More than 1,500 inmates in Maricopa County jails are on a partial hunger strike as part of an ongoing protest against food quality.
The sporadic hunger strikes began two weeks ago in Estrella Jail on the same day as a large protest against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Sheriff’s officials attributed that effort to the protest.
Another one-day strike followed earlier this week in Durango Jail. At least 1,500 inmates in four different jails participated in the strikes May 14.
Arpaio said the jails would go on lockdown today if the protest doesn’t end, giving unwilling participants in the hunger strike the opportunity to eat without fear of reprisal.
The inmates’ displeasure with jail food coincides with the presence of a dietitian who has worked to ensure the menu meets USDA guidelines as a federal judge ordered in a ruling against Maricopa County last fall.
Arpaio said the dietitian’s recommendations resulted in the food being healthier but tasting worse.
Debra Hill, an attorney who represented inmates in the class-action lawsuit that brought the ruling, said she is meeting with a lawyer for the Sheriff’s Office this week.