Feathered Bastard

Hunger Strike in Joe Arpaio's Jails: 500 Reportedly Refusing to Eat Because of Bad Food

Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza and Univision Channel 33 are reporting that there is a hunger strike on in Joe's jails, with about 500 prisoners joining in the action to protest the atrocious food served in Arpaio's incarceration complex.

Reza, who led a march of thousands on Joe's jails on May 2, explained that he heard about the protest from a family member of one of those hunger striking in Durango Jail. Reza issued a press release earlier today stating the following:

"A relative of a prisoner in Durango Jail communicated today that up to 500 prisoners declared an indefinite hunger strike until the conditions within MCSO jails change. They are protesting the food conditions, the mistreatment, and the arrogance, and the human rights abuses. They are especially incensed at the treatment given to them by Sheriff Joe. During the May 2, 2009 March for Respect prisoners were not allowed to bathe, leave their cells, they were not even allowed to speak to anyone."

I confirmed the report of 500 hunger strikers in the jails through a county employee, but Univision Channel 33 beat me to the punch, interviewing a family member who described paint chips in the food and worms in oranges. The strikers vow to hold out for as long as their bodies can stand it, or till they are provided with better food.

Univision also scored an interview with Arpaio, where he played off the potential crisis.

"That's their problem," he told the Spanish-language channel. "If they're trying to send me a message, it's not going to work."

Reza vowed to support the strikers at Wednesday morning's Maricopa County Board of Supervisor's meeting.

"We will talk to the Board of Supervisors," said Reza, "a family member of one of the strikers will talk to the Board of Supervisors. And we will ask them to stop funding Arpaio's immigration sweeps and to unanimously ask [Homeland Security chief] Janet Napolitano to revoke his 287(g) agreement."

Reza also stated that he will hold a press conference on the issue Wednesday at 11 a.m. outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Court building. He will encourage family members of those being held in MCSO facilities to join a candlelight vigil for the hunger strikers at 7 p.m. the same day.

Joe often boasts of how poor the food is in his facilities, and that he feeds the canines in his kennels better than his prisoners. Recently, he started charging inmates money from their prison accounts for the two meals they receive daily. 

Maricopa County's citizens have endorsed Joe's cruelty time and time again, despite the fact that 70 percent of those in Joe's custody are awaiting trial. Nor does this barbarism improve recidivism rates, though it does get Joe plenty of media, and votes.    

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons