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Editorial & Opinion

The story I couldn’t write about the Wyatt



How does one trust that the detainees at the Wyatt are being properly cared for when those directly responsible for their care pass the buck to ICE, an outside agency?

When I contacted Christopher Hunter, who does the communications for the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC), about the report of a hunger strike taking place at the Wyatt Deyention Facility, which is under the control of the CFDFC, I received a two word reply:

“Contact ICE”

This was followed by contact information for John Mohan, ICE’s New England Region Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson.

This surprised me, because the CFDFC is the body which oversees the Wyatt. This is the body that “employs the Warden to manage the facility” as Hunter explained in a follow-up email to answer my somewhat snarky follow-up question, “Is the prison run by the Warden and Wyatt or ICE?”

Evidently, the answer to that question is that ICE runs the prison, since the CFDFC and Warden Daniel Martin feel incapable to respond to questions about what is happening to the people under their care and protection.

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I emailed John Mohan at ICE, even though ICE has never responded to an email from UpriseRI. Surprisingly, I received a reply: “[W]e will have a response, will send you our statement when it clears.”

As of this writing, UpriseRI has received no statement. Did the statement clear? It seems to have, since the Providence Journal was able to cite Mohan’s response in their piece on the hunger strike.

According to Providence Journal reporter Katie Mulvaney, “About 69 detainees at Wyatt initiated the hunger strike Saturday in response to stalled cases as the courts remain closed during the pandemic; the reality that the prison is ripe for the rapid spread of the potentially deadly COVID-19; and out of the desire to be with their families as the crisis unfolds…”

ICE’s John Mohan responded to the Providence Journal:

“‘While multiple detainees in ICE custody at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island, have recently refused facility-provided meals, it is inaccurate to describe this as a `hunger strike’ since detainees still have access to and are obtaining food via the facility’s commissary regularly,’ Mohan said in an email statement.

ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, he said, and ‘does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers.’

Any inmates on a strike would be placed ‘under close medical observation, and their eating patterns monitored,’ he said.”

Even the CFDFC’s Chris Hunter responded to the Providence Journal, reporting that the prison currently has no positive COVID-19 cases.

This leaves some very unsettling questions: How is it that ICE knows more about the condition of the detainees at the Wyatt than the Warden? Doesn’t the Warden directly oversee their care? How does one trust that the detainees at the Wyatt are being properly cared for when those directly responsible for their care pass the buck to ICE, an outside agency? What does it say when that outside agency, ICE, obfuscates and even potentially lies about what is happening inside the prison?