NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Unsafe drinking water, moldy food, a lack of medical care or access to legal counsel and the use of punitive solitary confinement are among the allegations in a federal complaint filed by civil rights groups over conditions at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Louisiana.

The complaint dated June 21 was sent to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. It says detainees who speak out about the conditions are subjected to solitary confinement at the center in Pine Prairie. And it says some who should be isolated for medical reasons — including COVID-19 infections — are held in punitive solitary confinement.

“This pattern of implementing punitive solitary confinement is abusive, unlawful, and tantamount to torture,” the complaint states.

Detainees reported foul smelling drinking water that appeared to be contaminated in their cells. “One immigrant who works in the kitchen reported that the food is most often poor quality and is also often expired and contaminated,” the complaint said. “On one occasion, detained immigrants who work as kitchen staff discovered that the bread ICE instructed them to serve was past the marked expiration date and had visible mold.”

The report alleges that the facility is in violation of international human rights law and the U.S. Constitution, as well as ICE’s own policies.

A spokesman for the private contractor that runs the facility denied the claims in an email to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, and said they were being “advanced by radical special interest groups with a politically motivated agenda.”

“For more than three decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, we have been a trusted service provider to the federal government, providing consistent, high-quality services at all our facilities,” it said.

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