Why Immigrants Are On Strike In CA Prison

Adelanto is a small town in California’s high desert, the kind that doesn’t get much attention outside local news sources. At least 20 and as many as 300 men within the town’s prison are reportedly on a mission to change that, though, launching a hunger strike in the immigrant detention facility, starting to refuse food as of Oct. 30 in order to protest the center’s conditions. Prison complexes and detention centers have received a fair amount of attention recently for lack of adequate conditions for detainees, but just what about Adelanto is causing the men to strike?

The Private Detention Facility

Adelanto is a privately operated facility, run by the Florida-based GEO Group. The Geo Group has a long list of allegations stacking up against their centers, from claims of sexual harassment at one Arizona facility to forcing immigrant detainees to work for little or no pay at a facility in Colorado. In Adelanto, though, it all comes down to basic human rights..

Detainees at the center were already facing major concerns regarding poor conditions, neglectful and malicious treatment by center staff, and a lack of medical care since the center opened in 2011. When the GEO Group announced it would add another 650 beds to the already overcrowded, underserviced facility, the thought of even more systematic neglect was too much for the detainees. Even after the House called for an immediate cessation of the expansion, those in the center were unimpressed by the medical care, visitation hours, and treatment they received.

That’s when they began refusing meals. One of the primary demands from the detainees was to be able to lodge complaints with a grievance coordinator who does not work for GEO. With 4 allegations of extreme physical abuse at Adelanto in the past 15 months, detainees are desperate for some means of representation and protection from a system that is controlled by a private organization.

The issue there is that private detention and corrections contractors are in it for the profit, not the people. They cut costs by undertraining staff, underfeeding and undercaring for those within the facilities, and outright ignoring detainees’ rights to the point of abuse. The problem is worse in prisons, where companies like GEO set up their program to encourage recidivism simply to bulk their bottom line.

The Adelanto Outcome

Not all detainees have continued on with the hunger strike, but the concerns regarding GEO’s operation of Adelanto remain. Other such strikes at facilities in Austin and El Paso, TX are helping draw attention to the matter, putting further pressure on the issue of immigrants’ rights as the 2016 election cycle draws nearer.

GEO has released no information regarding plans to improve care for detainees at the center, though, leaving the detainees in a vulnerable spot after having shined a light on the center’s poor facilities and care. Even so, the strikes continue to spread from center to center as a means of peaceful protest and raised awareness that one can only hope results in change with respect for the human rights of the affected detainees.