Co-author: Caitlin Patler


Little is known about the inner-workings of the U.S. immigration detention system. In this study we focus on understanding the practice of administrative segregation (also known as solitary confinement) within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities. This is the first nationally representative study of solitary confinement within ICE detention facilities. We analyze all cases of solitary confinement from fiscal year 2013 through fiscal year 2018 using administrative data, gathered via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The dataset covers ten thousand incidents across 113 facilities under the jurisdiction of 24 Field Offices Areas of Responsibility. We discover significant variation in the rate and length of solitary confinement, as well as the stated reason for placement into confinement by individual-level traits, facility-level characteristics, geographic location, and over time. By providing the first representative portrait of solitary confinement in immigration detention facilities across the United States, this paper sheds light on what scholars have called a black box within a black box.