Unaccompanied Juveniles in INS Custody
Report Number I-2001-009
September 28, 2001
Operational and Administrative Support
The Juvenile Program is not always getting the required operational support from INS supervisors and officers in the field. In some districts the Juvenile Program is hindered by a lack of administrative support.
In some districts and Border Patrol sectors, the Juvenile Program is hampered by a lack of communication or disagreement over the operational responsibilities of supervisors and officers to the Juvenile Program, and by a lack of several types of administrative support for the juvenile coordinators.
Three of the eight district juvenile coordinators we spoke to had recurring problems with district or Border Patrol officers who did not carry out the duties required by the Juvenile Protocol Manual. INS officers did not always immediately notify the juvenile coordinator of juveniles detained in custody and, in some cases, simply dropped juveniles off at the district office or took them directly to one of the juvenile facilities in the district. INS officers in the field were not completing and forwarding required documentation to the juvenile coordinators. INS officers also moved or released juveniles without authorization from the district juvenile coordinator. Field managers did not deal promptly with problems raised by the juvenile coordinators. In some instances, managers were not aware of the compliance problems.
The Juvenile Protocol Manual requires field officers to perform several duties once a supervisory agent makes the decision to hold a juvenile in custody. First, the district juvenile coordinator must be notified immediately. Second, field officers must complete a number of required forms, including the I-770 Notice of Rights and the Notice of Secure Detention, specifically required by the Flores agreement. Third, the officers must file these documents in the juvenile's A-file and forward the file to the district juvenile coordinator so that a timely and appropriate placement decision can be made. The Juvenile Protocol Manual also requires that no movement or placement of juveniles occur without authorization from the district juvenile coordinator.
The district juvenile coordinators have responsibilities that cut across the normal chain of command. They have no supervisory authority and depend upon the cooperation of the Border Patrol agents, the inspectors, the investigators, and the D&R officers of their own division. When the INS officers in the field do not carry out their duties as described in the Juvenile Protocol Manual, the juvenile coordinators must work through the officers' chain of command, but they also have a responsibility to report to the regional juvenile coordinator and the National Juvenile Coordinator at INS headquarters.
The three district juvenile coordinators complained through the appropriate chains of command. Two of the coordinators documented the complaints that they forwarded to supervisors about these problems. Although this has improved the situation somewhat, officers still fail to prepare the required paperwork for the A-file. When the documentation is not complete, the placement process is slowed and the juvenile coordinators have difficulty moving the juveniles to other districts if necessary.
Border Patrol agents did not always inform the juvenile coordinators when they took juveniles into custody or which facilities the agents used to temporarily house the juveniles. The district coordinator must inspect any facility the Border Patrol uses for juveniles. Border Patrol agents did not always inform the coordinators directly of any movement of juveniles. The district juvenile coordinators we visited posted their names and cell phone numbers at all Border Patrol stations and were on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. However, sometimes the agents notified only D&R staff at the district and the information did not always reach the coordinators promptly. The Border Patrol sectors are not part of the district office chain of command and they encounter many of the juveniles who come through the Juvenile Program, i.e., 2,233 of the 4,136 juveniles in custody in FY 2000. Better liaison between the Border Patrol and the district is needed to resolve disagreements or misunderstandings between the Border Patrol and the juvenile coordinators.
At the Miami Sector, Border Patrol agents used two facilities to house unaccompanied juveniles overnight. The Miami District juvenile coordinator was unaware of these facilities and had never inspected them. When we informed the district juvenile coordinator of this situation, he stated he did not see a problem with the Border Patrol housing unaccompanied juveniles overnight in these facilities without his knowledge. We disagree. It is the juvenile coordinator's responsibility to know about juveniles being held in custody in the jurisdiction of the district and to know where the juveniles are housed.
Although Miami Border Patrol Sector officials said they notified district D&R officers of the overnight stay, any juvenile placements must be cleared through the district juvenile coordinator. The district juvenile coordinator must inspect all facilities used regularly to house juveniles. We discussed the inappropriate placements with the Border Patrol, the District Director, and the National Juvenile Coordinator. District and INS headquarters officials were unaware they were occurring and said corrective measures would be taken.
Potential Harm to Juveniles
In late January 2000 a young girl was apprehended by the Los Angeles District Investigation Division's anti-smuggling unit (ASU), along with an adult who claimed to be her uncle. The officer handling her case did not notify the district juvenile coordinator, and never gave the juvenile coordinator the case paperwork. The district juvenile coordinator reported the juvenile as being in custody after being notified by the D&R staff when a juvenile had been brought in. She then worked to verify the relationship with the uncle. When the district juvenile coordinator went to check on the girl and her uncle, the juvenile coordinator discovered the girl had been released by D&R staff at the request of the agent without the district juvenile coordinator's authorization.
After the first incident, the district juvenile coordinator went to her district supervisors and informed the regional juvenile coordinator. Branches and sub-offices were instructed to notify the district juvenile coordinator when a juvenile was taken into custody and to provide the necessary A-file paperwork. About a month later, the ASU arrested a group of aliens that included a juvenile. Again, the district juvenile coordinator did not receive any notification or paperwork from the ASU. Detention officers notified the district juvenile coordinator that a juvenile was in custody.
The same ASU officer then told the district juvenile coordinator that the juvenile was accompanied by a relative, although the officer did not identify the relative. The district juvenile coordinator questioned the boy, who said he was not related to any of the adults. When it appeared that the officer might release the juvenile to an unrelated adult, the district juvenile coordinator again spoke to her supervisors and prevented the inappropriate release. If the district juvenile coordinator had not pressed the issue and had not been backed up by her superiors, the unauthorized release of the juveniles might have gone undetected.
These cases demonstrate why the procedures are in place to protect juveniles. The failure of supervisors, whether in the districts or in Border Patrol sectors, to ensure its officers do what they are required could have serious repercussions for the juveniles, the officers, their supervisors, and for the INS. District and sector managers must require their field staff to immediately notify the juvenile district coordinators of all placement and movement of juveniles, and to complete and forward all required documentation to the district juvenile coordinators as soon as possible.
In several districts the effectiveness of the Juvenile Program was hampered by a lack of administrative support for the district juvenile coordinator. Three districts did not have a fully trained back-up district juvenile coordinator. Two district juvenile coordinators who handled a heavy volume of juveniles did not have clerical support. In another busy district the juvenile coordinator position was a collateral duty and the coordinator was also responsible for an adult caseload.
Los Angeles and Phoenix, two districts that consistently process and hold juveniles in custody throughout the year, did not have an adequately trained or experienced back-up juvenile coordinator. This failure directly affected the district's ability to conduct weekly visits to facilities. Facility staff in these two districts told us that when the district juvenile coordinator had to be out of the office, the staff person backing up the district juvenile coordinator was unfamiliar with basic procedures. This delayed actions that needed to be taken on behalf of the juveniles, since the work often had to wait until the district juvenile coordinator returned.
The Los Angeles and Phoenix Districts did not provide clerical support to the district juvenile coordinators. These two districts are among the busiest in the country in terms of their juvenile program workload. The district juvenile coordinators made all the data entries in JAMS and DACS, handled all the A-file paperwork, made all the travel arrangements for juveniles being transferred or released, and sometimes transported juveniles locally. The district juvenile coordinators are also the points of contact when attorneys representing the juveniles have questions or concerns. Administrative support would save the district juvenile coordinators a great deal of time and facilitate all the activities that need to be taken on behalf of the juveniles.
At the Miami District, the district juvenile coordinator position was designated as a collateral duty, and the juvenile coordinator handled an adult caseload in addition to the juveniles. Given the size of the District's detained juvenile caseload, this arrangement does not appear to be adequate for handling the juveniles.
At other districts, the juvenile coordinators were supported by additional staff, allowing the coordinators to perform the required duties more readily. Three districts, Chicago, Harlingen, and Houston, had two juvenile coordinators. The Philadelphia District assigned a supervisory D&R officer and a juvenile coordinator to work on-site at the Berks County facility. The Harlingen District had a particularly strong juvenile unit. This unit included two juvenile coordinators, two docket clerks, and four Detention Enforcement Officers (two male and two female) to transport juveniles. The immediate supervisors at the Harlingen District and at the Central Region played a substantial role, providing supervisory support and oversight for the District's Juvenile Program.
In consultation with the regions and districts, the Juvenile Program should set criteria for determining when districts need to assign a minimum of one full-time district juvenile coordinator and a well-trained back-up district juvenile coordinator.
District and Border Patrol sector managers must be responsive when they are alerted to problems. District and sector managers must require their field staff to notify juvenile coordinators immediately of all placement and movement of juveniles, as well as complete and forward all required documentation to the coordinators as soon as possible. The regions and districts should also take steps to provide adequate administrative support to district juvenile coordinators.
Responsibilities of the INS and Facilities
The INS was not holding one shelter to the terms of its cooperative agreement and did not control all actions affecting the custody of juveniles. At another secure facility, the district juvenile coordinator had difficulty meeting INS requirements for monitoring juveniles.
