Hunger Strike at Northwest Detention Center, Washington

Northwest Detention Center, Tacoma, Washington March 7, 2014 – May 1, 2014 At least 750 detainees launch a hunger strike and call for an end to deportations. The action begins a series of hunger strikes and outside demonstrations that will unfold throughout the year. Years later in 2017 and 2018, NWDC will be the site of another series of hunger strikes. Northwest Detention Center Resistance says that participation in the strike includes 1200 of the 1575 detainees, and lists the following demands.
  • Improved food, sufficient in both quantity and nutritional value, for detainees
  • Improved treatment by guards (detainees referenced a history of abusive treatment by guards towards non-English speaking detainees)
  • Improved access to and quality of medical treatment in the Detention Center
  • Improved pay (currently set at $1/day) for the work carried out by detainees (who do the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance of the facility)
  • Lower commissary prices (detainees depend on commissary items to supplement the subpar food provided by the facility)
  • Improved telephone service (quality of calls is low, the cost is prohibitive, and detainees are not returned the money in their phone account upon leaving the facility)
  • Affordable and consistent bond amounts for all detainees
  • More expedited processing of cases (currently only three judges are assigned to all detainees, resulting in months-long waits for court hearings).
  • End the GEO Group contract for the NWDC
  • An end to all deportations, especially for parents of children or spouses of US citizens
The number of participants declines over the course of the strike. On March 27th, twenty hunger strikers are moved to solitary confinement as punishment for “participating in a group demonstration”. While the strike is occurring, 150 detainees, including 6 hunger strikers, are deported. Solidarity rallies outside the detention center, and the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, demanding they divest from Geo Group, draw hundreds of participants.
“Hey, what ever happened with that hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center?”, Seattle Globalist, April 21, 2014 “Hundreds of immigrants detained in a private prison have gone on hunger strike“, Vice News, April 14, 2017. “Abused and ‘Forgotten,’ Half of Detainees at For-Profit ICE Prison Join Hunger Strike“, Telesur, April 14, 2017. “Hunger strike at Tacoma immigration detention center grows to 750, activist says“, The Seattle Times, April 13, 2017. “Immigrant detainees stage hunger strike at U.S. detention centre”, CTV News, March 9, 2014.
Tacoma, Washington: ICE Detainees Begin Hunger Strike“, Democracy Now!, February 9, 2018.

Detainee beaten, held in isolation after joining hunger strike, lawsuit states“, The News Tribune, February 23, 2018

Northwest Detention Center Hunger Striker Released After 20 Days in Solitary,” Seattle Weekly, March 2, 2018.

“Here’s Why Anti-ICE Protesters Blocked Downtown Traffic This Morning”, The Stranger, June 5, 2018.

“NWDC Resistance Facebook post”, NWDC Resistance, February 9, 2018.

PHOTOS: A rare look inside Tacoma’s immigration jail“, KUOW, July 11, 2017.

Detainees Launch Another Hunger Strike at Tacoma Immigrant Detention Center to Protest Facility Conditions”, The Stranger, August 11, 2017.

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