ICE Detainees Hunger Strike at York County Prison, PA Due to COVID-19

ICE Detainees Hunger Strike at York County Prison, PA Due to COVID-19

York County Prison, York, Pennsylvania
March 29, 2020

At least 180 detainees went on hunger strike at the York County Prison, demanding they be released due to the potential spread of COVID-19 in the facility.  This comes as COVID-19 spreads across detention centers in the United States.

Detainees say that COs and nurses are not taking enough precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus. This includes not wearing gloves or masks in the facility. They also say that there are detainees in the facility with pre-existing medical conditions who are much more vulnerable if infected with the virus.

According to a report by Movimiento de Inmigrantes Líderes en Pennsylvania (MILPA), an immigrant rights group based in Pennsylvania:

“The group [strikers] is concerned that the virus has been brought inside by employees and detained people will not receive the necessary medical care to combat the virus. A great concern is that nurses who care for the sick do not have masks or gloves and could easily be spreading the virus among the most vulnerable. Although the state of Pennsylvania has promulgated harsh penalties for price overcut during the pandemic, it has been reported that the centre’s commissioner has increased his prices.”

In the report they quote a detainee:

“In my block there are older gentlemen, there are people with high pressure, diabetes who are still here. We’re on strike – we’re not eating. We want people to be able to be parole[d]…and released. We’re chickens in a chicken coop here – we’re like sitting ducks. OCs [Correction Officers] come here and don’t have masks or gloves…Today [Friday] we asked them [to] sanitize the toilets and we were denied. Nurses don’t have gloves or masks.”

Previously, on March 26th, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit seeking the release of 13 detainees across Pennsylvania, including 5 detainees in the York facility. The detainees all have health conditions that range from diabetes to chronic hepatitis B, severe chronic pain and liver disease. The lawsuit also states that detainees at York sleep on bunk beds in close proximity dorms of up to 60 people and eat at tables with others, making it impossible to maintain the CDC recommended physical distance, 6ft.

Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said, “Social distancing is impossible in immigration detention. People in these facilities are housed in close proximity to each other with nowhere to go. Once the virus enters the jail, the staff and everyone detained there are at risk of a rapidly spreading disease…As a result, it is a question of when, not if, the virus will be introduced into these immigration detention facilities. Once introduced, it will be impossible to stop the spread of the virus within the facility, where social distancing measures are impossible.” 


‘Sitting ducks’: Immigrants at York County Prison on hunger strike amid coronavirus, group says“, York Daily Record, March 29th, 2020

ACLU of Pennsylvania seeks release of 5 York County immigration detainees amid coronavirus“, York Daily Record, March 26th, 2020


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