F-Word: A Hunger Strike Against Inhumane Detention

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Eight people have died in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers so far this year compared to 10 in all of 2016 according to a review by The Daily Beast. 15 out of 18 of those deaths took place in privately-owned facilities. You know the ones, the ones run for profit. In two days this May, two ICE detainees were found dead in one place, Georgia. One 27-year-old, Jean Jimenez-Joseph hanged himself in his cell following 19 days spent in solitary confinement. While Donald Trump's travel ban is on hold, the immigration story seems to have faded. We, the public, know next to nothing about any of these deaths. ICE is required to investigate every death in detention and produce a detainee death report, but generally they don't release those to the public, and when they do, there's no guarantee of coverage, which is part of why detainees have regularly launched hunger strikes to try to call attention to their plight.

Earlier this summer behind the razor wire fence ringing California's biggest detention center, about 30 women went on a three-day hunger strike. They're asylum seekers. They have no criminal records, they said, and still their bail is set impossibly high for poor people, which is what they are. The hunger strikers issued demands that included reduced bail, political asylum, new uniforms, healthcare, and 24-hour access to clean water. What they really want of course most of them is to be released and united with their kids and safe. That's why most of them came to the US in the first place as part of a caravan fleeing violence in Central America.

Adelanto, run by Geo Group Inc., a Florida-based company that owns, leases and manages correctional and detention facilities runs the facility those women hunger struck in, and guess what? It's been doing well in the stock market since the last election, not withstanding three deaths at the place. In late 2015, 26 asylum seekers in Adelanto, people who were waiting to be released from custody, launched a hunger strike that lasted nearly two weeks. Earlier that year, more than two dozen members of congress wrote a letter to the US Justice Department and ICE officials expressing concerns about reports of medical neglect. You've gotta wonder, protests, congress, hunger strike, deaths? What's it gonna take before Americans notice what's happening? Think detention camps can't happen here? They can. They do. And just what are we gonna do about it? You can write to me. Tell me what you think. I'm Laura, laura@lauraflanders.com, and thanks.

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