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/.

Hunger Strike at Texas Detention Center Swells Into the Hundreds

This comes from the RH Reality Check Reporter

by Kanya D’Almeida, Race and Justice Reporter, RH Reality Check

November 2, 2015

The number of hunger strikers at a Texas immigrant detention facility has swelled to almost 500 since last Wednesday, an Austin-based advocacy group revealed in a phone call with RH Reality Check.

When news of the protest action broke on October 28, about 27 women at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, 35 miles east of Austin, were reportedly refusing their meals.

While grievances ranged from abusive treatment by guards to a lack of medical care, the women, hailing primarily from Central America, were unanimous in their one demand: immediate release.

The strike snowballed over the weekend, according to Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).

Cristina Parker, immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership, told RH Reality Check that one striker who contacted the organization Sunday night to brief them on the situation used the Spanish expression “casi todo,” suggesting that nearly all of the roughly 500 detainees are now observing the strike.

She said that officials at Hutto, a women’s-only for-profit facility run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have since Wednesday been retaliating against the strikers, and this weekend isolated one woman who has played a leading role in the action by placing her in solitary confinement.

In a phone call with RH Reality Check, a press officer for the facility said, “There is no hunger strike going on … There was never anybody not eating, that is false information.” A statement from ICE reiterated: “ICE takes the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care very seriously and we continue to monitor the situation. Currently, no one at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center was identified as being on a hunger strike or refusing to eat.”

Scans of handwritten letters by the first wave of strikers were posted to the organization’s website last week, together with a petition to “Support the #Hutto27.”

These letters reveal that a vast majority of the women are asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala fleeing situations of severe violence in their home countries. Other detainees hail from Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, and even Europe.

One woman wrote, “It gives me great pleasure to participate in this hunger strike … I’m dying of desperation from this injustice, from this cruelty.”

Parker said part of the impetus for the action came from those calling themselves “mujeres de segunda” or “women of second entry,” who are entering the United States as asylum seekers for a second time and who claim they have been unfairly denied bond.

Other detainees are first-time or recent arrivals, while some have been detained for nearly two years. A primary concern among many has been the fate of their children—specifically young daughters—both in the United States and back in their home countries.

In a letter dated October 24, Elda, a Guatemalan detainee, wrote: “I have two young daughters. They are depressed and very sad that I am not with them.” She is extremely afraid of what deportation would mean for her and her family, while several others fear that deportation would mean their “assured death” upon return.

Parker added that since nearly all the women in the center are hunger-striking, any deportation should be seen as retaliation, and an attempt to “disappear evidence.”

“We want to see deportations halted until the women’s demands are met,” she said.

While day-to-day management of Hutto has typically been in the hands of CCA employees, ICE officials have been on the scene since Wednesday, questioning women and demanding that they resume their meals, Parker said.

On the same day the women launched their hunger strike, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released amajor report warning of a “looming refugee crisis” in the Americas, fueled largely by thousands of women fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA): Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

UNHCR officials attributed the exodus to a proliferation of organized criminal armed groups, many with transnational reach, which has resulted in an increase in gender-based violence and homicide.

According to data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, female homicide rates in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rank first, third, and seventh, respectively, on a global index.

The 160 women interviewed for the report, which included detainees at Hutto, described personally surviving rape, extortion, and death threats, or witnessing or being threatened with the disappearance of their children and other family members. Many said local authorities were either unable or unwilling to ensure their safety.

 

Read the rest here.

Letter from Women in CCWF concerning forced transfers to McFarland and overcrowding

This letter was received a few months ago by someone who forwarded it to CA PW among others, and apparently nothing has been done yet.

To Whom It May Concern:

I a writing you on behalf of the women in Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
I want to make everone aware of the transfers being forced on many to McFarland California.
I ave just spoken to a returney from McFarland and I want to inform you of what is happening there:

1. The Plumbing Is backing up and clogged.

2. There are no programing or programs of any kind nor will there be according to the staff when asked about them.

3. The Living Quarters are filthy and infested. They are putting all levels of inmates into a dorm setting together. All Custody Levels.

4. CCCMS Inmates were transfered without Meds.or Mental Health Care.

Another problem taking place here at CCWF is we are already really overcrowded in our cells with 8 or more women: The Populaton is soaring here, they are taking the overflow from receiving over 700 women and are placing them in with us. They are all going into general population as if no evaluations have taken place.

Medical has taken ALL our Meds away from us, stating to us that they are too costly and we will not be getting them any more.

I do not know whom to write to get us help?

I do not know if the woman I am sending this to will be giving her name? That will be her decision, but we are going through her hoping she can get us heard.

PLEASE RESPOND to us. We have been asking for help for a very long time.
Signed: (name withheld for now by CAPrisonWatch for anonymity reasons, out of fear for repercussions).

