Immigrant Detainees Struggle for Rights at South Bay

 
This interview is reposted from Prison Action News 7.1 On October 3rd, 2013, approximately 40 detainees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center at Suffolk County House of Corrections (South Bay) in Dorchester launched a hunger strike over poor health conditions, among other issues. Organizers in the ICE section, which holds about 200 immigrants, delivered a letter to the prison administration demanding officials "improve food safety [...], equalize access to programs and services [...], and support visitation rights. Detainees then launched a public campaign on September 26, with dozens of supporters rallying outside the prison, and threatened a hunger strike. Following the demand delivery, prison officials held a whole-unit meeting, promising to address the prisoners’ grievances. Prison administration, however, changed little, spurring detainees at all three ICE units in South Bay to go on hunger strike for three days. According to an outside supporter working with the detainees in their struggle, “The formidable power and solidarity built by the united detainees at South Bay has both forced ICE to address many demands and further exposed the inhumane nature of immigration enforcement in the US. Following the hunger strike, at least two detainees were released from detention and at least one released from solitary confinement. Some improvements in sanitary conditions have occurred and conversations for further progress are taking place. Meanwhile though, detainees continue to face retaliation and insufficient access to support, as well as continued sanitary issues.” In recent years, prisoners at South Bay have complained about sanitation, over crowding, and other issues. Many detainees in the ICE section have ulcers from H. pylori bacterial infections, caused by poor sanitation. In 2010, women prisoners filed grievances and asked supporters to host a phone blitz to prison officials after South Bay served inmates food contaminated with maggots and rat feces, and refused to address massive flooding of inmates’ cells. The following is an interview with an anonymous Haitian worker and father, currently unemployed and living in Boston, who was detained in the ICE detention section of South Bay in the months before the hunger strike:

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