Butler County criticized for treatment of jail detainees

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Butler County criticized for treatment of jail detainees

The Butler County Jail is one of three in the nation criticized as part of a human rights study that looks at U.S. customs standards’ failure to protect immigrant detainees and the use of solitary confinement as punishment.

The John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic released a study this month pointing out two incidents that occurred at the Butler County Jail, which has housed Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners for years.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who runs the facility, has long been an outspoken proponent of deportation of illegal immigrants and closing the U.S. borders.

The study states: “On any given day about 300 immigrant detainees are placed in solitary confinement across the country. While only one percent of immigrant detainees are placed in solitary confinement, the practice is alarming since they are held on civil, not criminal charges.”

In January 2012, a female detainee who had been on suicide watch for nine days was discovered engaging in sexual acts with another detainee and was placed in disciplinary segregation for 30 days, according to the report.

Another detainee was placed in disciplinary segregation for 30 days for playing cards during church services, according to the report. The reporting officer charged the detainee with three violations: playing cards, lying to the staff and posing a threat to the security of the facility or other inmates.

Other facilities cited for use of segregation “as a mechanism to control the detainee population” are Washoe County, Nevada and Seneca County in Ohio.

Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said the study is “inflammatory.” He said it was published based on a year’s worth of records requested by the group in April 2013, but little else.

“This was published without asking questions about our institution or visiting our institution,” Dwyer said.

He noted the whole study is about isolation, which is not the way the jail operates.

“We don’t do that,” Dwyer said. The jail staff, he said, makes every effort to place inmates or detainees in double cells even in disciplinary segregation.

“We have people request to be housed alone, but they have to be evaluated before that happens,” he said.

Dwyer said detainees in disciplinary segregation received more privileges than inmates, including being allowed visitors.

But rules are important to keeping order and assuring safety in a jail. Breaking rules means disciplinary action — whether detainee or inmate.

“If you don’t violate jail rules, you have no concern to be placed in disciplinary segregation,” Dwyer said.

Although new ICE detainee directives, which include segregation guidelines, were issued in September 2012, the study stated “as evidenced from the examples … segregation is often used as disciplinary tools for minor infractions, which demonstrates a blatant disregard for the detention standards. These examples raise the questions of whether the new ICE directive provides sufficient protection, the likelihood that the new ICE directive will be fully and uniformly implemented, and it calls for the need for monitoring to ensure full compliance throughout detention facilities.”

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