The INS did not ensure that all facilities met their contractual agreements or met all of their responsibilities towards the juveniles in their care. At the Chicago Connections (CC) facility, the shelter staff took custody of juveniles without consulting the Chicago district juvenile coordinator, failed to provide timely notification of escapes, and did not provide required administrative information. At Central Juvenile Hall - Eastlake in Los Angeles, used by the INS only for delinquent juveniles, the district juvenile coordinator did not have timely access to the juveniles housed at the facility and was not informed of incidents involving INS juveniles.
The INS acquires non-secure shelter bed spaces for juveniles under cooperative agreements with private profit and nonprofit agencies. The agreements limit the services to the period of physical custody, and emphasize that during the juveniles' stay at the shelter they remain in the legal custody of the INS. The agreements expressly prohibit the shelter staff from hindering or interfering with custody arrangements or the execution of final immigration court orders. Secure bed spaces are primarily arranged through intergovernmental service agreements with local government entities. INS juveniles in secure facilities are subject to the facility rules and procedures, as well as INS requirements.
According to INS managers, the care provided to the juveniles at the CC shelter was excellent. The shelter staff developed close relationships and a protective attitude toward the juveniles during long-term stays at the shelter.22 However, we found that problems arose when the shelter staff took independent actions exceeding their authority.
In addition, an organizational connection between the shelter and the primary legal services provider has led to privacy concerns.23 The exchange of information between the two groups, relating to juveniles in custody, went far beyond any we encountered elsewhere. District officials said they were disturbed about potential breaches of confidentiality because the pro bono attorneys had access to the shelter roster and specific personal information about the juveniles. District officials said the legal services attorneys received information about the juveniles directly from the shelter staff. According to immigration judges, the legal services attorneys often had more information about the juveniles than the INS attorneys.
The Chicago District Director made INS headquarters and regional D&R officials aware of all the problems discussed and the INS addressed them. On January 12, 2001, the INS and Heartland Alliance representatives met to define the shelter's responsibilities, including compliance with reporting requirements.24 At the meeting the INS learned some pro bono attorneys working with MIRC had been given inappropriate access to the shelter for case preparation and interviews with juveniles, although they were not officially the attorneys of record.25 To resolve the problems, the Chicago District:
In March 2001, Juvenile Program officials amended the cooperative agreements for all shelters to include the specific requirements discussed during the Chicago meeting.
Central Juvenile Hall - Eastlake, Los Angeles26
On several occasions, the juvenile coordinator for the Los Angeles District had difficulty getting timely access to the INS juveniles housed at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles (Eastlake). Despite several requests, the district juvenile coordinator had never met the Eastlake superintendent. The assistant superintendent at Eastlake responsible for the INS juveniles told us he had never reported any significant incidents involving INS juveniles to the district juvenile coordinator, nor was he aware of a procedure or requirement for doing so.
During our visit, the superintendent and the district juvenile coordinator finally met. We explained to the superintendent that the INS needed to monitor the INS juveniles housed at the Eastlake facility to ensure they were treated in accordance with the Flores agreement, and the INS needed to be aware of any significant incidents involving INS juveniles. While this was a first step, there needs to be much closer cooperation and coordination between the INS and this facility. Eastlake must notify the INS immediately of any incidents involving INS juveniles. Finally, the district juvenile coordinator must have unrestricted and timely access to INS juveniles in custody at the facility.
In most of the districts we visited, the relationship among INS personnel, the shelter staff, the legal aid groups, and the immigrant rights organizations were professional, if not always cordial. In the Harlingen District, the Phoenix District, and the Philadelphia District at Berks County, practices were in place that fostered better working relationships between the INS and the local immigrant rights groups. In Harlingen and Phoenix, the INS held monthly meetings with the local immigrants rights groups to provide an opportunity to the pro bono organizations to voice, and the INS to respond to, concerns regarding local policies and cases. In September 1999, three advocacy groups in Berks County negotiated with the INS to provide coordinated legal services to all juveniles at the facility.27 The staff of the three organizations visited or telephoned each juvenile weekly, and met with the INS and Berks County caseworkers every two weeks to follow up on each case. According to one of the pro bono attorneys, the cooperative effort diffused tensions and assisted the INS with disciplinary issues in some cases. The pro bono legal services provided at Berks County were the most comprehensive we encountered.
At the Berks County Youth Center, good communication between the INS and facility staff was also facilitated because the Philadelphia District Juvenile Coordinator and his immediate supervisor had an office on site and worked out of the facility.28 This arrangement gave them unique access to and oversight of the facility and the juveniles. The Berks County facility is a county-run facility, while most of the other shelters we visited were run by nonprofit organizations. The Berks County facility is also an example of a more staff-intensive facility. The Berks facility has both a secure and a shelter component on the same site. Staff is able to pursue escapees and bring them back to the facility and the facility has a perimeter fence.
