Shipped to Arizona, Nevada inmates launch hunger strike

NV Dept of Corrections
(Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)
NV Dept of Corrections
(Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)

Multiple Nevada Department Correction inmates housed at an Arizona facility began a hunger strike this week. Though it coincides with the Nationwide Prison Strike happening in several states, Holly Welborn, the policy director with the ACLU of Nevada, says complaints indicate inmates have their own concerns.  

“They have more specific demands than the 10 that went out nationally,” she says. “Their concerns are they are being treated differently than they would be at a (Nevada) state facility.”

Brooke Santina, a spokeswoman with the Nevada Department of Corrections, says inmates had only missed four meals.

“There are a certain number of meals that must be missed before we begin a hunger protocol,” she says. “This effort began yesterday when 18 inmates were considering not eating and today as of lunch time it’s down to 14. Medical staff are aware of the inmates who are choosing to miss meals. However, inmates fast periodically for health or religious reasons. It is an inmate’s right to choose not to eat for whatever reason. We do not force-feed individuals.”

About 200 inmates from the Nevada Department of Corrections have been transferred to the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., in the last year as part of an arrangement put in place to deal with overcrowding in Nevada facilities.

“NDOC reviewed the conditions of confinement and other regulations prior to entering into a contract with Saguaro Correctional Center and deemed them consistent with our own,” Santina says.

In the last week, Welborn has received complaints from 11 inmates at the facility. “That’s a lot for such a short amount of time,” she says. “It’s an uptick from what we usually receive.”

In addition to concerns about lack of visitations and access to prisoner bank accounts, Welborn says complaints include being unable to access medical plans, inappropriate staff behavior and unnecessary use of solitary confinement.

“NDOC is in contact with Saguaro Correctional Center on a regular basis and consider all inmate complaints seriously, however we do not have jurisdiction over how they run their institution,” Santina says. 

Welborn says she hasn’t heard of strikes at Nevada facilities. Santina adds there was no “indication that inmates in Nevada are planning to strike.”

In the letters they received, Welborn says individuals didn’t specifically reference the nationwide strike.

The nationwide strike started Aug. 21 and is expected to last until Sept. 9. Organizers have 10 demands that include improving prison conditions, being paid a wage for labor, giving inmates a proper channel to address rights violations, ending gang enhancement laws that target people of color, reinstating pell grants and offering more rehabilitation services.

The ACLU’s national office came out in support of the efforts. “We urge corrections officials not to respond with retaliation,” Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Campaign for Smart Justice in a statement. “Peaceful demonstrations challenging unjust conditions and practices do not merit placing participants into solitary confinement or adding time to their sentences.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

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