Against racist sheriff Arpaio
Arizona detainees on hunger strike
Published May 28, 2009 9:38 PM
Prisoners began a hunger strike May 2 to protest the degrading and inhumane
conditions they endure in the jails run by the notoriously racist Maricopa
County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The crimes of Arpaio are well documented: housing
inmates in sweltering tent-cities, parading them through the streets of Phoenix
like slaves on their way to the auction block, serving spoiled food referred to
as “slop” by the inmates, and denying adequate medical treatment.
Arpaio has continued to try to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria in any way
The hunger strike was initiated by women detainees at the Estrella Jail
immediately following a march and rally of 3,000 people protesting Arpaio. The
hunger strike spread to the Durango and Downtown jails, with between 1,800 and
2,000 inmates refusing meals. Arpaio retaliated against the hunger strikers by
placing the jails on full lockdown, denying the inmates their visitation
rights, telephone calls and access to television. Despite this, the hunger
On May 20 the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit against Arpaio
last July over inhumane conditions at the jails, condemned the lockdown,
stating that the hunger strike is a form of constitutionally protected free
speech. An ACLU statement recounted the court injunction won against Arpaio
last October for “failure to provide adequate nutritional food” to
detainees. On May 22 Arpaio lifted the lockdown order.
Close to 70 percent of the prisoners in Maricopa County jails are pre-trial
detainees; they have not been convicted of any crime. Arpaio fills his jails
through racial profiling and conducting heavily armed sweeps of Latina/o
neighborhoods. He has created his own private militia known as “the
Women inmates are often victims of the worst intimidation and brutality by jail
guards. Sylvia Herrera of Puente AZ, a Phoenix-area community group involved in
organizing the May 2 protest against Arpaio, recounted two recent cases of
physical abuse against women in Arpaio’s jails.
Jail guards broke one woman’s arm attempting to force her to sign a
“voluntary” deportation document. In another case a pregnant woman
was immediately separated from her newborn child after a Cesarean birth and
returned to the jail without receiving proper post-Cesarean medical treatment.
Herrera says these incidents are known only because the women eventually had to
be transported from the jail to a hospital.
Community events are planned in Phoenix-area neighborhoods to show solidarity
with those inside Arpaio’s jails. Activists will let it be known that
racism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and torture and mistreatment of detainees will
not be allowed.
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