April 23, 2024 

Public Statement Submitted Urging Congress to End the Abusive Use of Solitary Confinement in ICE Detention After 10 Years of Torture  

WASHINGTON– Yesterday, Government Accountability Project submitted a statement to Congress in support of the recent April 16, 2024 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Legacy of Harm: Eliminating the Abuse of Solitary Confinement.”  

The hearing came more than ten years after our client, Ms. Ellen Gallagher began raising the alarm as an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties about the inhumane and improper use of solitary confinement for mentally ill and medically vulnerable immigrants in ICE custody in violation of regulatory and legal requirements.  

The statement details Ms. Gallagher’s tireless efforts since 2014 to bring attention to this issue, including internal complaints to then-Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to DHS oversight entities including the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of Inspector General, to the Office of Special Counsel, to Congress, and to the press. 

Dr. Katie Peeler, a witness at the congressional hearing represented by Government Accountability Project, shared findings from the February 2024 report titled “Endless Nightmare: Torture and Inhuman Treatment in Solitary Confinement in U.S. Immigration Detention,” which she co-authored. The report, published by the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, the Peeler Immigration Lab at Harvard Medical School, and Physicians for Human Rights, exposed ICE’s arbitrary and cruel use of solitary confinement, documenting over 14,000 placements between 2018 and 2023, with many people facing prolonged isolation. Ms. Peeler’s testimony at the Senate Judiciary hearing underscored the detrimental impact of solitary confinement on the mental and physical health of detained persons, including PTSD, self-harm, and suicide risks.  

 The report not only validates Ms. Gallaghers original disclosures, but demonstrates that despite DHS’s longstanding knowledge that much of its use of solitary confinement rises to a level that meets the definition of torture, ICE continues to detain hundreds of people in grave conditions of isolation.   

Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and lead counsel for Ms. Gallagher, wrote in the statement to Congress: 

“What is needed at this moment is accountability for over ten years of failed oversight and willful disregard that has permitted torture in unverifiable numbers. Accountability must start with immediately ending the practice of solitary confinement in ICE detention. Given DHS’s utter refusal in the face of a decade of awareness to stop this abuse, Congress must step in to act.”  


Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 926-3304 

Government Accountability Project 

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.