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

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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