See also the March that the California Coalition for Women Prisoners did in August.


Amy Buckley in Mississippi prison: I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve

From: SF Bay View, September 26, 2014

by Amy Buckley

On July 18, 2014, I was told to pack and was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Miss. Since I was not informed as to why I was being transferred, I have surmised that it was for medical purposes because I had abnormal results on some recent lab work.

I originally left this compound on Sept. 24, 2010, with the hope of never seeing it again, but here I sit. I wish I could say that things here have improved. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

CMCF is the processing center for all men and women coming into the prison system. This facility also houses just over 2,300 men long-term and less than 1,000 women who are compound-restricted due to medical conditions such as AIDS, pregnancy and heart problems and those with life sentences. Sadly, this is one of the worst – it is the worst for women – facilities in the state.

Conditions here are deplorable. There are 116 women per open zone (dorm) and no air conditioning. Lice, boils, staph infections, scabies and AIDS are rampant. The food is barely edible. Medical care is insufficient to non-existent. Mold grows on the shower walls and no matter how many times you scrub it off it grows right back. These are simply a few of the problems here.

Since arriving here on Friday, I have yet to be seen by a case manager and have not been issued any clothes. For five days now I have been wearing the same jumpsuit I was made to put on for being transported.

I approached Lt. Bates several times attempting to ask about getting clothes, only to be swatted away like I was a pesky fly. I also approached the case manager, Ms. Gattis, who said she would see me later but failed to do so. I have also written both of the above and received no response.

Without seeing the case manager, I cannot use the phones to contact my family because I have to fill out a phone list and get a PIN number to do so. Ms. Gattis would also be able to address any issues and concerns that I have at this time. To add to this incompetence, I have yet to see a doctor to find out what, if anything, needs to be done concerning my medical needs.

Being back here saddens me because I see the condition of some of these women. Many walk around like zombies, drugged out of their minds and seemingly unaware of their surroundings.

It is easier for a person to see the prison psychiatrist and get any psych drug available, even if they do not need it, than it is to see a nurse or medical doctor when one is truly ill. Many are denied medical care until hospitalization is the only option left and others die waiting to see a doctor.

I know how easy it is to get stuck on this compound, lost in this broken system, forced to work in inhumane conditions without pay or be written up for refusing to work until you land in Max. Despite being prisoners of the state of Mississippi, we have the right to receive prompt medical treatment, clean clothes to wear, a clean and safe living environment and access to our families, i.e., phone calls and visits.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections may not care about my health, but my health is important to me and my family. When I came into this system I was healthy and I plan to leave healthy! I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve. The beast will not win!

I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve.

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, CMCF-2A B-Zone 162, P.O. Box 88550, Pearl, MS 39288. Transcribed by Adrian McKinney from handwritten letter.

Amy has cervical cancer – write the Parole Board to release her

Amy Buckley is known across the country as a wise and courageous advocate for women prisoners. This is the Bay View’s most recent letter from Amy, postmarked July 30. Activist Twitch Entropy reports hearing from Amy that as of Sept. 6, despite an apparent diagnosis of cervical cancer, she still hasn’t seen a doctor, though she’d been in severe pain for a week. She hopes the cancer will be arrested with a hysterectomy.

Back home, her father is suffering from advanced mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer, and her son needs her. So her aunt is gathering parole support letters.

Your letter should be addressed to State of Mississippi Parole Board, Attn: Steve Pickett and Parole Board Members, 660 North St., Suite 100A, Jackson, MS 39202. Don’t mail it direct to the board but rather to Amy’s aunt: Trish Gray-Lee, 862 Jolly Road, Columbus, MS 39705. Amy deserves a special dispensation for her own and her father’s medical crises, justifying a supervised medical release, Twitch suggests.

Please Sign these letters for healthcare for people in prison in California!

Being in physical distress locked in a cell turns into a truly terrifying experience when you can hear the cops banter with each other about you being a “crybaby”…and they’ll get to it when they have finished cutting it up with each other. It’s especially terrifying when you are experiencing symptoms you don’t understand & you have witnessed others calling for help only to learn that person didn’t survive.
-Sonja Marcus, formerly incarcerated woman, survived 18 years in prison


On July 30, 2014 a woman committed suicide in the Solitary Housing Unit (SHU) of the California Institution for Women (CIW), in Corona. According to information gathered by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), there have been seven preventable deaths at CIW so far in 2014 and three attempted suicides since July alone. None of these deaths have been made public by CIW or CDCR although they signify a state of crisis in the prison.

Prison officials have failed to inform bereaved family members of these deaths in a timely and respectful manner. Margie Kobashigawa, the mother of 30-year-old Alicia Thompson, who died of an alleged suicide on February 24, 2014 in the SHU, was ignored by prison staff. 