Shelter care providers we spoke to are reluctant to build fences because it conflicts with the shelter's mission. The directors explained that their programs are primarily schools set in home-like environments. They stated it is not their job to restrain or even pursue juveniles who run away from the shelters. The directors stated that perimeter fences are at odds with providing the least restrictive setting. On the other hand, the INS wants juveniles to be safe from persons who might prey on them, wants them to appear for their hearings, and does not want them to run away.
The Juvenile Program becomes less effective when there is a lack of coordination and communication among the three stakeholders - the INS, the facilities, and the legal services providers. The INS and the shelter staff need to develop a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities concerning their actions on behalf of unaccompanied juveniles in INS custody. The INS needs to closely monitor its contracts and cooperative agreements with facilities to ensure all parties involved with juveniles have their rights respected and are meeting their responsibilities. The INS needs to improve its communication with all groups to ensure their concerns are addressed. The INS also needs to support the juvenile coordinators in developing liaison with the facilities' staff.
Acquisition of Bed Space
The INS does not have a comprehensive plan to access and acquire additional bed space. The Juvenile Program lacks sufficient medium secure bed space for specific populations.
The acquisition of more beds of all types needs to be part of a national plan. The Juvenile Program is responsible for acquiring bed space. The Juvenile Program needs to analyze juvenile populations and apprehension trends to assess where beds are most needed and what type of placement options are required. This analysis should also include assessment of INS district staffing to see how the juvenile programs would be affected. A greater effort should be made to find facilities that are not to far from access to attorneys and pro bono legal services, and where facility staff can be found with the special education and language skills needed to care for immigrant juveniles.
The INS's FY 1997-2002 5-year Interior Enforcement Strategy set as a strategic goal for FY 2000 the acquisition of additional quantity and quality juvenile detention beds. The INS has made substantial gains in meeting this priority. When the Flores agreement took effect in 1997, the INS had approximately 130 juvenile beds available, including shelter and secure beds. At the time of our review, the INS had increased to over 500 the number of beds available.
Nationwide, the INS has 397 shelter beds and 92 detention beds available at all times. In the Western Region, the INS has 87 shelter beds and 62 secure beds. In the Eastern Region, the INS has 97 shelter beds and 5 secure beds. In Central Region, the INS has 213 shelter beds, 36 foster-care beds, and 25 secure beds.
In addition, INS has, on a space-available basis, contracted with 22 shelter facilities, 7 medium secure facilities, 44 secure facilities, 3 foster care facilities, and 1 group home. According to the National Juvenile Coordinator, with the increase in the number of shelter beds, juveniles who at one time would have been placed in secure facilities can now be placed in shelter facilities. In FY 2000, INS also placed 131 juveniles in hotel rooms secured by contract guards. The overwhelming majority of these placements were for juveniles apprehended in Puerto Rico and lasted seven days or less.
|Western Region||Central Region||Eastern Region||Nationwide|
|Source: National Juvenile Program Headquarters|
However, the INS does not have a clearly defined mechanism for analyzing its bed space needs or a comprehensive plan for acquiring the additional beds. The INS needs to determine its requirements by types of beds and locations where new bed space would best serve the Juvenile Program. In addition, the INS needs to better define district, regional, and national responsibilities for acquiring these beds.
In the past few years, the push for additional beds came from the Juvenile Program headquarters. INS districts initially resisted having a juvenile facility in their jurisdictions. The housing and care of the juveniles placed an additional strain on the district's already limited resources. Recently, however, INS districts have realized the benefit of having a juvenile facility nearbyapprehended juveniles can be appropriately placed very quickly, resources are not wasted transporting juveniles over long distances, and the time juveniles are in the physical custody of INS operational staff at Border Patrol stations, district offices, or other INS holding areas is reduced. As a result, the push for new facilities also comes from the field offices.
The systematic search for bed space has become a more time-consuming task. The Juvenile Program staff at headquarters, with help from the regions, now assesses requests from districts that want facilities in their jurisdiction, solicit interest from potential facilities, and evaluate unsolicited proposals from companies or facilities interested in housing juveniles for the INS.
District in Need of Shelter Beds
The Los Angeles District is an example of the challenge the Juvenile Program faces. The District has no juvenile shelter beds and must transfer all of its shelter cases out of the district. In FY 2000, the District apprehended 315 unaccompanied juveniles that were referred to the Juvenile Program, 253 of whom it had to transfer to non-secure facilities in other districts.
