ICE Detention


The focus of the Immigrant Detention Condition Project launched by Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is to advocate on behalf of immigrants civilly detained in Massachusetts detention centers. The project focuses on improving conditions and addresses multiple issues faced by detained immigrants, including discrimination, placement in solitary confinement, language access needs, medical and mental health care, food and sanitation, and access to programming and services.

No other group in Massachusetts is focused on advocating for the rights of detainees to be free from unlawful conditions in these detention centers. The project is designed to maximize the impact on the immigrant detainee population in Massachusetts for years to come. For example, we have created new advocacy protocols and self-help materials tailored to detainees, engaged in systemic advocacy to protect the health and safety of detainees during the COVID pandemic, laid the groundwork for litigation, and engaged in legislative reform.

Here are some self-help materials we have gathered so far:

grievance procedure

Individuals being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may have complaints about conditions of confinement, physical or sexual assault, medical negligence, access to attorneys and legal materials, or other issues. This document provides a very brief description of the processes which individuals can follow to voice their complaints to the proper officials or government offices.

PLS also periodically files complaints on behalf of ICE detainees, so please contact our legal staff if you or someone you know is experiencing conditions-related problems in detention.

Internal Grievances (presented directly by the detainee)

ICE detainees are allowed to address legitimate complaints through Informal Complaint or Grievance Procedures, as further outlined in the ICE Detainee Handbook that each facility is required to develop and that each detainee is required to receive upon admission to the facility along with a copy of the ICE/ERO National Detainee Handbook. If the detainee does not accept the grievance committee’s decision, they may appeal the decision. All facilities are required to have procedures for addressing detainee appeals.

Below is some general information about the grievance procedure. Please refer to the ICE Detainee Handbook for more specific details about the grievance procedures in each detention facility.

Informal/Oral Grievances:

If you have a complaint, you can first try to resolve your problem by speaking with a staff member. If you choose to complain orally, you should present your complaint within five or ten days (depending on the detention center) of the event. The detention facility is required to make every effort to resolve a detainee’s complaint or grievance at the lowest level possible, in an orderly and timely manner. Each facility should have procedures for the informal resolution of oral grievances. Illiterate, disabled, or non-English speaking detainees should be provided additional assistance, upon request. The detainee is always free to bypass or terminate the informal grievance process and proceed directly to the formal grievance stage described below.

Formal/Written Grievances:

The facility must allow you to submit a formal, written grievance to the facility’s grievance committee. You may take this step because you are not satisfied with the outcome of the informal process, or because you decide to forgo the informal procedures. Illiterate, disabled, or non-English speaking detainees should be provided additional assistance, upon request. Your written complaint should be filed either within five or ten days (depending on the detention center) of the actual event or within five or ten days of the unsuccessful conclusion of an informal grievance.

Emergency Grievances:

Each facility is required to implement procedures for identifying and handling an emergency grievance. An emergency grievance involves an immediate threat to a detainee’s health, safety, or welfare.

Medical Grievances:

All detainees may request medical and mental health services by following the Sick/Medical Slip procedures established by each detention facility. If you are having problems receiving medical care or feel that you are not receiving proper care you can file a medical grievance. Medical grievances should be promptly referred to and answered by the medical department

Please be aware that in many civil cases, in order to preserve your right to sue about inadequate medical care, medical malpractice, or any other problem specifically related to medical care you must file a medical grievance and exhaust all levels of the grievance appeals process. That is NOT the case in immigration cases, but it is still recommended that you do.


If you do not accept the grievance decision, you may appeal it. All facilities should have procedures for addressing detainee appeals that should be further outlined in the ICE Detainee Handbook.

Administrative Complaints (presented either directly by the detainee or a third party)

The complaint process described above involves filing complaints with people who are directly involved with the facility (internally). In addition to this internal complaint process, there are also administrative complaint processes that involve filing complaints with other officials and agencies that are indirectly involved with ICE detention facilities. This process is used to establish a record of abuses by the agency that may lead to disciplinary action against an officer or more careful supervision.

