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(May 2010) — NIJC researched successful alternatives to detention employed in the Australian immigration detention system to develop concrete lessons and feasible recommendations that policymakers could apply to the detention system in the United States. In addition to outlining the human rights reasons for implementing reform, the report provides powerful financial data and statistics for use by policymakers and advocates.

Among the lessons gleaned from the review of the Australian system:

  • The policy of detaining noncitizens only as a measure of last resort promotes effective and humane government practices, reduces detention costs, addresses issues of prolonged detention, and can mitigate the risk of litigation.
  • The use of a risk assessment tool, a civil detention model, and alternatives to detention programs protect the human rights of detained noncitizens, meet the needs of vulnerable populations and provide a cost-effective alternative to the penal-detention model, while ensuring compliance with immigration enforcement.
  • The ethos of the civil detention model should be early intervention and early identification of a client’s particular needs through a case management model. Case management allows immigration authorities to monitor the detained population, foster a culture of accountability and transparency, facilitate client access to legal and social services and make referrals to alternatives to detention programs.
  • Minimizing the number of private contractors used to detain immigrants in custody centralizes policy reform, promotes consistency in detention practices, and reduces logistical obstacles to monitoring compliance with detention standards.
  • Alternatives to detention programs administered by specialized social service providers ensure that vulnerable clients benefit from the expertise of those providers and increase compliance.
  • The provision of a basic living allowance, housing, and coverage for essential medical and health care reduces detention costs, lowers the chance of a client absconding, and allows vulnerable populations to reside in less restrictive, more appropriate settings which take account of their particular needs.
  • Humane immigration detention requires an effective oversight mechanism and a consistent commitment to transparency.

Download the Australia Civil Detention Report: