Migrants wage 7th hunger strike at Tacoma detention center

Tacoma, Washington

Detainees at the North West Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma are waging their seventh hunger strike against intolerable conditions this year. The migrant workers are imprisoned at a facility owned by the huge Geo corporation, which operates prisons for profit.

Outside the Northwest Detention Center, Tacoma, Washington, Dec. 17, 2023.  Credit: Jim McMahan

Strikers at the NWDC have numbered from a few to over 100, and as of this writing they are in their 37th day! They are demanding to be released, although that often means deportation. Demonstrators outside are demanding, “End detention; end deportation.”

At least two hunger strikers are long-term: Randhir, in his 29thday and Chidi, in his 15th day. Both are demanding immediate release.

Conditions the detainees are fighting include the terrible quality of the food, which is dished out in very small portions. The detainees aren’t getting enough heat in the winter. Health care is inadequate, and once again COVID-19 is spreading in the prison. Women detainees have been put in isolation because of COVID-19.

Prisoners have also started a boycott of the commissary, which has just raised its already high prices by 15% to 50%.

Solidarity groups have demanded prison health inspections by the state. But when the health inspectors came to the detention center in early December they were turned away by Geo management. Where is the state power of enforcement?

Additional demands for ending the strike have to do with the fact that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Geo have left them completely in the dark about the status of their cases. Detainees won’t stop their protests until they get answers from ICE about their individual cases and concerns for release. The NWDC holds people as long as they can because they are reimbursed by the government according to the number of beds they fill.  Longer stays equal bigger profits for Geo!

The solidarity organization La Resistencia has kept up a presence outside the detention center every day of the strike, which began Nov. 11. La Resistencia hung banners on the prison fences on Dec. 17 and held a rally to once again explain the demands of those inside.

The action was in solidarity with the International Day of the Migrant, which also demanded an end to the U.S.-Israeli war against Palestine. Marches and rallies took place in Spain, Greece, Argentina, Canada and the U.S.

Contact NWDC Warden Bruce Scott, 253-396-1611, bscott@geogroup.com, and tell him to meet the demands of the prisoners. 

 

Jim McMahan

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Jim McMahan

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