Medium Secure Beds
Flores requires the INS to place juveniles in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs. It states that a medium secure facility is designed for juveniles who require close supervision but do not need placement in juvenile correctional facilities. The agreement says a medium security facility is appropriate for controlling problem behavior and preventing escape. The Juvenile Protocol Manual explicitly states that the INS should attempt to place in a medium secure or more staff-intensive facility, "a juvenile who has made threats to commit a violent or malicious act (toward self or others), engaged in unacceptable conduct in a shelter facility, is an escape risk, or is in danger from smugglers."
Of the 4,136 juveniles held over 72 hours in the Juvenile Program during FY 2000, 1,414 (34.2 percent) were held in a secure facility at some point during their stay. These individuals represent 1,933 instances of secure detention.29 Of these instances, 787 involved an influx of a large number of juveniles at one time, 331 were for juvenile delinquents, 281 were for temporary stays, 277 were for escape risks, 98 for safety reasons, 77 for remote apprehension location, 46 for behavior, and 33 were suspected adults awaiting the results of forensic testing.
The use of secure detention is unavoidable for juvenile delinquents, suspected adults, or those juveniles who are apprehended far from shelters or during an influx of minors and are awaiting transfer to a shelter facility. The remaining population-those juveniles held for safety reasons, less severe behavioral problems, or while awaiting removal after receiving a final order-may not require the same level of security. While technically allowed under Flores, the use of secure detention for this population is contrary to the tenet of least restrictive placement. Flores states that "INS will not place a minor in secure facility if there are less restrictive alternatives that are available and appropriate in the circumstances, such as transfer to (a) a medium security facility which would provide intensive staff supervision and counseling services or (b) another licensed program." This is also reflected in the Juvenile Protocol Manual. The INS needs more medium secure beds to allow greater flexibility in the placement of these juveniles.
While the INS has done a good job in acquiring beds in shelter and secure facilities, there is a shortage of medium secure beds. At present, the INS has only 7 medium-secure facilities (approximately 20 beds contracted on an as-needed basis) and all are located in the Central Region. According to the JAMS database, in FY 2000, only 35 of 1,933 instances of secure detention were in medium-secure facilities.
The shortage of medium-secure beds results in juveniles being housed for extended periods of time in more restrictive settings than may be necessary. For example, a juvenile who receives an order of removal is considered a flight risk and is normally placed in a secure facility. The JAMS database indicates that during FY 2000, of 98 transfers from shelters to secure facilities, 65 were for juveniles who had received a final order and were awaiting removal. The average length of stay for these individuals was 47 days, the median 34 days. While juveniles have occasionally run away from shelters once they receive a final order, placing them in secure detention should not be the only option available.
The shortage of medium-secure beds has also led to the use of secure detention facilities for juveniles who present behavior problems. Shelter facilities often ask the INS to remove juveniles who demonstrate a pattern of disruptive behavior. In the past, the INS had little alternative to placing these juveniles in secure facilities. In some cases this led to inappropriate placement of troubled but non-delinquent juveniles with delinquent juveniles in secure facilities. According to the National Juvenile Coordinator, the INS now has more shelters able to care for problem juveniles and is no longer entirely dependent on secure facilities for handling them. Some of the shelter facilities have more skilled staff or experience in handling problem juveniles. The INS can transfer juveniles from one shelter to these other shelter facilities. Although the increase in shelter beds has helped, the INS needs to explore acquisition of additional medium-secure facilities for problem juveniles.
Various immigrants rights groups and pro bono legal service providers voiced concerns that the INS did not provide adequate or appropriate psychological services to the juveniles under its care. Juvenile coordinators and pro bono advocates in all districts cited examples of juveniles detained by the INS who exhibited symptoms of psychological disorders. The disorders described ranged from mild behavioral problems requiring counseling services, to more serious mental disorders requiring inpatient psychological care. While every juvenile taken into custody is given an initial screening, we found that secure facilities generally do not provide counseling or have case workers on-site on a daily basis. Some of the juveniles placed into secure detention because of behavioral problems require more counseling services than the facilities provide and would benefit from the closer supervision and counseling services that medium-secure facilities provide.
Need for Alternative Bed space
On November 1, 2000, a 14-year-old Honduran girl was apprehended in the McAllen Border Patrol Sector. On the Form I-213, Report of Deportable Alien, completed by the Border Patrol, she stated she was suicidal. She was initially placed at the Los Fresnos shelter in the Harlingen District, where she was medically screened. The Form I-779, Juvenile Medical Screening, includes a statement that she was suicidal. Within a day, she was determined to be a behavior problem and the regional juvenile coordinator approved her transfer to the Liberty County Juvenile Center secure facility in the Houston District. There is no indication she was psychologically evaluated at Liberty County or received any kind of professional counseling.
