ICE detainees are on hunger strike at the NWDC in Tacoma. While the strike is ongoing we will post updates that are submitted to us or that we find on social media on this page. If there’s info or updates you want to see here please submit it to us here.
9-19-18 From NWDCR
Northwest Detention Center detainees Viacheslav Poliakov and Raquel Martinez Diaz asked U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle last week for an order to prohibit them being force fed. They also sought to keep hunger strikers from being threatened with segregation or being put in solitary confinement for their protests.
Seattle canceled a hearing in the case Tuesday, and plans to issue a written decision, according to court records.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement argues it hasn’t requested force-feeding orders for either detainee, but that it shouldn’t be prevented from doing so.
9-17-18 From NWDCR
Today marks the beginning of WEEK 5 of #hungerstrike at #NWDC and day 27 of no food for one hunger striker. Last friday we filed a temporary restraining order against ICE to protect hunger strikers from force feeding.
9-11-18 From NWDCR
It’s week 4 of the #NWDChungerstrike in #Tacoma
The nationwide #prisonstrike is far from over!
Retaliation continues. At least two people continue on hunger strike and six in solitary confinement. Please make the calls and share!
#chingalamigra, #enddetention, #enddeportation, #abolishICE
9-8-18 From NWDCR
The chickenpox outbreak is now official at #NWDC #Tacoma
While a #hungerstrike continues
9-7-18 From Crosscut
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington sent a warning letter on Thursday to authorities after officers at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma allegedly threatened to get a court order to force-feed detainees on a hunger strike.
“Detainees in ICE custody have the right to engage in protected First Amendment speech, including participation in hunger strikes,” reads the letter. “Detainees also have the right to make informed decisions about their own health care when engaging in hunger strikes.”
ACLU lawyer Enoka Herat sent the letter to the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) warden and the U.S. Attorney of the Western District Annette L. Hayes. The letter reminds both that a court order should only be pursued after a medical authority “has determined that the detainee’s life or health is at risk.”
Seven NWDC detainees are currently on a hunger strike, according to Maru Mora Villalpando of the volunteer community group NWDC Resistance and Latino Advocacy, a nonprofit organization based in Bellingham.
Several of the detainees have been on the hunger strike for approximately two weeks, allegedly prompting detention officials to threaten detainees with force-feeding, Villalpando said.
This is the third hunger strike in 2018 alone. Since 2014 there have been nearly 15 hunger strikes at NWDC, according to the group NWDC Resistance.
Crosscut could not immediately reach GEO Group, the private company that operates the detention center, for comment. But the company has previously denied retaliating against inmates, saying it “has a longstanding record providing high quality, culturally responsive services in a safe, secure, and humane environment that meets the needs of the residents in the custody and care of federal immigration authorities.”
In a statement, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said it “takes the health, safety and welfare of those in our care very seriously and respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.”
“ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE also explains the negative health effects of not eating to its detainees. Additionally, for their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.”
The office of Hayes, the U.S. Attorney, confirmed she had received the letter but would not comment further.
The detainees are on strike as part of the 2018 national prison strike, which began on August 21 and ends on Sunday, September 9. The national strike aims to call attention to poor prison conditions and what some view as exploitative labor practices in U.S. correctional facilities.
Last year, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued GEO Group for violating the state’s minimum wage law. The company is said to pay detainees $1 per day or, in some instances, with snacks and extra food.
Villalpando said detainees at the NWDC are also concerned about the behavior of a new warden at the facility. According to detainees, the warden insists they stand whenever he enters a room or an area where the prisoners reside.
Villalpando said one detainee told her that the warden “thinks he is running a boot camp or we are in the military” and that some inmates are not able to get up from their bed due to illnesses.
Officials have allegedly threatened detainees with force-feeding before, though it is uncommon for a judge to grant the required order to make such an action legal.
Emily Chiang, legal director of the ACLU-WA, said one of the last times such an order was granted was in the 2004 case of inmate Charles Robert McNabb. McNabb tried to starve himself out of remorse for a 2003 fire he started in Spokane. That fire seriously burned his stepdaughter. While he awaited trial, McNabb lost “at least half of his 190 pounds,” according to news reports.
McNabb later sued the Washington State Department Office of Corrections over its force-feeding policy but lost in the end.
On Saturday, demonstrators are planning to hold a rally at the NWDC in support of those on the hunger strike and to demand a stop to the alleged retaliation.
9-7-18 From Earther
On August 21, people incarcerated in states across the U.S. stopped working, went on hunger strikes, and started boycotting prison stores as part of a nationwide strike that, organizers say, has now spread to at least 14 states. The prison strike, which is set to officially end on September 9, is an effort to highlight ten demands drafted by incarcerated people, including an appeal for immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons.
It’s a demand that encompasses the environment. “That is definitely one of the concerns of strikers,” Amani Sawari, a media representative for the protests, told Earther. “[P]risons are often located next to places that are waste sites or dump sites. They’re not in pleasant areas where the air is the cleanest or the water is the greatest.”
