More than two dozen detainees at a notorious immigration detention center in Georgia staged a hunger strike and protest last week over inedible food, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called the protest at Stewart Detention Center a “riot” that required that detainees be “segregated for disciplinary purposes,” according to the AJC.
The ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch filed a complaint raising alarm about a hunger strike that detainees began on or around June 12, during which hundreds of detainees threw their food away. Detainees have complained that their food is often filled with maggots, or that the same water used to boil eggs is reused to brew coffee. Detainees who work in food preparation have also complained of a roach infestation in the facility’s kitchen. Detainees were frequently served rotten food.
A state health inspector gave dining facilities at Stewart, located in Lumpkin, Ga., a 96 percent score in April, ICE told the AJC.
In response to last week’s protest, detention administrators issued a 24-hour lockdown and even used pepper spray on some detainees, said the ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch. “This is symptomatic of the complete disregard for the basic human rights of detained immigrants at Stewart,” The ACLU of Georgia’s Azadeh Shahshahani said in a statement.
The problem is not an isolated one. In its 2013 report (PDF) Detention Watch Network detailed strikingly similar complaints from detainees housed on the other side of the country at Adelanto Detention Center in the southern California desert. It’s stomach-churning stuff:
At Adelanto there have been complaints that the food served is spoiled and has worms and maggots in it. “The kitchen staff is careless to say the least. … [T]he worst was on August 18, 2013, for dinner we were served ground turkey meat, but the meat was so badly spoiled, a very foul smell spread all over the dorm. It was so bad, some gagged at the smell, others almost threw up when they noticed maggots in the meat,” said an immigrant detained at Adelanto.
At Irwin [in Ocilla, Georgia] DWN members have received numerous grievances about food that is spoiled and water that tastes like urine. An immigrant detained at Irwin stated, “On March 29, 2013 I found worms in my food. I told the officials and they said I had to file a request for the kitchen. I don’t know how they can give us rotten food; I don’t think they would give this to animals.” At Glades immigrants have complained of bugs and roaches in their food trays. One individual at Glades even found a large stone in his dinner, which resulted in a broken tooth.
Read more about conditions in Stewart Detention Center and others like in in Detention Watch Network’s 2013 report (PDF).