ICE inmates protest in New Jersey

Some 130 inmates awaiting federal immigration hearings staged a protest to complain about conditions at the Monmouth County jail in Freehold, NJ. The inmates refused to eat or participate in activities to press their demands for more food, more Spanish-speaking officers and a television to be fixed. Officials say the protesters met with the warden, and ended their protest shortly afterward. However, no measures to address their demands have been decided on. (AP, NYT, March 19)

See our last post on the immigration crackdown, and on Freehold, NJ.

  1. More details
    From Immigration News Briefs, March 24:

    NJ detainees stage protest

    On the morning of March 18, at least 103 immigration detainees at Monmouth County Jail in Freehold Township, New Jersey, refused to eat or participate in any jail programs as a protest over insufficient food and lack of medical care at the facility. The detainees were also demanding repair of a broken television, among other issues. Undersheriff Ted Freeman, spokesperson for the facility, said the detainees’ act of “passive resistance” had ended by the evening of March 18.

    Freeman said he knew of one detainee who did not receive a dental appointment as planned. “That was brought to the warden’s attention and we had a dentist come in to handle it today,” Freeman said late on March 18. He also said the broken television was replaced. “The warden [William J. Fraser] has been meeting with [the detainees] all day, and their concerns have been met,” Freeman said. “The demonstration–or whatever you want to call it–is over.” Undersheriff Cynthia Scott, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said the warden has ordered that the medical charts of all the immigration detainees be reviewed by medical personnel.

    Scott said detainees had complained of a lack of linens; she said additional linens have been provided. Freeman said the detainees were also demanding more Spanish-speaking officers, but Scott denied that was among the grievances. Freeman said detainees were satisfied that jail officials are working to address at least some of their concerns. Freeman said he did not expect food servings to change. He said immigration detainees, like all the 1,268 inmates at Monmouth County Jail, receive three meals daily, consisting of 3,400 calories. The diet is recommended by a nutritionist with the jail’s food-service company, Freeman said.

    New York resident Denton Osborne, a native of Guyana, said his younger brother, Ray Osborne, was among the detainees who complained about not getting enough food at the jail, and about the lack of medical attention. He said his brother had lost about 20 pounds since arriving at the facility in January. “They are just asking for the services they need to get, but [jail officials] are treating them like they don’t care about them. [The detainees] do have rights also. They are human beings,” Denton Osborne said. He said he had not spoken to his brother since March 17, and was not convinced the issue is resolved. “These folks have been protesting and voicing their complaints quite a while now,” Denton Osborne said. “The media has gotten involved so [the jail officials] are trying to save their necks today. They’re trying to do a quick fix, and it’s going to take more than that.”

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pays the jail $80 a day per detainee to hold as many as 132 detainees. ICE detainees make up more than 10% of the jail’s population. Mark Thorn, a spokesperson for the New York ICE office, said the situation at Monmouth County Jail is under investigation. “We sent a team from our office to look into the matter and are working with the Monmouth County Jail to address the situation,” Thorn said. (Asbury Park Press, March 19, 20)