If you, as the detainee, choose to write complaints to these agencies, be sure to make copies of your letters, and label the envelope “LEGAL MAIL.” Since some of these complaints may lead to future lawsuits, it is very important to be accurate about the statements you make (especially about the time, date, exact location, and individuals who were there/involved). Be sure to send complaints as soon as possible.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) reviews and investigates civil rights and civil liberties complaints made by the public regarding DHS policies and activities. The detainee or their representative can file a complaint with the OCRCL. The OCRCL will review the complaint and may launch an investigation to determine if any violations have occurred. If the OCRCL makes a finding that the detainee’s civil rights have been violated, the OCRCL can make formal recommendations to provide relief to the individual and institute a change in policy.

You can either use the official OCRCL complaint form or write a letter describing the mistreatment. The instructions and complaint form are online or you can contact PLS to obtain a copy. In addition to a written description of the specific circumstances, the complaint should be accompanied by the contact information, relevant documents, and a summary of other steps already taken. If you are submitting a complaint on behalf of a loved one, you must also submit that person’s written permission for the OCRCL to share information with you.

Email the completed form to:, or mail your letter by U.S. Mail:

Department of Homeland Security
Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Review and Compliance
245 Murray Lane, SW
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, D.C. 20528.

If a detainee feels unsafe reporting the mistreatment to detention staff (or if the mistreatment comes from detention staff themselves), another resource to use is the toll-free Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Detention Reporting and Information hotline.

The ICE ERO Detention Reporting and Information Line is a toll-free service that provides a direct channel for agency stakeholders, which include individuals in ICE custody, the public, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, attorneys, and advocacy groups, to communicate directly with ERO to answer questions and resolve concerns. Stakeholders may reach the ICE ERO Detention Reporting and Information Line by dialing 1-888-351-4024. Live trained operators are available Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) to respond to inquiries from those in ICE detention and from community members. Language assistance, including Spanish operators, is also available.

Call center representative will answer calls and assist with resolution on subjects such as:

  • Incidents of sexual or physical assault or abuse,
  • Serious or unresolved problems in detention,
  • Reports of victims of human trafficking and other crimes,
  • Reports on individuals with serious mental disorders or conditions,
  • Separation of minor child or other dependent and other parental related issues,
  • Inquiries from the general public, law enforcement officials and others
  • Requests for basic case information.
  • Reports that someone in detention has a serious mental disorder or condition.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline is a resource for Federal employees and the public to report allegations of employee corruption, civil rights and civil liberties abuses, program fraud and financial crimes, and miscellaneous criminal and non-criminal activity associated with waste, abuse, or fraud affecting the programs and operations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Individuals may report allegations to the OIG Hotline via online form, by phone at 1 800-323-8603, or by U.S. Mail:
DHS Office of Inspector General/MAIL STOP 0305
Attn: Office of Investigations – HOTLINE
245 Murray Lane SW Washington, DC 20528-0305
Information that is received by the OIG Hotline is reviewed to determine if DHS OIG investigation or referral to a more appropriate entity is warranted. If the allegation does not fall within the scope of DHS OIG’s jurisdiction, that information may be forwarded to the appropriate agency or authority for their review.  Unless the individual reporting the allegations is contacted directly by one of OIG’s investigators, there will be no communication from our office.

The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct involving employees of ICE. To contact the OPR about criminal misconduct by an ICE employee, please write to the OPR via U.S. Mail at the address below or call the Joint Intake Center Hotline at 1-877-246-8253.

Director, Office of Professional Responsibility
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
P.O. Box 14475
Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20044

For concerns or questions regarding ICE practices, policies, and/or programs, or information on detainees housed at an ICE facility, family members and attorneys should contact the Boston ICE ERO field office. Information regarding the location of detained individuals may be accessed using the Online Detainee Locator System.

Area of Responsibility: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

Boston Field Office
1000 District Avenue
Burlington, MA, 01803
Phone: (781) 359-7500

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Representation of Detainees in Deportation Proceedings

Last updated 2/13/2020

There have been many recent changes in federal immigration laws which are harmful to persons facing deportation with criminal convictions.  For these reasons, if at all possible, you or your family should hire an attorney to represent you at the deportation hearing.  PLS does not provide this type of representation.  The following information may help you to find an attorney or get valuable advice on this matter.

