It took a scathing study ("A Broken System: CONFIDENTIAL REPORTS REVEAL FAILURES IN U.S. IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTERS") by the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Southern California, and the law firm of Holland & Knight, to accelerate disclosure of what may have been already in the works.  Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it is undertaking a comprehensive overhaul of its inhumane system for detaining foreign citizens alleged by ICE to have violated the immigration laws. 

A new Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP), headed by Dora Schriro, will be responsible for designing a new civil detention system that, thankfully - if the announcement can be believed, will move away from the former penal model criticized in the "Broken System" report.  According to the ICE fact sheet released today, "[w]hen assessing where to locate facilities, ODPP will consider access to legal services, emergency rooms and transportation hubs, among other factors."  Previously, ICE and its predecessor, the old INS, had played a diabolical game of "Chutes and Ladders" by shuttling detainees to facilities far from family and from access to experienced immigration defense counsel. 

ICE will be aided in this new effort by a new IT improvement strategy, funded to the tune of $24.9 million in FY 2009, known as the "Detention and Removal Operations Modernization" (DROM) program.  As the Obama Administration's new IT Dashboard reveals:

The major goal of DROM is to create an efficient system and a streamlined process to minimize the length of detention, increase bed utilization and increase removals of aliens ordered removed from the U.S. Areas targeted as part of the Development, Modernization or Enhancement (DME) effort are: a) Real-time dynamic reporting on statistics and metrics for events from apprehension through the detention and removal process (aggregate and individual aliens); b) Removal management including alien case status information from apprehension to removal (e.g. awaiting credible-fear review, awaiting travel-document issuance); c) Detainee Management providing detainee tracking, property logging, and bed assignment data; d) Bed-space Management including ability to make reservation and cancellations and show availability of beds by location, relative likelihood of availability, and alien characteristic or classification; and e) Transportation management for efficient scheduling and routing detainees for detention and removal.

Can it really be true? Will immigrants alleged to have committed civil immigration violations be housed more humanely, with protection of their dignity, sensitivity to family needs, and access to law libraries and legal counsel assured? I keep my fingers crossed, in the hope that ICE Secretary John Morton wasn't crossing his fingers when he made today's announcement.