Militant Journalism

Kansas prisoners on hunger strike against CCA’s inhumane conditions


Inmates in Leavenworth, Kansas, started a hunger strike on April 30 to protest what they describe as inhumane conditions, especially the inedible food and pattern of medical neglect, which has had disastrous health consequences in the facility.

According to one inmate, approximately two-thirds of the prisoners in the pre-trial detention facility participated in the first day of the hunger strike, leading the administration to extend a break time that day and to promise improvements to the food in the days to come.

At the time of this writing, it is unclear if this promise has been fulfilled, or if the hunger strike has continued. The regular communication from inmates inside has ceased — a worrisome sign.

The hunger strike included prisoners of all nationalities, as well as immigrants and U.S.-born.

The Leavenworth Detention Center is owned by the private Corrections Corporation of America, which has recently re-named itself CoreCivic. It is contracted by the U.S. Marshalls Service. This maximum security facility holds both male and female federal detainees awaiting trial. Last year, a Justice Department audit criticized both CCA and the U.S. Marshalls Service after finding the prison to be understaffed and overcrowded.

Food called ‘intentionally inedible’ 

Prisoners report that the Leavenworth facility serves liquid eggs and “slop” with no nutritional value on a daily basis. “They wouldn’t serve this to animals, and animals wouldn’t eat it if they did,” one said. Inmates speculate that the food is intentionally inedible so that they are forced to use the CCA’s privately-run canteen, where prices are jacked up.

In terms of medical issues, some prisoners have suffered through pneumonia while others have become pre-diabetic inside — potentially life-threatening conditions that have been “treated” only with Tylenol and no nutritional adjustments. An untreated skin rash recently spread among the prisoners as well.

Guards harass and lie to prisoners

The inmates who joined the hunger strike have not been convicted of a crime, and are instead awaiting trial, some for as long as one to three years. Guards routinely lie and put pressure on prisoners to plead guilty, warning them that they could receive life sentences otherwise.

Prisoners rarely receive any empathy from corporate media. They are kept “out of sight, out of mind.” But more and more people are now aware of the country’s shocking rate of incarceration, of the existence of prison slave labor, the torturous phenomenon of solitary confinement, and the horrendous conditions which provide just minimal sustenance to inmates.

How you can help

Now the eyes of the country must turn to Leavenworth, Kansas, where inmates are fighting CCA just as they did against the company in Oklahoma in 2004 and Texas in 2015. While the courage and unity of the prisoners inside is the motive force for change, it is crucial that those on the outside put pressure on the Leavenworth facility to provide quality, nutritious food and humane conditions to all. We encourage our readers to make these demands and let the Leavenworth CCA that the whole world is watching, by calling 913-727-3246.

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