“Nobody from the prison would call me back, nobody would talk to me. I was planning to pick up my daughter’s body and suddenly CIW was trying to cremate her again, and quickly. To me it’s like they’re trying to hide everything,” said Margie. As she prepared her daughter for burial, she found no signs of hanging trauma to her body and has reason to believe her daughter died from some other type of violent force.

On March 13, 2014 Shadae Schmidt, a 32-year-old African American woman, died in the CIW SHU. Shadae had a stroke in February 2014 and was prematurely returned to the SHU. She was given medication that made her sick but her requests for a change in prescription fell on deaf ears; and then she died.

CCWP received information regarding these two deaths from friends and family members, but other deaths, suicides and attempted suicides remain shrouded in mystery. 

The majority of people in the SHU have some type of mental health problem, which is exacerbated by solitary confinement. CCWP continues to hear reports that there is no medical staff to monitor people’s vital signs and mental states when physical and mental health crises occur. People scream for help and get no response at all. 

Since the closure of Valley State Women’s Prison in January 2013, overcrowding at CIW has skyrocketed. Medical care has significantly deteriorated and there has been a dramatic increase in the population of the SHU and other disciplinary segregation units. 

Overcrowding has aggravated mental health issues causing an increase in the number of mentally disabled people in the SHU even though this is the worst place to put them.

In August 2014, in response to a court order, the CDCR released revised policies to reduce the number of people with mental health diagnoses in isolation. Policy changes are only useful if they are implemented. It is crucial for the CDCR to transfer all people with mental health issues out of the CIW SHU as soon as possible in accordance with the court order. 

Despite decades of lawsuits to remedy prison health care and court orders to reduce prison overcrowding, the inhuman conditions inside CA women’s prisons continue and have led to these tragic, violent and untimely deaths. In order to reverse the crisis at CIW, CCWP calls for the following immediate actions:
  • Immediate transfer of all prisoners with mental health issues from the SHU and implementation of care programs.
  • Increased healthcare staffing and care for people in the SHU.
  • An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding all deaths at CIW in 2014.
  • Reduction of overcrowding through the implementation of existing release programs rather than transfers to other equally problematic prisons and jails.
PLEASE CALL, EMAIL, WRITE or FAX these people with the demands above:
Sara Malone, Chief Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman
1515 S. Street, Room 124 S.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Tel: (916) 327-8467  Fax: (916) 324-8263
sara.malone@cdcr.ca.gov
Kimberly Hughes, Warden CIW
Tel: (909) 597-1771
Kimberly.hughes@cdcr.ca.gov
Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson
District 19, Senate Budget Committee
Vice-Chair of Women’s Caucus
(916) 651-4019
senator.jackson@sen.ca.gov
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
District 15, Women’s Caucus
(916) 319-2015
Assemblymember.Skinner@outreach.assembly.ca.gov
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
District 17
(916) 319-2017
Assemblymember.Ammiano@outreach.assembly.ca.gov
Senator Mark Leno
Senator.leno@senator.ca.gov
Senator Loni Hancock
Senator.hancock@senate.ca.gov
Senator Holly Mitchell
District 26, Women’s Caucus
Public Safety Committee (916) 651-4015
Senator Jim Beall
District 15, Senate Budget Committee
senator.beall@senator.ca.gov
(916) 651-4026
Jay Virbel, Associate Director of Female Offender Programs & Services
jay.virbel@cdcr.ca.gov
(916) 322-1627
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 95811
Jeffrey Beard, CDCR Secretary
Jeff.Beard@cdcr.ca.gov
(916) 323-6001
PO Box 942883

Sacramento, CA 95811

Also from CURB
Please sign here to sign CURB’s letter for decent healthcare at CSP-Corcoran!

Please Sign and Share for Avis and Charmaine!

Please sign and share these important Petitions: 

Avis Lee

For Avis Lee: in prison in Pennsylvania since 1980, to get her parole.

For Charmaine Pfender: in prison in Pennsylvania since 29 years, to get her released.

Read more about their cases and the Women in Prison Defense Committee Let’s Get Free here.

Donna Hill and Charmaine Pfender (Mother and Daughter)

Thank you!

Stop the McFarland GEO Women’s Prison!

From the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Aug 8th, 2014

Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW

 STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!

 We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and  the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014.

We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!

 Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons!  As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.

CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.

GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!

GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.

GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities.  In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”

  • In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center.  Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
  • In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.

 GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.

  • In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
  • GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland.  Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.  .

It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene!  Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.

Thank you for listening to this urgent request,

Natalie DeMola, CCWF

Jane Dorotik, CIW

Fonda Gayden, CCWF

Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF

Valerie Juarez, CCWF

Terah Lawyer, CCWF

ChiChi Locci, CCWF

Maydee Morris, CCWF

Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF

Patrice Wallace, CCWF