NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Detainees at NWDC immigration prison revive hunger strike in response to abuse

Today at noon, over one hun­dred peo­ple being detained in the West Coast’s largest immi­gra­tion prison in Taco­ma — the North­west Deten­tion Cen­ter  — launched a hunger strike in response to inhu­mane liv­ing con­di­tions at the prison.

Detainees refus­ing their lunch­es cir­cu­lat­ed a let­ter of demand regard­ing vio­la­tions of what most Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents would con­sid­er basic human rights.

NWDC hunger strike letter (Spanish)

A pho­to­graph of the let­ter urg­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in the strike (Cour­tesy of NWDC Resistance)

The motive that we write this is to ask you by favor that we all par­tic­i­pate unit­ed, and on Mon­day April 10, 2017, from noon and on we will not eat, or use the phones, nei­ther will we bunk up on the late night count or lights out. The objec­tive is to reach some changes in the insti­tu­tion which are the following:

  1. Change the food (menu)
  2. Low­er the com­mis­sary (rea­son­able pries)
  3. Bet­ter hygiene (with the clothes)
  4. Increase rec-time
  5. Bring pro­grams such as: school and pro­gram to keep our heads occu­pied and avoid depres­sion mentally
  6. Bet­ter med­ical attention
  7. Increase wages for work­ing detainees (wax­ing floors, paint­ing, clean­ing, cook­ing, laundry)
  8. Facil­i­tate court pro­ceed­ings (speed up the process).

Please we ask for our help and participation.

Because it is not just for them to treat out the way they want with­out them respect­ing our rights! And if we speak up we don’t speak up we’ll always be the same. Thank you!

– Eng­lish trans­la­tion of hunger strike letter

Accord­ing to a state­ment issued by the NWDC Resis­tance (an activist group focused on fight­ing depor­ta­tions and address­ing inhu­mane deten­tion con­di­tions), detainees are seek­ing “more expe­dit­ed hear­ings, improved qual­i­ty of food, improved access to med­ical care, and low­er­ing of exor­bi­tant com­mis­sary prices.”

Detainees cur­rent­ly receive $1 a day for main­tain­ing the prison and its ser­vices. Detainees are even denied this at times receiv­ing, for exam­ple, a bag of chips for nights’ worth of work. Ear­li­er this year, a Peo­ple’s Tri­bunal held a hear­ing at the prison to bet­ter eval­u­ate con­di­tions. The tri­bunal found that detainees had no access to soap and cloth­ing, that peo­ple have died in the prison from lack of med­ical care, peo­ple have died after depor­ta­tion from the same lack of med­ical care, and that detainees are often exposed to haz­ardous chem­i­cals in their work.

The NWDC is a for-prof­it prison owned by the GEO Group which has a record of mis­treat­ing its employ­ees as well as its detainees.

Last autumn, GEO Group work­ers in Taco­ma con­duct­ed an “infor­ma­tion­al strike” decry­ing the NWD­C’s manda­to­ry over­time, lack of sick days, and low wages.

The GEO Group has also come under fire for its immoral busi­ness prac­tices in a fed­er­al law­suit alleg­ing hor­rif­ic abus­es at its Col­orado deten­tion cen­ter.

This is not the first time detainees have protest­ed appalling, immoral con­di­tions at NWDC. In 2014, six years into Barack Oba­ma’s pres­i­den­cy, detainees at NWDC held an inter­na­tion­al­ly-rec­og­nized hunger strike that last­ed fifty-six days.

Three years lat­er, detainees con­tin­ue to assert their human­i­ty in the face of greed and injus­tice. Accord­ing to the NWDC Resis­tance, con­di­tions are only get­ting worse now that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is con­trolled by the right wing. The under­ly­ing prob­lem is big­ger than the par­ti­san polit­i­cal cli­mate, but impact­ed by it nonetheless.

Con­cerned res­i­dents and activists gath­ered around the facil­i­ty at noon to show sol­i­dar­i­ty with the detainees. The NWDC Resis­tance’s announce­ment states: “We know from past hunger strikes that ICE and GEO are quick to retal­i­ate, and we want the hunger strik­ers to know that they are not alone.”

NPI is strong­ly opposed to pri­vate pris­ons and sup­ports efforts to trans­fer detainees and inmates to cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties that are pub­licly owned and operated.

For those look­ing to join in sol­i­dar­i­ty with the strik­ers, the NWDC Resis­tance Face­book page offers news on the strike and sup­port opportunities.

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