Her pro bono attorney requested a transfer to one of the Catholic Charities group homes in Houston but was denied by the juvenile coordinator due to lack of space. Her removal is under appeal. She was still in custody at Liberty County as of April 20, 2001 pending the outcome of the appeal. The juvenile coordinator is attempting to locate a sponsor to whom she can be released.
Juvenile Program Management
Juvenile Program managers did not use available information and data to monitor the Juvenile Program, did not ensure facility inspections were timely, did not update the Juvenile Protocol Manual to reflect important policy or procedural changes, did not always correct or reconcile data entries, and did not redefine influx to reflect the increase in available non-secure juvenile beds.
The office of the National Juvenile Coordinator and the three regional juvenile coordinators are responsible for overseeing and monitoring the day-to-day operations of the Juvenile Program. They successfully initiated the Juvenile Program but their monitoring and oversight practices were weak. They did not analyze JAMS data to identify systemic problems or trends that might indicate a problem. They also failed to implement a procedure to analyze and track significant incident reports (SIRs) involving juveniles in custody. Required facility inspections were not timely. Changes in policy and guidance were not updated in the Juvenile Protocol Manual and influx as a justification for secure detention was not adjusted to match the increases in available non-secure bed spaces.
Juvenile Alien Management System Data
Flores required and the Juvenile Program submitted semiannual compliance reports to the plaintiff's counsel and annual reports to the court. The reports included statistical information from the JAMS database. In addition to these standard reports, the managers occasionally ran non-standard queries on, for example, juveniles in custody over 120 days Program-wide and by facility. For each facility they can run reports on age, time in custody and nationality. However, the Juvenile Program managers did not conduct any regular substantive analysis of the JAMS data. For example, they did not use the JAMS database to more closely monitor timely placement issues. It was not used as a tool to reduce the time juveniles stay in custody by more closely tracking duration of stay. It was not used to regularly report on the time different categories of non-delinquent juveniles spent in secure detention facilities and thereby reduce it.
Significant Incident Reports30
Significant incident reports (SIRs) involving juveniles are important as potential indicators of systemic or local problems that require managerial intervention. The INS was unable to determine by facility the number or type of reportable incidents involving juveniles in INS custody. Except for escapes, there were no clear instructions for what constitutes a reportable incident. The district juvenile coordinators used their judgment in reporting other incidents to INS managers at the district or to the region and the National Juvenile Coordinator. While copies of incident reports were placed into a juvenile's A-file, the INS did not consolidate SIRs for INS juveniles at the facilities, districts, regions, or at INS headquarters.
All the district juvenile coordinators we visited followed the procedure to report significant incidents through their district chain of command and through the regional juvenile coordinators to the National Juvenile Coordinator. However, with the exception of the district juvenile coordinator in Phoenix, none of the district juvenile coordinators maintained a central file on reportable incidents. The Juvenile Program did not require a consolidated SIR file.
The only incident data JAMS collects is escapes. The JAMS database showed a total of 45 escapes for FY 2000. All of the escapes occurred at 13 non-secure facilities. There was no indication of how many of the juveniles were later found.
Most of the other SIRs we saw involved medical or behavioral problems. The medical incidents included attempts at suicide. According to the National Juvenile Coordinator, none of the attempts were successful.
Facilities are required to report an SIR immediately to the district juvenile coordinator. A copy of the report goes in the juvenile's file at the facility. The Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles had a centralized file. The chronological file they maintained included both INS and non-INS juveniles, but there was no way to easily identify whether the juvenile in question was an INS juvenile.
When the district juvenile coordinators received an SIR, they notified their supervisors in the district and their regional juvenile coordinator. The region logged the incident and assigned it an SIR number. The district coordinator notified INS headquarters by fax or e-mail and later forwarded a formal report to the region and headquarters. The report was placed in the juvenile's A-file at the district and nothing further was done with the report unless there was a request for additional information. With no central SIR file at the district, it was difficult to quickly identify trends or patterns that might indicate a systemic or local problem.
The reports received by the regions were also not kept in a central juvenile SIR file. Instead, they were chronologically filed with all SIRs received that include non-juvenile SIRs. Although Central Region began to keep an electronic database of the SIRs, the database included all SIRs, most of which had nothing to do with juveniles. The database did not allow for quick evaluation of juvenile reports for evidence of trends or problems.
