21.pdf; Management
and Training Corporation, "Corrections Facts Sheet, Otero County Prison Facility," May 2019, p. 1,
https://www.mtctrains.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Corrections Facts Sheet OTR I .pdf.
31
38

6

Accredited Facilities Operated by GEO, and CoreCivic, and other Private Providers
Problems at private facilities accredited by ACA go beyond those under contract with ICE, and
raise serious red flags about the agency' s continued reliance on the ACA for accreditation and
oversight.
In late 2008 and early 2009, the Reeves County Detention Complex (Reeves), in Pecos, Texas,
managed by GEO, had a riot in all three of its compounds, caused in part by "low staffing levels"
at the facility. 45 In 2015, the Department of Justice OIG found that GEO had "failed to comply
with contractual requirements in the areas of billing and payment, correctional and health
services staffing, and internal quality control" at its Reeves Compounds I and II. 46 The OIG
found "no minimum staffing requirements [in place] for the institution" between January 2007
and March 2009, "because the BOP had sought to reduce costs." 47 Despite these problems, all
three facilities in the complex are listed as accredited facilities on the ACA website, and GEO
has reported that Reeves III received ACA accreditation and re-accreditation in 2009, 2012,
2015, and 2018 with a score of 99.8%. 48
In February 2011, inmates at GEO's Big Spring Correctional Center (Big Spring) in Texas
"physically assaulted prison staff," reportedly after a lackluster response to a medical emergency
"that resulted in the death of an inmate."49 The facility received ACA accreditation and reaccreditation in 2010, 2012, and 2015 with a score of 99.28% and is listed on the ACA's list of
accredited facilities. 50
The following year, at CoreCivic's Adams County Correctional Facility (Adams) near Natchez,
Mississippi 250 inmates rioted due to the low quality of food and medical care, and poor
treatment from prison staff. 51 A correctional officer was killed and 20 people were injured. 52

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, "Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Monitoring of Contract Prisons," August 2016, https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e 1606.pdf.
46 Id.
41 Id.
48 American Correctional Association, "Search ACA Accredited Facilities,"
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod IMIS/ ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/ Accredited Facilities/Facility Dir
ectory/ ACA Member/Standards and Accreditation/Accredited Facility Directory.aspx?hkey=861 cb92c-7d8d4b I 0-aa0c-c3990b905d63 ; The GEO Group, Inc., "Our Locations,"
https://www.geogroup.com/FaciiityDetail/FacilityID/75 .
49 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, "Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Monitoring of Contract Prisons," August 2016, https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e 1606.pdf.
50 The GEO Group, Inc., "Our Locations, Big Spring Correctional Center,"
https://www.geogroup.com/FacilityDetail/FacilityID/34; American Correctional Association, "Search ACA
Accredited Facilities,"
http://www.aca.org/ ACA Prod !MIS/ ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/ Accredited Facilities/Facility Dir
ectory/ ACA Member/Standards and Accreditation/Accredited Facility Directory.aspx?hkey=86 I cb92c-7d8d4b 10-aa0c-c3990b905d63.
51 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, "Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Monitoring of Contract Prisons," August 2016, https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e 1606.pdf.
52 Id.

45

7

Adams received accreditation and re-accreditation in 2013 and 2016, scoring 100%. 53 In 2015,
inmates at MTC's Willacy County Correctional Center (Willacy) in Raymondville, Texas, "set
fires and caused extensive damage to the prison." 54 The BOP terminated their contract with the
prison as a result. 55
Accredited private prisons used by state penal systems also reveal the inadequacy of oversight
from the ACA. In 2010, three violent prisoners escaped from MTC's ACA-accredited Arizona
State Prison - Kingman (Kingman) and murdered two people during their attempted getaway. 56
Then, in 2015, a series of riots caused so much damage to the prison, the state had to transfer
over 1,000 inmates. 57 Similarly, in 2012 a federal judge ruled that GEO's ACA-accredited
Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Walnut Grove) in Mississippi "paints a picture of
such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world." 58 GEO was forced to give
up running the facility due to a failure to protect inmates from gang violence. 59
Walnut Grove closed in 2016. 60 The Kingman and Walnut Grove facilities are both still listed on
the ACA's website as accredited facilities, 61 and the Kingman facility receiv~d accreditation in
2017 with a score of 99.50%. 62