Nationwide, prisons have faced questions about polluted water, health complications, and other environmental problems. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump set aside $510 million to build a new federal prison on top of an abandoned coal mine in Kentucky. It’s the most ever spent to construct a federal prison in U.S. history.
And facilities currently on strike? Immigrant rights advocates point to possible pollution at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, which houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees and is operated by the private company GEO Group. The facility was built next to a former coal waste dump known as the Tacoma Tar Pits, even after an environmental impact assessment found “hazardous waste contamination that exceed established regulatory levels for soil and groundwater.”
Now, people detained at NWDC complain about odd odors and colors of the center’s water, and report nausea, dizziness, breathing problems, and rashes that might stem from water pollution there, according to Megan Ybarra, a geography professor at the University of Washington and an activist with NWDC Resistance, an immigrant rights group that supports people detained in Tacoma.
“As is often the case with environmental health concerns, these cannot be directly attributed to site conditions,” said Ybarra. “Our primary concern is that no attempt is made to either treat or investigate the cause of these environmental health concerns.”
In August, dozens of detainees at the NWDC started a hunger strike, calling for “change and closure” of immigrant detention centers and an end to separation of immigrant families. Seven detainees have continued to refuse food into the third week according to Ybarra, who says that ICE and GEO Group are cracking down on hunger strikers by threatening to force feed them and send them to solitary confinement.
In an email to Earther, ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell said that three detainees are currently refusing food, but that “rumors of a widespread hunger strike are false,” adding that “ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers.” However, a document she provided outlining the agency’s standards on hunger strikes says that physicians may “may recommend involuntary treatment,” including force feeding, if necessary.
At the McConnell Unit, a state prison in Beeville, Texas, several imprisoned people refused to show up for work, according to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, one of the groups coordinating strike efforts. That prison previously made headlines when a 36-year-old man incarcerated there died in a heat-related asthma attack.
“I would say pretty confidently that a majority, if not a vast majority, of southern state prisons have some level of extreme heat,” Panagioti Tsolkas, co-founder of the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, told Earther. In Texas, nearly 75 percent of the state’s prisons and jails lack air conditioning in the prisoners’ living areas.
Global temperatures have spiked at the same time as the U.S. prison population has exploded, and climate change is expected to worsen the prison heat situation over the next few decades. Data released Thursday by the National Centers for Environmental Information found that 2018 summer nights were the hottest on record for the U.S.
In Florida, another state where most correctional facilities do not have air conditioning, strike organizers claim that people at five prisons have stopped work or boycotted prison stores. Two of those prisons, Dade Correctional Institution and Holmes Correctional Institution, are located in areas at increased risk of flooding.
Prison officials in most states have denied that strikes are taking place at all. It’s hard for reporters to independently verify reports of strikes from inside prisons, because officials don’t let journalists freely enter facilities or talk to incarcerated people.
That’s one reason it’s not clear which specific concerns have prompted protests at each location. While environmental concerns are longstanding at many U.S. prisons, the call for immediate improvements to conditions is just one of the national strike’s ten demands.
Still, supporters see the strike as an important step in elevating the issues facing incarcerated people. “It’s about amplifying what these demands are,” Randolph Carr, an organizer with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance told Earther, “because there is no consciousness around prisoners outside of those directly affected.” The most immediate effect of the strike, he said, has been to raise more awareness.
“I think that’s a prerequisite for any kind of substantive change to happen.”
What kind of change? “We’ll fight to clean prisons up and get prisoners better water in the short term, but in the longer term it’s really part of a broader shift,” Tsolkas said. “The idea that prisoners belong in warehouses, in these massive industrial facilities — that’s got to change entirely… That’s all part of the environmental struggle.”
Andrew Urevig is a journalist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
9-4-2018 From NWDC Resistance
It’s week three of the #nationalprisonstrike and week two for #hungerstrikers at the #NWDC. We’ve just learned that ICE is ready to start force feeding hunger strikers that have been striking for two or more weeks. Please share our updated call to action and call ICE and GEO.
16 people are being taken to an “administrative hearing” today for joining a hunger strike last week. #Geo calls it a “disturbance” so they can excuse keeping people in segregation for as long as they want.
Make those calls! #PrisonStrike #StopRetaliation #FreeAllHungerStrikers #AbolishPrisons #AbolishICE
9-3-2018 From NWDC Resistance
Estuve 11 meses en federal prisión en Seattle por haber regresado a este país para estar con mi familia. Y me dio la sentencia mas alta porque esta toda mi familia aquí. Ahora estoy en la detención de migración esperando a una deportación, pero tratando de luchar para quedarme. Quiero hacer las cosas correctamente. Y me estoy informando de muchos beneficios que las veces pasadas no me habían informando. Yo si quiero ser parte de la protesta porque quiero que nos escuchen. Si estamos queriendo quedarnos en este país, es por nuestros hijos. Si yo no tuviera hijos no estuviera luchando o regresando cuando me deportan. Pero lo estoy haciendo por ellos.
Que me den mas oportunidades para expresarnos y una oportunidad para darles a nuestros hijos un futuro. Si les quitan las madres de nuestros hijos, su vida de ellos seria mucho mas difícil.