The P.A.I.R. Project refers persons seeking immigration assistance to private attorneys on a reduced fee basis.  While the attorney’s services are not free, the cost will be less than if you hire a private attorney directly.  To contact them, have a family member call (617) 742-9296 or you can write to the P.A.I.R. Project, 98 North Washington Street, Suite 106, ​​​​Boston, MA 02114.  When calling or writing, please provide the following information:

  • The date you entered the United States
  • Your current immigration status
  • Information on any immigration proceedings you have already had
  • The date, charge, sentence, and location of your criminal conviction
  • The immigration status of close family members living in the United States

If someone can call on your behalf to the P.A.I.R. Project, you will receive a quicker response.  Letters to P.A.I.R. will receive a response, but there will be a delay.

The P.A.I.R. Project also conducts Know your rights presentations at Bristol County Jail, Plymouth County Correctional Facilities, and Franklin County House of Correction once a month.

Finally, to call P.A.I.R. Project’s office directly from detention:

  1. Press “0”
  2. Press “*” and then “451”
  3. Enter your pin number, also called your i.d. number
  4. Press “1”
  5. Choose English or Spanish
  6. Enter your A number (The A number is also called the file number. This number can be found on your Notice To Appear, and at the top of any documents about your case in Immigration Court. It begins with the letter A and has 8 or 9 numbers. If you A number contains 8 numbers, add a “0” in front of the first number).
  7. Press 1527 and “#”

If this doesn’t work, please contact one of the Correctional Officers for assistance. The PAIR Project.

Central West Justice Center (CWJC) provides free representation to non-citizens seeking humanitarian immigration relief, including asylum, relief under the Violence Against Women Act, Special immigrant Juvenile Status, U visas for crime victims, and T visas for trafficking victims.

Services are only available to low-income immigrants who are, prior to being detained by ICE, residents of Central and Western Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties)

The best way to contact CWJC is to have a family member call 855-252-5342

You can also write to either one of CWJC’s offices:

Central West Just Center
One Monarch Place, Suite 350
Springfield, MA 01144

Central West Just Center
405 Main Street, 3rd Floor
Worcester, MA 01608

If you can afford to hire an attorney, you may also write, or have your family call, the following bar referral services, which may be able to refer you to an attorney whom you can hire for representation:

Boston Bar Association Referral Service
16 Beacon Street
Boston, MA   02108
(617) 742-0625

(Note:  The BBA Referral Service also has a reduced fee panel, which refers eligible clients to attorneys for representation at a reduced fee level.  Inquire about the reduced fee panel when you write or have your family member call the BBA Referral Service.)

Massachusetts Bar Association Referral Service
20 West Street
Boston, MA  02111
(617) 654-0400

American Immigration Lawyers Association

The AILA Lawyer Search,, provides potential clients, employers, and other attorneys with the opportunity to immediately connect to thousands of AILA lawyers who are part of the AILA Lawyer Search program.

Potential clients are able to search by last name, practice area, language, and geographic location and find an attorney that meets their specific needs.

The CPCS Immigration Impact Unit’s (IIU) primary role is to assist defense attorneys in fulfilling their duty to advise their clients about the immigration consequences of their criminal cases. In addition to advice in individual cases, they also provide trainings throughout Massachusetts on the immigration consequences of criminal conduct, distribute written training materials and updates on significant legal issues, and provide post-conviction litigation support. 

If you, your criminal defense attorney, or immigration attorney has any questions specifically about immigration consequences of criminal charges or convictions have your attorneys call (617)-623-0591 or you can write to the CPCS IIU.

If someone can call on your behalf to the CPCS IIU, you will receive a quicker response.  Letters to CPCS IIU will receive a response, but there will be a delay.

CPCS Immigration Impact Unit
21 McGrath Highway
Somerville, MA 02143

If you have family members who are United States citizens, you should also have them contact your Congressional representative and senators.  U.S. senators and representatives can introduce special bills in Congress on behalf of an individual person who is seeking to be permitted to remain in the United States.  They are sometimes receptive to doing so when a person facing deportation has United States citizen family members if they feel that the family situation is sympathetic.  Have your citizen family member(s) call and write to your Representative and Senator, asking that they act on your behalf by filing a bill in Congress to permit you to remain in the U.S. after your sentence is completed.

If you have additional questions or concerns that you would like assistance with, please call us during our intake hours on Monday (or Tuesday if Monday is a holiday):

1:00pm – 4:00pm

or write us a letter to:

50 Federal Street
4th Floor
Boston, MA 02110

For more information about how to reach us, please visit the contact us page


50 Federal St., 4th Floor, Boston MA 02110