Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

3 Phoenix-area jails locked down amid hunger strike, threats

Three jails in Arizona’s largest county are on an indefinite lockdown after some inmates threatened other inmates for refusing to participate in a hunger strike, sheriff’s officials said.

The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site that the lockdown took effect at 3 p.m. Monday at Maricopa County’s Towers Jail, the Fourth Avenue Jail and Lower Buckeye Jail.

“Lockdown will continue until they start eating again,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

The lockdown will prohibit visits, phone calls and television in the jails, and is expected to affect about 4,200 medium- and maximum-security inmates, according to a sheriff’s news release.

Inmates participating in hunger strikes since early May have repeatedly threatened inmates who continue to take their meals.

The news release says six inmates have asked to be placed in protective custody “so they can eat without fear of reprisal.”

Authorities said the hunger strikes were triggered by an anti-illegal immigration enforcement march on May 2. The event drew thousands of demonstrators and about 200 inmates went on strike.

Since then, more than a thousand inmates have repeatedly refused their meals.

Inmates and their representatives have said they’re protesting the quality of the jails’ food. Complaints about the quality of food comes as a dietitian has worked to make sure the jail menus meet USDA guidelines, as U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ordered in a ruling against Maricopa County last fall.

Sheriff’s authorities argue that new healthier menu items fall within 2005 USDA guidelines, but taste worse.

Jail intelligence officers say inmates were displeased with the evening meals, and that most inmates were still eating the morning meal.

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