Elizabeth Detention Center, Elizabeth, New Jersey
March 20, 2020 – ongoing
Prisoners went on hunger strike at the Elizabeth Detention Center on Friday, March 20, in response to poor sanitary conditions after a medical staffer tested positive for COVID-19. At least forty prisoners refused meals that day.
“They’re not taking any measures to protect us,” said a detainee at the facility, who spoke with Vice News under conditions of anonymity. “They haven’t done any cleaning. We spent three days without soap.”
“There’s a lot of fear, because if they bring in an infected person, we’re all going to get infected,” he continued. “If anyone gets something here, then we all get it, because we all breathe the same air.”
A detainee named Emmanuel who spoke with The Marshall Project said, “It’s one thing to be dealing with a crisis, it’s another when you’re dealing with the crisis without your loved ones,” he said. “I’m very depressed, I’m very frustrated. And I’m scared. Sometimes I feel like ending it all.”
“The major problem is they’re not telling us the truth,” he continued. “The [CoreCivic] officers say one thing, the ICE officer says another thing, the warden says another thing.”
The Elizabeth Detention Center is a private facility operated by CoreCivic under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcment (ICE).
Prisoners allege that staff did not give them gloves or masks for protection or take other precautions against the spread of the virus. Dozens of prisoners sleep in a common dorm, raising fears of spreading COVID-19. Medical staff did not speak to the prisoners about the virus until March 20, several weeks after the pandemic had reached their region.
This is the third hunger strike organized by immigrant detainees in New Jersey amidst COVID-19 pandemic fears. The first strike took place at Essex County Correctional Facility, and the second at Hudson County Corrections and Rehabilitation Center.
“’Everybody’s Scared’: Panic At Immigrant Detention Center After Positive Coronavirus Test“, The Marshall Project, March 24, 2020.
“ICE Detainees Hunger Strike in Essex County, New Jersey in Response to COVID-19”, Perilous Chronicle, March 21, 2020.
“Immigrants Are Now on Hunger Strike in 3 ICE Detention Centers Over Coronavirus Fears”, VICE News, March 20, 2020.
Header image: globaldetentionproject.org.
Article published 3/23/2020.