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October 19

Hunger Strike at Northwest Detention Center, Washington

Perilous Chronicle reports on the most recent hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

More than two hundred detainees began a hunger strike on Friday at the Northwest Detention Center, a privately-run immigrant detention center, according to the immigrant advocate group La Resistencia.

In a press release, the group stated that the strikers were demanding, “edible food, humane treatment by guards and the shutdown of the facility.”

La Resistencia also published statements from detainees participating in the hunger strike. One participant stated:

“We are tired of eating garbage, finding maggots, and other things in the food. GEO and ICE don’t do anything, they take the report and then they say ‘everything has been fixed,’ yet we continue finding maggots in the food. GEO guards mistreat us, they yelled at us, in some instances they have assaulted people here. Some people are afraid of them, but mostly we are tired of being treated that way. We also want to do something for you all, we want to support the efforts outside to shut down this place.”

The hunger strike is expected to last 8 days, according to La Resistencia.

An ICE spokesperson refuted the hunger strike claims, saying it does not meet their definition of a hunger strike.

“Failure to eat the facility provided meal is not a stand-alone factor in the determination of a detainee’s suspected or announced hunger strike action. Commissary food items remain available for purchase by detainees,” Tanya Roman, public affairs officer for ICE, wrote in an email.

According to La Resistencia, there have been 19 recorded hunger strikes at the facility in the past five years, with numbers of participating detainees sometimes reaching over a thousand.

The demands of many of the hunger strikes have focused on food issues and guard abuse but have often gone so far as to call for a complete halt on deportations. Detainees have also participated in work stoppages and commissary boycotts at the facility.

The private facility operated by GEO imprisons up to 1,575 people on any given day and has been the target of numerous lawsuits in recent years. Among those lawsuits was a 2017 class-action lawsuit which accused GEO Group of violating the U.S. Constitution and federal antislavery laws by paying detainees less than a dollar a day for their labor, and sometimes paying them nothing at all.

The hunger strike is also part of a recent wave of strikes coming out of Washington prisons in which food quality is a primary complaint. Just a week prior, at least 40 prisoners at Clallam Bay engaged in a hunger strike and work stoppage, citing poor food quality as a main motivation. In February, 2019, prisoners at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center held a hunger strike that lasted nearly a month and in April, 2018 prisoners at Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla held a hunger strike that lasted about 11 days.

La Resistencia asked that supporters join them on Saturday, October 19, and Sunday, October 20, at 12:30 p.m. at the Northwest Detention Center, to demand “that ICE and GEO Group do not retaliate, meet the strikers demands, and ultimately release them all!”

Citations:

Hundreds of ICE detainees refusing to eat food provided at Tacoma detention center“, The News Tribune, October 18, 2019.

Hunger Strike at Tacoma NWDC Calls for Humane Treatment and Shutdown of Facility“, La Resistencia, ND.

Background:

To the Daring the Future Belongs“, Commune Mag, August 5, 2019.

Article published: 10/19/19

Header Photo Source: Seattle Globalist

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Perilous Chronicle

Perilous is a project supported by a network of people—including you—who seek to gather and track information on prison uprisings, riots, protests, strikes, and other disturbances within public and private jails, prisons, and detention centers in the US and Canada. In this process, we rely on crowdsourced information in addition to local news outlets and our own reporting.

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