Dozens of detainees housed by federal immigration officials in the Suffolk County House of Corrections are on hunger strike according to several local activist groups.
According to the FANG Collective and Alianza para Movilizar Nuestra Resistencia, “detainees at the Suffolk County House of Correction launched a hunger strike calling for an end to abusive treatment and for more humane conditions,” which began on Friday.
The activist groups claim that “Correction Officers are actively retaliating against them by searching cells and destroying belongings. We were also informed that a lieutenant made a threat to place more detainees in isolation if they do not break the strike.”
In their letter of grievances, detainees described semi-functional sinks without hot water, bad food, restricted access to bathrooms for over 70 people, and abusive treatment from officials.
“There is no official hunger strike in effect,” a spokesperson for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department told WBUR in a statement said. “Detainees are refusing institutional meals, but have continued to eat their canteen food and drink liquids. We are monitoring the situation with the proper medical supervision and will respond appropriately.”
“(Suffolk County Officials) have not given us any response outside of a brief statement” FANG collective member Arely Diaz said. “People are protesting the fact that people are being detained for as long as they have and that four people are being held in solitary as retaliatory measures with the threat of more.”
The activist groups are also questioning Suffolk County HOC’s authority to detain people on behalf of ICE, and seek clarification on how long they can hold detainees.
“As we understand it, the maximum amount of time they’re allowed to detain people is 24 hours, but people have reported being held for weeks,” Diaz said. “Whenever we request grievance forms, the C.O.s would tell us it wouldn’t matter because it would just go in the trash.”