Tengo 4 hijos y un nieto. Yo se que cometí un mal, pero he cambiado. Yo no soy la misma persona. No puedo ir a mi país porque a mi papa lo mato la guerrilla, y tengo miedo de regresar. Tengo mucho miedo regresar a mi país. Tengo 27 anos viviendo aquí, y no conozco nada de mi país. Tengo mucho temor.
No miran el daño que están causando. Que estoy aquí, mis hijos, que nunca antes habían tenido problemas, mi hija esta robando y usando marihuana. Mi hijo lo golpearon 6 adolecentes. Mi otra hija tiene tanto estrés que ha subido de peso. No están mirando el daño que hacen sacar la madre de ellos. Tengo que luchar por mis hijos, que tengan mejor oportunidad, mejor vida, que yo tuve. Yo quiero que mis hijos tengan una carrera, un futuro, la vida que yo no tuve. Que no hagan los mismos errores que yo cometí.
I spent almost a year in federal prison in Seattle for having returned to this country to be with my family. And I received the highest sentence because my whole family is here. Now I am in immigration detention waiting for a deportation, but trying to fight to stay. I want to do things correctly. And I’m informing myself of many relieves that the past times I was not told about. I want to be part of the protest because I want to be heard. If we want to stay in this country, it’s for my children. If I did not have children, I wouldn’t be fighting or coming back when they deport me. But I’m doing it for them.
I ask that they give me more opportunities to express ourselves and an opportunity to give our children a future. If the mothers of our children are taken away, their life would be much more difficult.
I have 4 children and a grandchild. I know I did something wrong, but I’ve changed. I’m not the same person. I cannot go to my country because the guerrilla killed my father, and I’m afraid to return. I’m very afraid to return to my country. I’ve been living here for 27 years, and I don’t know anything about my country. I have a lot of fear.
They don’t look at the damage they are causing. I’m here, my children, who have never had problems before, my daughter is stealing and using marijuana. 6 teenagers hit my son. My other daughter has so much stress that she has gained weight. They are not looking at the harm that dies to them taking their mother away. I have to fight for my children, to have a better opportunity, a better life, than I had. I want my children to have a career, a future, the life that I did not have. That they don’t make the same mistakes that I made.
8-27-2018 From IWOC
Though this phone zap is for the 27th people are encouraged to call in as long as the strike continues.
Support ICE Detainees Striking in Tacoma! Call on August 27th
On August 21, over 200 people detained at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington began a hunger strike and work stoppage. The strike is confirmed by at least three pods inside the facility. This is the third hunger strike undertaken by detainees in 2018 alone. Northwest Detention Center is operated on behalf of ICE by GEO Group, a for-profit prison company. NWDC is one of the largest immigration prisons in the United States.
Detainees report lack of medical attention and adequate food, are coerced to work to maintain the facility for $1/day, and are denied contact with their families. ICE and GEO have attempted to suppress previous protests through threats, physical violence, solitary confinement and outright lies: in July of this year, GEO guards falsely announced a fire in one unit, luring protesters into intake in order to interrogate them.
Your support is needed for hunger strikers inside NWDC! The strikers and their outside support group, NWDC Resistance, invite us to push ICE to meet the demands of the strikers and that GEO not retaliate against individuals on strike. Please share widely with your networks!
* * * * PHONE ZAP DETAILS * * * *
Make your calls on
MONDAY, August 27
9:00am -5:00pm PST
Call ICE and tell them to:
1. Meet the hunger strikers’ demands
2. Not retaliate against hunger strikers
– Minimum wage for work inside NWDC
– Contact visits with children & family
– Adequate food & health care
1. Acting Field Director, Bryan S. Wilcox, (206) 835-0650 Ext. 2
2. Assistant Field Director (Detention), William Penaloza, (253) 779-6000 Dial Ext 1, wait for message, then dial 4
“Hello, I would like to speak with [Field Director Bryan Wilcox / Assistant Field Director William Penaloza] about the demands issued by NWDC detainees.
Have you agreed to meet with detainees regarding their demands for minimum wage, family visits, and health care?
Detainees have reported that guards are not giving them full portions of food and are not providing them with medical attention. People who are simply awaiting a court date are not allowed any contact with their families. We know that guards are allowing fights to break out in these inhumane conditions.
The people on strike are demanding minimum wage for their labor inside Northwest Detention Center. They are demanding contact visits with their families.
I am calling to request that you immediately meet the demands of the hunger strikers. I also demand that GEO not retaliate against hunger strikers by attempting to break the strike. You are responsible for the safety of people in your custody, and meeting their demands is the only way to improve their conditions.
Will you agree to meet the demands of detainees?”
* * * * * * * *
As always, please report back with any responses you receive or other pertinent info. @IWW_IWOC on twitter or in the comment box below.
NOTE: ICE is currently denying the existence of a hunger strike and will claim that detainees consume food from commissary. This is false. Because detainees are paid $1/day, they must save to purchase commissary items in advance. This does not mean that they are consuming them.