On Friday, approximately 70 ICE detainees at the Suffolk County House of Correction (SCHC) launched a hunger strike calling for an end to abuse and inhumane conditions. Four people are currently being held in solitary confinement in retaliation for participating in the hunger strike.
Detainees have been in contact with the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR) and the FANG Collective (FANG). Two community organizing groups based in Rhode Island.
Detainees have alleged that SCHC is illegally detaining people beyond the amount of time that the facility is allowed. According to detainees, the maximum amount of time SCHC is allowed to detain people is 24 hours, but people have reported being held at the facility for weeks.
AMOR and FANG were alerted that the A-number (known as the alien number) designated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to all people who have an open immigration case is intentionally not being updated to show the current location of those being detained in SCHC, potentially due to the illegality of holding detainees in the facility beyond the noted 24 hour period. Community organizations have verified that at least two detainees’ A-numbers have not been updated with their current location as of February 16th
Suffolk County House of Correction is currently not listed as one of the 78 law enforcement agencies with a formal agreement with ICE known as a 287(g) agreement. Without a formal agreement, it is unclear how SCHC has authority to detain people in their facility
“As organizations in contact with people currently being detained, we demand that Sheriff Steven Tompkins address the demands of all those currently detained in Suffolk County, said Arely Diaz of FANG. “We also demand an explanation for how the Suffolk County House of Correction has any authority to detain anyone. Regardless of any explanation, we demand they release everyone back to their families.
A list of grievances was issued on February 10th from Unit 8-2 at the Suffolk County House of Correction. These grievances were received by AMOR and FANG on February 11th. On February 15th, detainees in this Unit launched a hunger strike.
List of Grievances
Allegations against Lieutenant Cockley:
1. He has no respect for us. He’s very abusive and uses expletive language with us, such as the F…. word.
2. When we bring up stuff that needs to be fixed, his response would be deal with it.
Allegations against CO Wilson:
3. Abusive treatment from other CO’s like Wilson. He makes fun of the detainees by using mockery and sarcastic remarks.
For the reasons mentioned above, we do not want the Lieutenant and CO Wilson on this Unit. Further, they are very discriminating against immigrants.
4. Food is always bad. There is no energy. Most of the time, the food is bland and there is no condiment such as salt and pepper. The food portion is very unbalanced. One tray might have a very small portion while others might have a very ridiculously big portion. There is no fruit.
5. The bathrooms only have two showers working on each side. Most of the sinks do not have hot water.
6. One side of the bathroom has no mirrors. If they claim we’re breaking them, then review the video to see who broke them and when.
7a. Count time takes too long, which affect us when we need to use the bathroom, We cannot use the bathroom whenever we need. We’re forced to “hold” and at times need to urinate in a cup.
7b. During the overnight and morning shifts, only one bathroom is open. There are, on the average, about 70 people here.
7c. When buzzed, the CO takes too long to open the door
8. The three TVs in the dayroom don’t work properly. They make weird sounds. It’s hard to watch them without getting annoyed. The cables are worn out.
9. Whenever we request grievance forms, the COs would tell us it wouldn’t matter because it would just go in the trash. And according to Officer R. Jean-Louis. ‘we’re going to win anyway’ when a detainee requested a grievance form.