First-Ever Federal Suit Using New Law Filed by ICE Detainee, Claiming ICE-Hired Private Jail Tortured Him

By The Vanguard Staff

CALEXICO, CA – A federal lawsuit was filed this week against a private detention company by a man who spent 14 months there after being detained by ICD – the pleading claimed Management and Training Corporation (MTC) subjected him to unlawful conditions of confinement that was “torture” and violated ICE policy.

View the complaint here.

Carlos Murillo, in his pleading filed in the Southern U.S. District Court, asserts he was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 14 months beginning on Dec. 13, 2019, at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility.

Murillo said he was jailed 23 hours a day alone, and that it was “a form of torture that was devastating to both his physical and psychological wellbeing. His cell was so small that when he stretched out his arms, he could nearly touch both walls.”

Murillo is the first person to file suit for damages for abuse in a private detention center following the passage of AB 3228, the Accountability in Detention Act.

The measure became law Jan. 1, 2021 and it allows individuals to sue private detention facilities for “failing to comply with standards of care meant to ensure the health and safety of those in their charge. MTC’s mistreatment of Murillo violated multiple standards of care they are contractually required to comply with according to their agreement with ICE,” said the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the SF Bay Area in a press statement.

The LCCR charged that “MTC repeatedly violated the minimal standards of care to which it was bound, including by placing Murillo in solitary confinement without an individualized assessment, refusing to provide Murillo access to programs and services during his detention, and failing to conduct reviews during solitary confinement. These not only violated MTC’s contract with ICE, but violated international human rights laws in dangerous, malicious ways.”

In addition to seeking damages to compensate Murillo for the lifelong harm caused by abuses in the detention center, the suit seeks to hold MTC accountable for abuses that other individuals suffered while incarcerated.

Murillo is represented by BraunHagey & Borden, LLP, UCLA School of Law’s Human Rights Litigation Clinic, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice.

Plaintiff Murillo released the following statement:

“This isn’t just my story, this is the story of thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer in immigration detention. I’m speaking out today because I want to make sure that what I lived through doesn’t happen to anyone else. And if it does, I want to make sure that those causing the suffering are held responsible for it. There are many people inside detention that don’t speak English and are consistently taken advantage of because of this.

“I saw it with my own eyes. If my rights were violated, even as an English speaker, imagine what happens to those who don’t speak English: coercion, retaliation, bullying, you name it. It shouldn’t take being harmed by incarceration for us to care. We must have compassion and empathy for others and know that we should not stand by and watch these corporations make millions of dollars by violating a person’s human rights.”

Bree Bernwanger, Senior Staff Attorney at LCCR Bay Area noted, “It’s no secret that MTC has a history of locking people in solitary confinement in violation of the ICE policies it is required to follow: Nearly a year ago, the DHS Office of Inspector General found the facility to be grossly out of compliance with minimum health and safety standards. While MTC continues to turn a profit, our client and others like him suffer the consequences. Private companies like MTC must be held accountable when they hurt people.”

Lisa Knox, Legal Director at the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, praised the federal lawsuit and new law.

“For decades, we’ve had to watch as private prison operators breach their contracts and violate basic human rights with no accountability. With AB 3228, members of our community who have been harmed by these corporations will finally be able to fight back. While we keep fighting to end private detention and liberate the members of our community, we must ensure the health and safety of all California residents,” Knox said.

“AB 3228 holds companies to the standards they agreed to when they signed contracts with the federal government, which protects the United States and its residents from violations of international human rights law,” noted Catherine Sweetser, Deputy Director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law. “Holding someone in solitary confinement for so many months and ignoring their requests to be transferred to alternative housing violates both the federal standards and international human rights law and is prohibited under the Convention Against Torture.”

“What happened to Carlos is the natural consequence of monetizing human captivity. He spent 14 months in a living hell because a for-profit prison put greed above the basic human rights of people in its care. This is exactly why California enacted AB 3228: to protect its residents from abuse at the hands of an industry that has historically displayed a callous disregard for human suffering.” said Ellen Leonida, a partner at BraunHagey and Borden, LLP, “Nobody should have to endure what Carlos did and MTC will be held accountable.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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