PHOENIX, Arizona – A movement to protest alleged mistreatment of immigrants being held in Maricopa County jails gathered momentum this week as jail detainees initiated a series of hunger strikes, and protests were held in various parts of the county.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) confirmed several instances of inmates refusing food over the past week.
“We’re surprised, we never expected this. But we’re supporting them,” said activist Salvador Reza, an organizer from the pro-immigrant movement PUENTE. His group held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night with relatives of inmates.
The county jail system, administered by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, houses about 9-thousand inmates. On average, undocumented immigrants make up 20 percent of the prison population.
Last Saturday PUENTE led a 6 mile-march to the Durango jail complex to denounce alleged abuse of immigrant women in the county jails. Sheriff Arpaio was the first to report that 43 women in the Estrella Jail had gone on a hunger strike to support the protesters. Citing security reasons, Arpaio had ordered all prisoners to be placed in lock-down during the march.
On Tuesday, May 5th Spanish-language TV station Univision 33 reported on another strike in the Durango jail through an interview with family members of inmates. MCSO confirmed to Feet in Two Worlds that 900 inmates refused their evening meal that same day. Arpaio said Wednesday that the strike was over. But later on Wednesday evening his office reported that 245 inmates had again refused dinner. (more…)