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Inmates On Hunger Strike Protesting Arizona Prison Conditions

Arizona inmates in a maximum security unit at the Eyman state prison in Florence say they are holding a hunger strike in protest of unsanitary conditions. 

Contacted via email, multiple incarcerated people say they are refusing meals in protest of inedible food, bug infestations and a lack of clean clothing. Several of the men believe inmate kitchen workers from a different unit are contaminating prison meals with urine and feces. Others complain of infrequent showers and a lack of visitation with loved ones.

"We get maybe a shower a week as they claim they're always short staffed," an inmate said, "hence the spread of COVID." 

An Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman said the allegations were false.

One inmate told KJZZ there were more than 100 others at the prison conducting collective peaceful resistance to the ongoing conditions of confinement.

"They have tried isolating us from the rest of the facility to stop the spread of the protest," one inmate said. "Not one punch has been thrown. Not one profanity or threat uttered by the inmate community. Everyone is just looking for a solution."

Samantha Olsen, whose family friend is incarcerated at Eyman, said the men are simply asking to be treated with dignity.

“They’re not asking to be released because of COVID and the fact that they can't escape that. They’re not asking for conjugal visits or anything like that," she said. "They’re just asking for clean food and clean clothes.”

On Sunday night, an inmate said via email that prison officials were removing hunger strikers from their cells with force and threatening to move them to another location.

Monday evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said "the inmates' concerns at Eyman have been addressed and resolved. The inmates allegations regarding food preparation were investigated and proven to be inaccurate. As a matter of standard practice, all inmate meal preparations are supervised by our third-party food services contractor, Trinity, as well as [Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry] staff."

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.