Suffolk County House of Corrections, Boston, Massachusetts
February 15-20, 2019

Seventy-two ICE detainees in the 8-2 unit of the Suffolk County House of Corrections launched a hunger strike in response to a number of grievances related to jail conditions. The hunger strikers presented a list of demands to prison staff on February 10 which included problems with specific staff members as well as a number of grievances related to physical conditions at the jail. The demands were published by The Fang Collective shortly after:

Lt. Cockley:

1. He has no respect for us. He’s very abusive and uses expletive language with us, such as the F…. word.

2. When we bring up stuff that needs to be fixed, his response would be deal with it.

C.O. Wilson:

3. Abusive treatment from other C.O.’s like Wilson. He makes fun of the detainees by using mockery and sarcastic remarks.

For the reasons mentioned above, we do not want the Lt. and C.O. Wilson on this Unit. Further, they are very discriminating against immigrants.

Other Complaints:

4. Food is always bad. There is no energy. Most of the time, the food is bland and there is no condiment such as salt and pepper. The food portion is very unbalanced. One tray might have a very small portion while others might have a very ridiculously big portion. There is no fruit.

5. The bathrooms only have two showers working on each side. Most of the sinks do not have hot water.

6. One side of the bathroom has no mirrors. If they claim we’re breaking them, then review the video to see who broke them and when.

7. A. Count time takes too long, which affect us when we need to use the bathroom, We cannot use the bathroom whenever we need. We’re forced to “hold” and at times need to urinate in a cup.

b. During the overnight and morning shifts, only one bathroom is open. There are, on the average, about 70 people here.

C. When buzzed, the C.O. takes too long to open the door

8. The three TVs in the dayroom don’t work properly. They make weird sounds. It’s hard to watch them without getting annoyed. The cables are worn out.

9. Whenever we request grievance forms, the C.O.s would tell us it wouldn’t matter because it would just go in the trash. And according to Officer R. Jean-Louis. ‘we’re going to win anyway’ when a detainee requested a grievance form.

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An image produced by The Fang Collective to support the hunger strikers (Source: The Fang Collective)

In retaliation for the hunger strike, eight detainees were placed in solitary confinement and others were threatened with transfer to different facilities. Inmates also reported having their cells searched and belongings destroyed.

The strike ended after six days with only the demand for hot water being met.

On Thursday, February 21, a day after the hunger strike was ended, about 30 people rallied outside the prison calling for the strikers demands to be met and an end to retaliation against the hunger strikers.

The hunger strike occurred only days after the United Nations warned against the force feeding of ICE detainees at the El Paso Processing Center, stating that the practice may violate the UN Convention Against Torture.

Citations:

ICE detainees mount hunger strike at South Bay“, The Bay State Banner, February 28, 2019.

Supporters rally for ICE detainees who went on hunger strike“, Boston Globe, February 22, 2019.

ICE detainees on hunger strike at Boston’s Suffolk County House of Corrections“, Metro, February 18, 2019.

ICE Detainees in Boston Launch a Hunger Strike to Protest Jail Conditions“, Time, February 18, 2019.

ICE detainees launch hunger strike after UN warns agency against force-feeding inmates“, Independent, February 17, 2019.

Letter from I.C.E. detainees who are on hunger strike at the Suffolk County House of Correction“, The Fang Collective, February 11, 2019.