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Photo:  ACLU
Glades County Detention Center is one of many detention centers facing demands for closure across the U.S. Photo: ACLU

New hunger strike starts at Glades County Detention Center over “appalling pattern of abuses,” according to activists

This is not the first protest of this kind to hit the facility, which is building a reputation for abuse and deplorable conditions.

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On Monday, Sept. 13, a mass hunger strike began at Glades County Detention Center (GCDC) in Florida. So far, about 100 detainees have started striking, and at least one entire dorm unit is participating, with more potentially joining them.

Hunger strikes are acts of resistance typically used as a last resort. Those inside Glades are speaking up against human rights abuses they face daily.

The demands of the hunger strikers include: immediate release, masks and personal protective equipment, sanitary conditions, access to phones, and no deportations.

This is not the first time that detainees inside Glades County Detention Center conducted a hunger strike. In late March of 2020, nearly 100 migrants refused to eat their Sunday evening meals as a form of protest.

At the time, Glades was one of four ICE facilities where detainees were conducting hunger strikes in response to COVID-19 concerns, and shortages of soap and other necessities. 

Late last month, seven women migrants at Glades filed a federal complaint detailing what activists call “an appalling pattern of abuses,” including medical neglect, sexual misconduct and COVID-19 protocol violations.

The report shed light on sexual abuse by guards and a psychiatrist, amounting to violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Acts (PREA), exposure to a highly toxic chemical spray, life-threatening medical neglect, and racist and degrading treatment of detainees.

The complaint was submitted with the assistance of Americans for Immigrant Justice, Immigrant Action Alliance, and Freedom for Immigrants. More than 20 other local and national groups signed on to the complaint.

“If they aren’t going to treat us [for our medical issues], we want to be free,” said Petrona Lopez, one of the women who came forward to call for releases. 

ICE told Lopez that she had been transferred to GCDC to receive physical therapy for her leg, but she didn’t receive any treatment after three months. She also said an ICE officer told her there is no physical therapy available. 

“You are all just passing by, because we will deport you soon,” the officer told Lopez.

“And so, I haven’t gotten physical therapy. To be honest, I am desperate because my leg hurts so much. This is an injustice they are doing to us,” Lopez said. 

Women inside Glades also reported instances of anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, xenophobic language, violence, and unacceptable sanitary conditions. 

They reported intolerable conditions such as rotten food, unclean drinking water, lack of access to toilet paper, and pest infestations. 

“It’s clear these abuses are endemic, and until everyone is released and Glades is closed for good, immigrants will continue to be mistreated in ways that undermine our shared values of fairness, dignity, and human rights. It’s past time for releases and closure,” said Sofia Casini, director for visitation advocacy strategies with Freedom for Immigrants.

In July 2021, a group of Congressional leaders delivered a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, demanding that GCDC be shut down. 

“Terminating the contract with Glades County and closing this facility would be a critical step towards the Department’s larger goal of creating a fairer, more just, and more efficient civil immigration system,” the lawmakers wrote.

Freedom for Immigrants is encouraging supporters to tweet to Mayorkas, and email Garrett J. Ripa, the Miami ICE Field Officer, urging them to #ShutDownGlades.

“Support the hunger strikers inside with our call to action. We must #ShutDownGlades and release community members,” the organization wrote. 

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