Maricopa County Jails, Arizona
late October – early November, 2017 (Exact dates unknown)
About 23 prisoners held within the Maricopa County jails participated in a three-day hunger strike to protest the quality and frequency of the food they are served.
In 2017 Sheriff Paul Penzone took over from former sheriff Joe Arpaio, a controversial figure associated with far-right law-and-order politics. For a year under the watch of Arpaio there were complaints about the food served at the jails. Under Penzone, despite hopes for reforms, the food remained inadequate in both quality and in the size of the portions.
Described alternatively as either “tasteless slop” or “Arpaio’s slop”, the main meal served to the people held in the county jails consisted of “small portions of breads, meat and soups…ground together in a sloppy paste for inmates to consume”. Advocates have argued that the food was being served in this manner to hide the fact that officials were severely underfeeding the jail populace.
One article claimed that 23 prisoners out of a total of 6,000 were participating in the hunger strike, but Sgt. Calbert Gillett, a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, tried to downplay the number of participants. He claimed that “only one pod in one jail has refused one meal today,” which he argued is “0.006% of our inmate population.”
There are five different jails in Maricopa County, all under the administration of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
“Some Maricopa County inmates going on hunger strike to protest poor food, activist says“, AZ Central, October 31, 2017.
“Penzone to Inmates Who Don’t Like MCSO Jail Food — Don’t Do the Crime“, Phoenix New Times, November 2, 2017.