NWDC: Despite Threats and Retaliation, Hunger Strikers Continue Protest ICE Ignores Demands for Improved Conditions

NWDC: RELEASE May 4, 2017
Despite Threats and Retaliation, Hunger Strikers Continue Protest
ICE Ignores Demands for Improved Conditions

Tacoma, WA/The Dalles, OR – Immigrants held at ICE facilities in two states – the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), run by GEO Group, and NORCOR, a rural public jail – continued their hunger strike today, despite growing weakness from lack of food. The exponential growth of immigration detention has led ICE to contract the function of detaining immigrants out to both private prison companies and to county governments, with both treating immigrants as a source of profit.

ICE has been using NORCOR as ‘overflow’ detention space for immigrants held at NWDC, and is regularly transferring people back and forth from the NWDC to NORCOR. People held at NORCOR have limited access to lawyers and to the legal documents they need to fight and win their deportation cases. They are often transferred back to NWDC only for their hearings, then shipped back to NORCOR, where they face terrible conditions. Jessica Campbell of the Rural Organizing Project affirmed, “No one deserves to endure the conditions at NORCOR – neither the immigrants ICE is paying to house there, nor the people of Oregon who end up there as part of criminal processes. It’s unsafe for everyone.”

The strike began on April 10th, when 750 people at the NWDC began refusing meals. The protest spread to NORCOR this past weekend. Maru Mora Villalpando of NWDC Resistance confirmed, “It’s very clear from our contact with people inside the facilities and with family members of those detained that the hunger strike continues in both Oregon and Washington State.” She continued, “The question for us is, how will ICE assure that the abuses that these whistle-blowing hunger strikers have brought to light are addressed?”

From the beginning of the protest, instead of using the strike as an opportunity to look into the serious concerns raised by the hunger strikers, ICE and GEO have both denied the strike is occurring and retaliated against strikers. Hunger strikers have been transferred to NORCOR in retaliation for their participation. One person who refused transfer to NORCOR was put in solitary confinement.

Just this week, hunger striking women have been threatened with forced feeding – a practice that is recognized under international law to be torture. In an attempt to break their spirit, hunger strikers have been told the strike has been ineffective and that the public is ignoring it.

Hunger striker demands terrible conditions inside detention center be addressed- including the poor quality of the food, the $1 a day pay, and the lack of medical care. They also call for more expedited court proceedings and the end of transfers between detention facilities. Hunger strikers consistently communicate, “We are doing this for our families.” Despite their incredibly oppressive conditions, locked away and facing deportation in an immigration prison in the middle of an industrial zone and in a rural county jail, hunger strikers have acted collectively and brought national attention to the terrible conditions they face and to the ongoing crisis of deportations, conditions the U.S. government must address.

For live updates, visit https://www.facebook.com/NWDCResistance/.


Hungerstrikes in NWDC and Boycott of Keefe Prison Commissary

April 28, 2017

Over Fifty Detainees Continue On Hunger Strike as Public Pressure Grows Against NWDC | Up to 100 Detainees Boycott Keefe Commissary Services

Tacoma, WA – Immigrants incarcerated at the Northwest Detention Center continued their protest of poor conditions inside the Tacoma immigration prison through a third week. NWDC Resistance confirmed that at least 50 detainees are refusing to eat, and as many as 100 are extending their protest to boycotting the commissary.

As community concerns grew, GEO Group Vice President wrote an April 15th op-ed claiming that “banning a private immigration detention facility… could hurt the very residents in the care of immigration authorities.” Those on hunger strike directly contradicted GEO’s claims that the private-prison company offers “humane” services, stating, “If this is called humane treatment, well I am sorry because I call this inhumane treatment and protecting their own economic interests.” On Tuesday, April 25th, Tacoma City Council held a public hearing to discuss halting plans for the facility’s expansion. In the packed hearing, NWDC Resistance presented a petition with over 600 signatures calling on Tacoma City Council to act against deplorable health conditions at the NWDC.

