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Immigration Detention: Additional Actions Could Strengthen DHS Efforts to Address Sexual Abuse

“In 2003 Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to protect individuals against sexual abuse and assault in confinement settings, including persons potentially subject to removal from the United States housed in DHS’s [U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s] detention facilities. GAO was asked to review DHS efforts to address issues of sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention facilities. This report examines (1) what DHS data show about sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention facilities, and how these data are used for detention management; (2) the extent to which DHS has included provisions for addressing sexual abuse and assault in its detention standards; and (3) the extent to which DHS has assessed compliance with these provisions and the results. GAO reviewed documentation for 215 sexual abuse and assault allegations reported to ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] headquarters from October 2009 through March 2013; analyzed detention standards and inspection reports; and visited 10 detention facilities selected based on detainee population, among other things. The visit results cannot be generalized, but provided insight.” Sections of this report include: background; ICE sexual abuse and assault allegations data are not complete, which could limit their usefulness for detention management; sexual abuse and assault provisions in detention standards vary in content and applicability across facilities; DHS focused its sexual abuse and assault oversight on facilities housing most detainees and found most facilities compliant with provisions; conclusions; recommendations for executive action; agency comments and GAOs evaluation. Appendixes provide: Process for Reporting and Investigating Sexual Abuse and Assault Allegations; Provisions for Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention Included in Immigration Detention Standards; NPREC Recommendations Compared with DHS Detention Standards and PREA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; DHS PREA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Compared with DOJ PREA Rule; and Enforcement and Removal Operations 2008 and 2011 Sexual Abuse and Assault Provisions Inspection Checklists.