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Watchdog: Spoiled food, safety risks at immigration facility


    The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General today reported health risks and safety concerns at the Theo Lacy Facility.

SANTA ANA, Calif. >> An internal government watchdog raised concerns Wednesday about reports of spoiled food, moldy showers and the mixing of high- and low-risk detainees at a Southern California immigration detention facility.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General issued a report alleging health risks and safety concerns at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, which holds immigration detainees.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department runs the facility under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Sheriff’s Department said it took part in the review, adding in a statement that it “remains committed to the health and safety of all immigration detainees.” The facility held 528 immigrants Wednesday, ICE said.

Immigration activists have been critical of conditions of such detention centers in other states, including Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, which is run by a private prison operator, had a measles outbreak last year, and activists say conditions there have led to 15 deaths since 2004.

The report on the California facility said a surprise inspection in November revealed unsafe food handling and that detainees reported they were served poor-tasting lunch meat that they rinsed before eating.

“Of deepest concern, when inspecting the refrigeration units, we observed slimy, foul-smelling lunch meat that appeared to be spoiled,” the report said.

It also said high- and low-risk detainees were allowed to mingle in the barracks area and should not be as a safety matter.

The report said ICE agreed with suggested fixes including a full inspection and an oversight plan for the facility.

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