Hunger strikers demand minimal living standards:
1) lower prices in commissary
2) have contact visits [rather than talking on a phone through a clear plastic wall]
3) pay more than $1 to workers [per day]
4) better food

Commissary prices rose dramatically just before the hunger strikes began, decreasing detainees’ access to food, clothes, and toiletries. As a result, almost 100 people are currently boycotting Keefe Commissary Network, the only story they can purchase from while in detention. Keefe Commissary Network is a private corporation that has sparked other lawsuits, notably one that revealed how much more people had to pay for basic goods in privately run facilities (as opposed to state-run facilities).

To learn more about the case, check out “How one inmate discovered his private prison was ripping him off — and took his warden to court” at http://fusion.net/how-one-inmate-discovered-his-private-prison-was-rippin-1793861999

For live updates on activism at the NWDC, visit: 

NWDC Resistance is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA as part of the #Not1More campaign, and supported people detained who organized hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions.

Private prisons are shameful and Prison profiteers should not be community leaders!

From: National Prison Disvestment Campaign
By: Jesse Fruhwirth
December 6th, 2012

The Utah Democratic Party is on the verge of choosing a private-prison profiteer to be a party officer. Management and Training Corporation vice chair Jane Marquardt is the hands-down favorite to win the race for party vice chair (yep, same job title), which will be held Saturday. 

We want your help in the next two days to persuade the party that private prisons are shameful and prison profiteers should not be community leaders!

While there are many reasons including mass incarceration to oppose for-profit prisons as an entire industry and on principle alone, there are some particularly problematic factors about MTC.

  • What torture? Lane McCotter, former director of Utah Department of Corrections in the 1990s, resigned after it was proven that a 29-year old schizophrenic inmate died after being strapped naked to a restraint chair for 16 hours. Rather than having to find a job in a completely new industry after being disgraced by his professional peers, McCotter was then hired by MTC as their business development director. In 2003, shortly after abuses were found to be rampant in a New Mexico prison under MTC and McCotter’s supervision, he was asked by the US Department of Justice to reestablish Iraq’s prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib. According to UK’s Guardian, “McCotter left Iraq to resume his executive job at MTC in September 2003, a month before the worst documented atrocities against Iraqi prisoners occurred.” Terry Stewart, another MTC profiteer, is the former Arizona department of corrections chief and helped McCotter with Iraq’s prisons.
  • Donations to racist policies: MTC has also favored racist immigration policies and politicians. MTC’s political action committee gave money to former Arizona Rep. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 in the months leading up to his sponsorship of that law–Jane Marquardt herself donated to the PAC just months before that PAC donated to Pearce. SB 1070 was written by CCA and GeoGroup, the number 1 and number 2 private prison corporations, allegedly in conjunction with state lawmakers. SB 1070 is one of the most palpable examples of how private-prison industry frequently aligns and its money is used to hire lobbyists to demand more prisoners and bribe/donate to politicians to stoke racist fears in the public for more immigration detentions.
  • Low Standards and Cheap Profits: A 2010 jail-break at an MTC prison lead to two people’s deaths. The Arizona Department of Corrections review of the tragedy reports that MTC prison staff didn’t know how to work the alarm, “staff are not proficient with weapons,” and perhaps most concerning, “it appears that very little action was taken to prepare the physical plant and the staff for the transition (from Minimum security custody) to Medium (Security) Custody in April 2010.” You know, because properly housing dangerous people is really expensive and there are profits to be found in keeping expenses low.

It’s time that people wake up that Jane Marquardt and prison profiteers can NOT buy our respect and should not be allowed to buy political influence.  Indeed, Utah Democrats this week need to hear that prison profiteers should be ostracized from polite society–disinvite her from your holiday parties, Democrats, and certainly don’t elect her to be among party leadership.

You can help: Contact newly elected Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.  He is highly influential and popular and has endorsed Jane Marquardt, even appearing in a campaign video for her.  Tell Mayor McAdams that prison profiteers are not community leaders–they are parasites that suck the life from our families and our communities.  We’ve got two days to change his mind!

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams 801-618-1946

Also, call MTC, ask for Scott Marquardt–that’s Jane’s brother and boss–he’s the chair of MTC. Tell him that no one from a private prison company should be running for leadership of a community organization.  Tell him we want Divestment from Private Prisons–not prison profiteers in positions of political power.

Management and Training Corporation 801-693-2600

Also, you can litter her campaign Facebook page with messages. Let her supporters know what you think of private prison profits!