For the past several weeks, a series of hunger-strikes has been launched at the NorthWest Detention Facility in Tacoma, Washington. The strikes have spread to a variety of dorms and facilities and in support, an encampment sprung up outside the prison to offer solidarity and coordinate communication between those on the outside and those on strike. The strike comes hot on the heels of a recent lawsuit in Colorado, that claims that private prisons are working detainees like slaves; working them for free or for the promise of extra food. Under the 13th amendment, it is legal for the State to work prisoners as slaves.
As Maru Mora Villalpando, an organizer with NorthWest Detention Center (NWDC) Resistance tells us, this is common practice for corporations such as the GEO Group, which own and operate private prisons and detention facilities. In this interview, we talk with Maru about the work that her group is doing, the history of the hunger strikes at the Tacoma facility, the conditions within the facility, the demands of the strikes, and about the encampment that grew outside of the prison. We also discuss the difference in strategies between the Obama and Trump administrations and talk about the ways that people can help support NWDC Resistance and their work.
It’s important to keep in mind, that many of the people currently locked up in detention facilities, much like those in county jails who cannot bail out, haven’t even been charged with a crime. They were simply swept up in raids or caught on the street without paperwork. The organizing and solidarity happening in the NorthWest is inspiring, while the implications of the growth of mass incarceration to more and more segments of society is horrific. As Maru explains, her group is beginning to train people on how to organize on the inside, because it’s not a question of if they will be swept up in a raid, but when.