Ellen Gallagher, a Homeland Security adviser turned whistleblower, exposed what she knew about the torture of more than 8,000 immigrants by the US government with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Gallagher first uncovered documents about the Department of Homeland Security locking thousands of gay, trans and disabled immigrants in solitary confinement in 2014.
“We have created and continue to support a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings,” Gallagher told the ICIJ. “People were being brutalized.”
At least 8,488 immigrants imprisoned by ICE from 2012 to 2017 were held in solitary confinement under the Obama and Trump administrations, according to Gallagher and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Only about half of the cases involved any claim of misconduct that could endanger others.
The other half were placed in solitary confinement due to so-called “security risks,” including the use of mobility aids, their sexual orientation, or the fact that they identified as transgender.
At least 13 people locked in solitary confinement have died while imprisoned by ICE. Seven people committed suicide while in solitary confinement.