Conclusion and Questions

The accreditation process for private detention facilities, including ICE contract facilities, is
broken. Perverse incentives, conflicts of interest and a failure to adequately oversee conditions at
private detention facilities have put detainees in danger. To help me better understand the extent
to which ICE relies upon accreditation as a measure to ensure the quality of private detention
facilities, and the steps needed to address these concerns, please respond to the following
questions by June 14, 2019.
1. Please describe the extent of your agency's reliance on ACA accreditation. The Bureau of
Prisons includes a requirement for accreditation in their contracts with private facilities.

CoreCivic, "CCA Facilities Earn Reaccreditation at Summer Congress of Corrections," Bethany Davis, August
26, 2016, http://www.correctionscorp.com/ insidecca/cca-facilities-eam-reaccreditation-at-summer-congress-ofcorrections.
54 U.S . Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, "Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Monitoring of Contract Prisons," August 2016, https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e 1606.pdf.
55 Id.
56 The New York Times, "Escapes, Riots and Beatings. But States Can't Seem to Ditch Private Prisons," Timothy
Williams and Richard A. Oppel Jr., April 10, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/us/private-prisonsescapes-riots.html?smid=pl-share&module=inline.
57 Id.
5s Id.
59 Id.
60 Id.
61 American Correctional Association, "Search ACA Accredited Facilities,"
http://www .aca.org/ACA Prod TMTS/ ACA Member/Standards
Accreditation/ Accredited Facilities/Facility Dir
ectory/ ACA Member/Standards and Accreditation/Accredited Facility Directory.aspx?hkey=86 l cb92c-7d8d4b 10-aa0c-c3990b905d63 .
62 The GEO Group, Inc., "Our Locations, Arizona State Prison - Kingman,"
https://www.geogroup.com/FacilityDetail/FacilityID/30.
53

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A version of your staff training guidelines reference the ACA's standards for "Adult
Local Detention Facilities."
a. What role does ACA accreditation play in your decision to use or stop using a
private detention facility? Please describe all ways in which ACA accreditation is
incorporated into your contracting process.
b. Do you require, encourage, or otherwise reference ACA accreditation or standards
in your contracts with private detention operators?
c. If so, please provide the specific ICE contract provisions regarding accreditation.
2. The American Correctional Association does not make public the results of their audits,
and does not make details other than the existence of accreditation public. Does the ACA
provide you with audit dates, results, accreditation reports, or other details or documents
related to accreditation of contracted facilities? If so, please provide my office with:
a. A full list of all audits ofICE-contracted facilities conducted in the last decade.
b. The results of all such audits.
c. Accreditation reports or other details or documents related to accreditation of
these facilities.
3. A series of DHS OIG reports have found problems at ACA accredited facilities, including
Adelanto, Stewart, and Otero.
a. Did any or all of these facilities have ACA accreditation at the time such
violations were discovered?
b. Have any or all of these facilities received ACA accreditation or re-accreditation
in the time since this these violations were discovered?
c. Are you aware of any actions taken by the ACA to address the problems at these
facilities?
d. Are you aware of any actions taken by the ACA to improve their inspection,
audit, or accreditation processes in light of this report showing problems at ACAaccredited facilities?
4. Reports indicate that the ACA conducts "paper audits," looking primarily at a facility's
written policies, rather than their practice. To the extent ICE relies on or looks to ACA
accreditation status, are "paper audits" sufficient to meet accreditation quality standards
for ICE contractors?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Sincerely,

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

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