Tacomas Northwest Detention Center, a private prison owned by GEO Group, is the largest immigrant prison on the West Coast.
Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center, a private facility owned by GEO Group, is the largest immigrant prison on the West Coast. ASK

Once reaching a height of at least 750 participants, according to activists, detainees at Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center ended a hunger strike on April 16 when initial agreements over changes to the cafeteria menu were made with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representatives. Throughout the week, groups of men and women detained at the facility met with ICE to address concerns.

Despite negotiations, detainees' even most basic demands weren't met by ICE or GEO Group, which privately owns the prison, according to activists. As of today, between five and seven women detained at NWDC began a new hunger strike to protest conditions, NWDC Resistance organizer Maru Mora Villalpando told The Stranger. Some of the male detainees plan to boycott the prison commissary, which is owned by GEO, she said.

The detainees reasserted their list of demands, which include prompter medical care, increased recreation time, properly cleaned laundry, reasonable commissary prices, access to educational programs, raising the $1 per day prison wage, more nutritional food, and contact visits "so parents can hug their children."

Villalpando said the detainees gave ICE officials a chance to change the menus, which predominantly featured rice and beans. These daily meals "[messed] up people’s bowel movements," Ricky, a Guyanese national who has been housed at Northwest Detention Center for more than three months, said.

Since the first hunger strike ended, the menus haven't really changed, Pavel Bahmatov, an Uzbekistani immigrant who has been held at NWDC for more than a year, wrote in an e-mail.

"Yestoday they served brown beans, white beans procesed turkey in it and little pice of corn bread on the side," he wrote. "Usualy they have green beans with that and called it triple beans meal. This is the onl place i know of that will serve somthing like that."

Villalpando and other demonstrators plan to camp outside the detention center in support of detainees participating in the boycott and hunger strike.

"It shouldn't take a hunger strike for ICE to [take action]," Villalpando said. "This is to show how bad conditions are inside."