At INS headquarters, the National Juvenile Coordinator did not maintain a central juvenile SIR file. He maintained files organized by region and district for the larger more active facilities. His reports included escapes and significant medical and behavioral incidents. He stated he probably did not get all the reports. He also said there was no standard reporting form and that each facility has its own incident report form.
The vulnerability of this incident reporting process was exemplified by a specific SIR concerning a suicide attempt in August 2000 at the Liberty County Juvenile Detention Center. When we visited the facility, we asked to see its report on this specific event. The facility did not have the report, the district juvenile coordinator could not locate it, and it was not in the region's database. Finally, when we contacted the National Juvenile Coordinator, he provided us with a copy, but the report had a different SIR number.
If the Juvenile Program does not track and analyze SIRs, issues requiring managerial intervention may not be identified.
The Juvenile Program requires an annual jail inspection for all secure detention facilities. Juvenile jail inspection training is required as part of the training for all district juvenile coordinators. INS headquarters and the regional coordinators tracked the INS inspection requirement using a facilities database that is kept on all facilities with which the INS has a contract. As of May 31, 2001, 6 of the 24 secure facilities in the Eastern Region were overdue for their facility inspections, 9 of the 21 secure facilities in Central Region were overdue, and 16 of the 18 secure facilities in the Western Region were overdue. All of the facilities we visited were up-to-date on their county or state inspections.
The INS had not conducted timely inspections for most of its juvenile shelter care facilities. The INS is required to conduct a formal program inspection of shelter care facilities twice per year. The INS's Humanitarian Affairs Branch (HAB), Unaccompanied Minors Program, supervised nine shelter care facilities.31 HAB staff was responsible for conducting two inspections per year of these facilities. Between October 1998 and September 2000 (FYs 1999 and 2000), each facility should have been inspected four times, for a total of 36 inspections. However, only 20 facility program inspections were conducted. The Southwest Key, Casa Grande shelter in Coolidge, Arizona was the only facility that met the requirement. The other eight facilities were inspected only two times over the 2-year period.
Updating Policy and Guidance
The National Juvenile Coordinator stated there had been changes or modifications of policy and procedure that were not reflected in the Juvenile Protocol Manual. He considered the Manual an evolving document. Changes to the policies or procedures in the Manual were communicated to the field via e-mail instructions or faxes. However, there is no central updated version of the Manual to which juvenile coordinators or others could refer for clarification or guidance.
Examples of policy changes we encountered in the field and discussed in this report included: release to family members, escort of released juveniles to sponsors, and telephone use. Issues within the Juvenile Program that appear to require more guidance than is found in the Juvenile Protocol Manual included the visits to juveniles and facilities, the use of restraints on non-delinquent juveniles, and the recording of detention and transport log information on juveniles.
Data Entry Errors
The data in JAMS was generally reliable.32 We also checked the data in JAMS against the data in DACS. The DACS database is used primarily by INS D&R staff to track aliens through the deportation process. If someone outside the Juvenile Program wanted to know the status of a juvenile in INS custody, DACS would be the database checked. It is important that the basic identifying information on the unaccompanied juveniles in DACS and JAMS match.
In order to test for consistency of the reported data, we compared all 333 January 2001 instances in JAMS with the data recorded in DACS. The information generally matched. However, we found several significant discrepancies between information in JAMS and in DACS. In 20 cases information in JAMS was not in DACS: 14 A-numbers had incomplete information, i.e., there was an A-number entry and a name, but no additional information; 3 juveniles had an A-number in DACS, but it corresponded to another individual; and 3 other juveniles had no A-number in DACS.
20 Significant Discrepancies
|14 - Incomplete information|
|3 - A-number corresponds to a different individual|
|3 - A-number not found|
We also found several other minor discrepancies between JAMS and DACS. Out of 333 instances, 85 book-in dates in JAMS did not match DACS book-in dates (most of these 85 cases followed a pattern in which the book-in date in JAMS preceded the book-in date in DACS by one day); 11 instances had different book-out dates; 9 cases had an instance recorded in JAMS, but no corresponding instance in DACS; 8 cases had an instance recorded in DACS, but no corresponding instance in JAMS; and there were 8 other cases of multiple instances in JAMS combined into a single instance in DACS. Most of these problems should have been easily identified and corrected.
|85 Instances in which the Book-in dates did not match|
|11 Instances in which the Book-out dates did not match|
|9 Instances recorded in JAMS and not in DACS|
|8 Instances recorded in DACS and not in JAMS|
|8 Multiple instances in JAMS correspond to one in DACS|
The Meaning of Influx
An influx condition is one of the justifications the INS can use to place a non-delinquent juvenile in a secure facility. It is intended as a safety valve for emergencies. An influx condition is defined by Flores as a situation when the INS has, at any given time, more than 130 juveniles eligible for placement in a licensed (non-secure) program. Because there are approximately 400 juveniles in licensed programs at any given time, the INS is technically always above the influx threshold of 130 juveniles.
