September 13, 2022

The complaint cites new and extensive evidence of medical neglect and first-hand accounts of abuse from people detained at the Baker County Detention Center

Macclenny, Fla. — Today, 13 national and local organizations filed a federal complaint against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for multiple cases of abuse and inhumane conditions at the Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida. The new complaint was filed on behalf of immigrants at the facility and comes weeks after multiple civil rights and immigrants’ rights organizations filed another federal complaint detailing the horrific conditions at Baker. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida also sent a letter to ICE months ago, making them aware of the issues and asking for intervention at the detention center. The federal agency has not taken any action so far, continuing to put people in danger.

The new federal complaint states that, for years, immigrants at Baker have experienced a range of abuses, including excessive use of force, extreme medical neglect, racialized harassment, retaliation, impediments to accessing legal counsel, and lack of adequate hygiene and food. Numerous current and former individuals detained at Baker included their first-hand experiences in the complaint to ICE, speaking out about the deep-rooted issues at the facility.

Individual incidents cited in the complaint include but are not limited to: a severe beating resulting in ear damage; an individual pepper sprayed while pinned under the knee of a guard; a woman being forced to use the restroom in front of a Baker County Sheriff’s officer; a person falling into a diabetic coma as a result of medical neglect; and women bleeding through clothes and sheets due to a lack of hygiene products. These are just a sample of incidents highlighted in the complaint, all of which evidence substantiated patterns of systemic abuse.

The complaint also describes severe barriers to legal representation for those in the facility. Just last week, attorneys were denied access to the facility to meet with clients in-person, an egregious violation of various federal standards.

“Baker’s main goal is to get people deported and out of the country with no regard for their families, their children or their job. Officers don’t care about people’s health and well-being or how they treat immigrants,” said Jameica Flavien, the spouse of an immigrant formerly detained at Baker. “They have set up Baker for people to suffer mentally and physically; they want to terrorize and break people down. Everybody is a human being and deserves to be treated as one.”

For over a decade, ICE has ignored ongoing calls for intervention, placing the approximately 170 individuals currently detained at Baker at risk. Now, local and national organizations are calling for the contract between Baker and ICE to be terminated.

“We have known for years that immigrants at Baker have been subjected to horrific abuses, but with the little to no transparency offered by these facilities, officials are not held accountable,” said Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Florida. “ICE and the Sheriff’s Office have no right to strip people, who are seeking protection and safety in this country, of their dignity and humanity. Their attempts to block access to counsel and retaliate against those going public with the rampant abuses at Baker is blatantly illegal. It’s time for ICE to permanently end its relationship with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.”

According to the Florida Detention Database, there have already been over 130 complaints filed against Baker. Medical neglect, unsanitary conditions, and harassment were among the top reports issued in over 60 percent of all complaints from the facility. The complete complaint can be found here.