Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maricopa County Jail Inmates on Hunger Strike

It's always good news when inmates are organizing. This latest hunger strike in Sheriff Joe's jails is the 2nd or 3rd i've heard of in the last few years. So far i think things have only gotten worse, but somehow i feel that the people have more power lately.

It would be interesting to see how much the march to the jails last weekend had to do with this hunger strike, besides what Reza says, quoted below, about how the inmates were not allowed to bathe, etc. while on lockdown because of the march.

What is unclear is how much this hunger stike has to do with Arpaio's immigration enforcement. I had thought it would be a good idea, back when Arpaio was going to start charging for food, that people make the connection to the inmates, some of which are undocumented but many of which are not, that he has to charge for food because of how much he's spending on immigration enforcement. I had since learned that the food charges did not go into effect, although i'm not sure about that.

Anyway, Reza is quoted below as saying that they were going to the board of supervisors' meeting, but referenced the immigration enforcement instead of the jail conditions. The two are related, but again, it's unclear to what extent the hunger strike is related to the immigration enforcement.

Now that the news has come out, i hope that other inmates join the strike and that there are more solidarity actions in the coming days.

Hunger Strike in Joe Arpaio's Jails: 500 Reportedly Refusing to Eat Because of Bad Food
By Stephen Lemons in Feathered Bastard
Tuesday, May. 5 2009 @ 10:17PM

Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza and Univision Channel 33 are reporting that there is a hunger strike on in Joe's jails, with about 500 prisoners joining in the action to protest the atrocious food served in Arpaio's incarceration complex.

Reza, who led a march of thousands on Joe's jails on May 2, explained that he heard about the protest from a family member of one of those hunger striking in Durango Jail. Reza issued a press release earlier today stating the following:

"A relative of a prisoner in Durango Jail communicated today that up to 500 prisoners declared an indefinite hunger strike until the conditions within MCSO jails change. They are protesting the food conditions, the mistreatment, and the arrogance, and the human rights abuses. They are especially incensed at the treatment given to them by Sheriff Joe. During the May 2, 2009 March for Respect prisoners were not allowed to bathe, leave their cells, they were not even allowed to speak to anyone."

I confirmed the report of 500 hunger strikers in the jails through a county employee, but Univision Channel 33 beat me to the punch, interviewing a family member who described paint chips in the food and worms in oranges. The strikers vow to hold out for as long as their bodies can stand it, or till they are provided with better food.

Univision also scored an interview with Arpaio, where he played off the potential crisis.
"That's their problem," he told the Spanish-language channel. "If they're trying to send me a message, it's not going to work."

Reza vowed to support the strikers at Wednesday morning's Maricopa County Board of Supervisor's meeting.

"We will talk to the Board of Supervisors," said Reza, "a family member of one of the strikers will talk to the Board of Supervisors. And we will ask them to stop funding Arpaio's immigration sweeps and to unanimously ask [Homeland Security chief] Janet Napolitano to revoke his 287(g) agreement."

Reza also stated that he will hold a press conference on the issue Wednesday at 11 a.m. outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Court building. He will encourage family members of those being held in MCSO facilities to join a candlelight vigil for the hunger strikers at 7 p.m. the same day.

Joe often boasts of how poor the food is in his facilities, and that he feeds the canines in his kennels better than his prisoners. Recently, he started charging inmates money from their prison accounts for the two meals they receive daily.

Maricopa County's citizens have endorsed Joe's cruelty time and time again, despite the fact that 70 percent of those in Joe's custody are awaiting trial. Nor does this barbarism improve recidivism rates, though it does get Joe plenty of media, and votes.

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