Detention Lifeline

Barriers to communication frustrate the efforts of advocates to discover serious cases of medical and safety abuses inside the growing U.S. immigrant detention system. We created a tool for advocates to talk with detained people and document the human rights abuses reported inside.

ICE Raid at Dawn

The Challenge

Immigration advocates and human rights experts need to communicate with detained asylum seekers and immigrants. The 53,000 daily detainee population is exposed to disease outbreaks, violence, medical neglect, and death inside more than 100 privately-operated detention facilities. Advocates and experts play a critical role in exposing human rights violations and saving the lives of detainees experiencing serious medical and safety issues. The problem is that advocates and experts struggle to receive urgent information about detention conditions from detainees. Few NGOs have the capacity to answer all incoming calls from detainees and many detainees cannot identify a hotline to call for the most urgent situations.

The Solution

We collaborated with stakeholders to create a call center and client relational management (CRM) tool called Detention Lifeline to manage emergency contact and data from detained immigrants and asylum seekers. A pilot program in Louisiana began in 2019 to test the tool’s functionality. The purpose of the Detention Lifeline tool is to bridge the communication and data management gap between NGOs and detained people in crisis. The result of this project is the completion of a powerful field tool to manage data and reporting of human rights violations inside America’s rapidly growing immigration detention network.

The Impact

In 2019 we piloted this tool by using it to provide hotlines for 13 detention centers in Louisiana. A cohort of volunteer operators from across the country was enlisted to operate the hotlines. These operators were able to use Detention Lifeline to communicate with hover hundreds of detained asylum seekers. The lifeline provided a window into place that is nortoriously difficult to enter. Yet, our operators were able to communicate with detainees, figure out their needs, put them in touch with family, sponsors, and relevant resources; and, in some cases, help them fight their own case from the inside.

Piloted in new detention facilities in Louisiana

These new facilities in the south are far from city centers and the rapid influx of new detainees strained the existing non-profit infrastructure. The Detention Lifeline pilot demonstrates the tool's ability to reduce these barriers to access.




Asylum seekers served



Our partners in this pilot program included NYU School of Medicine, RAICES Texas, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA).

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