The Juvenile Program now has over 400 shelter beds available. Therefore, the INS could potentially assign juveniles to secure facilities and justify it as due to an influx condition, when an actual influx condition does not exist. If the term INFLUX is to be meaningful as a reason for detaining non-delinquent juveniles in secure facilities, the number of juveniles awaiting placement in a shelter facility must be raised to more accurately reflect the current availability of juvenile shelter beds. Alternatively, the INS might also standardize the use of INFLUX as a JAMS code to indicate a local influx of juveniles.
In addition to the problem of the criteria for an influx condition, we found a number of juvenile detention instances in JAMS coded as INFLUX that probably should have not been. The INS was, in most cases, using the INFLUX code to denote a local influx of juveniles into a particular district. However, in 71 cases, juveniles held in secure detention for INFLUX were subsequently deported. In 26 of these cases, juveniles had been transferred from a shelter to a secure facility, coded as INFLUX and subsequently removed. These 26 juveniles should probably have been coded as escape risks once they had received a final order, but were instead coded as INFLUX.
In order to better oversee and monitor the program, the National Juvenile Coordinator needs to improve the accuracy of the data and use it to monitor the Juvenile Program. The National Juvenile Coordinator should put into place a procedure for analyzing and tracking SIRs involving juveniles. Oversight of the timeliness of facility inspections needs to be more closely monitored. The Juvenile Protocol Manual should be updated to reflect changes or modifications to policies and procedures. The regional and national juvenile coordinators should regularly review JAMS and DACS for consistency and accuracy of data. The National Juvenile Coordinator needs to redefine what constitutes a state of influx.
The INS does not have a continuing INS-wide training program to ensure all employees whose duties bring them in contact with juveniles understand and comply with the terms of the Flores agreement.
The INS conducted the training agreed upon in the Flores settlement within 120 days of the final court approval. Since then, the INS has not developed comprehensive, INS-wide follow-up training on the requirements imposed by Flores for designated employees.
In 1997 the INS prepared written and video materials, held train-the-trainer sessions in the three regions, and presented training to over 15,000 employees to satisfy the Flores agreement. Because a wide range of INS employees have duties that bring them into contact with juveniles, the INS included a 1-to-2 hour session on laws and procedures related to juveniles in the curricula for new officers at the law enforcement academies. These sessions focused on the interception of juveniles and post-apprehension procedures.
Almost all of the Border Patrol agents, investigators, and inspectors we interviewed had received some Flores training, either the INS-wide training or subsequently as part of their classes at the officer training academies. However, many of those who received the Flores training in 1997 did not recall it clearly. Many officers whose contacts with unaccompanied juveniles were infrequent said they had to refer to written operations instructions if they encountered any juveniles. A few officers were not turning over required paperwork and relied upon the D&R staff to complete the processing. In most locations, district juvenile coordinators frequently had to correct or complete the paperwork filed by officers.
The juvenile coordinators worked constantly to tutor the processing officers. Some district juvenile coordinators offered or planned to offer training to other operations personnel, but their training efforts were hampered by a lack of emphasis by managers in other programs, or a lack of time. For instance, in two districts the juvenile coordinators provided training on a voluntary basis to a limited number of officers. In another district, the district juvenile coordinator said she would like to offer training but had insufficient time to do so.
The Juvenile Program relied on various measures to train officers including:
While these measures contribute to an awareness that unaccompanied juveniles require special handling, they do not guarantee that all INS personnel who encounter juveniles receive adequate or consistent training.
Periodic updated training in the procedures and sensitivity required for handling juveniles, coordinated from the headquarters level, would result in a more effective program. The INS needs to provide ongoing training because procedures for handling juveniles change and INS personnel take positions that give them new responsibilities for juveniles. Supervisors conceded the training previously provided was years old, and that refresher sessions would be valuable.
The National Juvenile Coordinator is planning additional training, including quarterly formal training sessions to provide more extensive and consistent training to field officers. He estimates the INS will initiate this program in the first quarter of FY 2002.
We believe that an INS-wide training program should be instituted to keep officers informed of current procedures and requirements for handling juveniles. The training should be required for all managers, Border Patrol agents, inspectors, investigators, deportation officers and detention enforcement officers who encounter juveniles. This training would contribute to the consistent and appropriate treatment of juveniles throughout the INS.