Yuba County Jail, Marysville, California
February 9 – 16, 2019
Forty-six immigrant detainees in the ICE-operated detention facility launched a hunger strike in response to a variety of demands, including lack of medical care, adequate exercise time, and educational programs.
The Yuba County Jail has had a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since the 90’s. The contract generates over $5 million in revenue for the jail per year. The number of detainees housed at the jail is typically around 180, with most awaiting immigration proceedings in San Francisco.
The group NorCal Resist prepared a document outlining the strikers’ demands and grievances and a brief history of issues at the facility. According to the group, the strikers’ demands are:
- Immigration detainees and county inmates must be housed separately.
- Ensure that ICE and Grand Jury inspections lead to sustained compliance or systemic improvements
- Immediately improve medical, mental health, and dental treatment services for new, existing, or emergency conditions
- Follow ICE guidelines for timely medical care.
- Medical requests must be answered within 24 hours.
- Ensure that the staffing levels for medical and mental health providers as set forth in Exhibit C of the Amended Consent Decree are regularly and consistently being met
- Hygiene issues must be addressed.
- Provide gloves that meet health and safety standards.
- Eliminate bugs and mold in the showers
- Provide clean clothes
- Expand and provide constructive programming to detainees
- Expand canteen and package items allowed. Ensure items are not expired.
- Allow radios
- Allow more TV channels
- Improve translation services, and availability of translators.
- Address maintenance issues in a timely manner. If the temperature falls too low as per ICE guidelines, it must be fixed. Fix toilets, plugged sinks, hot water in the showers.
NorCal Resist also published on Facebook a series of anonymous statements from the hunger strikers outlining their grievances:
“I’m writing this statement to share with the public the poor conditions I’ve been put through here at the Yuba County Jail. I’ve been here 14 months and have never been offered to go to the exercise yard. The only place offered to us is the exercise roof and it has never been offered to us daily, sometimes we go 2 days without getting any fresh air.”
“The program we receive is county program, we are locked in our cells for 19 hours every day, we have no entertainment equipment but a TV. The TV comes on whenever the officers feel like turning it on and every morning we are force to watch the same county videos over and over. The only class offer to us is GED. The rest of classes such as self-help classes are all denied to us. We are treated as if we are inmates fighting criminal cases.”
“After booking, etc., I was placed in D-pod where since day one had requested any cleaning wipes and/or triple A-ointment for infection in which I was denied and told to put in a slip. One of the nurses did take note for me and logged it. Even so I still was not seen for days on end, at least almost week and half or so if not more. I was simply asking to be able to clean my wounds and for ointment to keep from infection. Was not asking for pills or anything out of reach or reasonable manner. These jails are full of filth and poor conditions, showers that are messed up and full of sitting water perfect for staf infection and numerous other negative qualities, poor lighting vents that seem to never get cleaned and we sit in these cells 19 hrs a day. I find it sad when you cannot even simply be able to be clean and sanitary even when you have obvious wounds to even get one cleaning wipe or ointment…”
“The other issue we have here is the issue of translators or lack of them. Translators are never offered for any reason. This creates numerous problems. One issue is the write up procedure when an inmate is written up for some rule infraction he is given a write up written in English.”
“As for my own personal concerns, I have experienced more stress in this facility because of the program we have to follow. As a civil detainee we are forced to follow the county jail program. We have to stay locked up in our cells for 19 hours a day.”
“…and the reason for this letter is to inform you about our conditions in Yuba County Jail. First of all we’re on lock down 23 hours a day and we get only 2 days of yard 2 hours a day each week.”
“I will close my statement by asking the public to help us improve the conditions at the Yuba County Jail. We are human beings detained as civil detainees, all we want is to be treated humanely. Thank you.”
The jail has been the site of ongoing litigation between the administration and detainees over conditions at the facility. In late 2018, a settlement was reached between the two parties with both signing on to a series of agreements about conditions at the facility.
In response to a large number of calls and emails from outside supporters, Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson released a statement saying, “For those of you that have emailed or telephoned my office, please know that the conditions in the Yuba County Jail are not as some would have you believe,” Anderson wrote in the letter. “While we are not without issues, we are taking steps to better our facility.”
The number of detainees participating in the strike dropped from 46 to 29 on Wednesday.
On Thursday, February 14, Sacramento-based groups including NorCal Resist, Step Up, Sacramento ACT and the Council on American-Islamic Relation held a press conference and demonstration in front of the jail.
On Saturday, February 16th, the strike officially ended after officials held a meeting with the strikers and took notes on their demands. “It’s a start and we are being optimistic,” said Danilo Cortez who spoke with KQED via telephone shortly after the strike ended. “That’s what we were waiting for, for them to come talk to us. We just want to be heard.”
“We just want to be treated humanely. We just want the basic needs,” Cortez said.
“Yuba County Jail ICE Detainees to Strike“, The California Report, KQED, February 8, 2019.
“February 10th-11th: Call-In Campaign to Support Yuba County Jail Hunger Strike“, Its Going Down, February 9, 2019.
“Manifestantes exigieron mejores condiciones para presos inmigrantes en la cárcel de Yuba“, Univision, February 10, 2019.
NorCal Resist (@NorCalResist). [Facebook Page]. Accessed February 11, 2019.
“Yuba County Jail strike demands 2-5-19“, NorCal Resist, February 5, 2019.
“Yuba-CountyAmended-Consent-Decree-FINAL-08-10-18 (2)“, United States District Court Eastern District of California Sacramento Division, August 10, 2018.
“ICE hunger strike protocol triggers as 29 jail detainees still refuse to eat“, Appeal-Democrat, February 13, 2019.
“Advocates speak for Yuba County Jail detainees,” Appeal-Democrat, February 14, 2019.
“ICE Detainees Cease Hunger Strike at Yuba County Jail After Officials Hear Demands“, KQED, February 15, 2019.
NorCal Resist (@NorCalResist). [Facebook Page]. Accessed February 16, 2019.
“Jailing Immigrants Means Money and Jobs for Poor Areas. Is This Deal Humane?“, KQED, August 2, 2017.