Senator asks ICE to investigate Calif. jail
Multiple federal detainees at the West Contra Costa County jail have complained that they’re not allowed to use the restrooms
By Nanette Asimov
San Francisco Chronicle
RICHMOND, Calif. — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is asking the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate the West Contra Costa County jail in Richmond where multiple federal detainees have complained that they’re not allowed to use the restrooms.
“It has been reported that the conditions are so deplorable that detainees are requesting deportation over pursuing claims in immigration court,” Feinstein wrote to Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, on Dec. 5.
The agency oversees the West County Detention Facility, a minimum-security jail where more than 200 immigrants, about 40 of them women, have been detained by ICE. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department runs the jail and holds a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE.
Feinstein stepped in after The Chronicle reported in November that female inmates complained that most jail cells in the facility have no toilets, and that they were locked up for 23 hours at a time. They said that jail staffers often delay letting them out of their cells to use the bathroom. One inmate described hearing women screaming and pounding on their cell doors.
“The allegations suggest ... female detainees have had to relieve themselves in biodegradable bags and even their personal clothes,” Feinstein told Homan. “Others have complained about inadequate medical care at the facility.”
Feinstein asked that Homan “immediately investigate these allegations and report back to me about your findings.”
The senator made her request the day after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that his office will look into the allegations of mistreatment at the jail.
Becerra had responded to a request from Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to investigate.
ICE officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston has denied the women’s allegations, but said in November that his department has launched “a full investigation.”
The complaints of mistreatment were documented in a September letter to a San Francisco activist group, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, and signed by 27 female inmates.
After The Chronicle published its first story, inmates said conditions grew worse.
The Sheriff’s Department has not reported on its investigation.
Becerra is required by law to report to state lawmakers by March.
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