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Immigrant Detainees Are Staging a Hunger Strike in Washington

The detainees, many of them facing deportation, claim that the food at Northwest Detention Center is meager and nearly inedible.

by Tom Perkins
Apr 12 2017, 9:04pm

On Tuesday evening, a general fatigue began to set in on Prince Edwards.

It had been almost two days since the 42-year-old Liberian-born man last ate at the privately run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, which houses immigrants awaiting deportation or a trial. But the food is partly what prompted Edwards to stop eating. Detainees meals' calorie counts always seem to come up short, and whatever does land on the trays is so foul that it borders on inedible.

Commissary is usually an alternative option behind bars, but the detention center and/or its food provider charge double what Edwards says he paid while doing time in Oregon, and that makes any supplemental food unattainable for many detainees. They could work for Northwest and buy chips or soup, but the center only pays $1 per day for labor.

What's worse is there's not any clear end in sight for many. Edwards, who was granted political asylum in 1999, is in his fourth month at the center, and he, like others, are being held in administrative detention while awaiting a court date. Administrative detention isn't supposed to be punishment, yet it feels worse than prison, Edwards says, and with three judges handling cases for over 1,500 inmates, the gears grind slowly.

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