Riot tied to food served at South Georgia immigration detention center

A complaint last week about the quality of the food at an immigration detention center in South Georgia led to a riot involving more than two dozen detainees who had to be restrained and then “segregated for disciplinary purposes.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement disclosed the incident in a prepared statement issued Thursday in response to concerns raised by the

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch.

In a news release issued Thursday, the civil and immigrant rights groups alleged detainees mounted a hunger strike last week at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. Repeating their requests for the government to close the center, the ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch also alleged unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care at Stewart.

“Discontent has long been brewing over the poor quality of the food, desperately inadequate medical care, and unlivable conditions,” the ACLU said in its news release.

ICE denied there was a hunger strike at Stewart, which is operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

“On June 9, a detainee incited a disturbance in one of the facility’s housing pods, charging poor quality of food,” ICE said.

“A group of ICE officials and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) managers went to the affected pod and talked to the detainees about their concerns. Despite significant attempts to diffuse the issue, 27 detainees in one pod had to be restrained and then segregated for disciplinary purposes.”

ICE said the food at the Stewart meets federal standards and is monitored by a registered dietitian. A health inspector looked into an anonymous tip about maggots in the food at Stewart but didn’t find any, the federal agency said.

State health inspectors gave Stewart’s dining facility a 96 percent score following an April inspection, ICE said. ICE added the government provides “excellent medical care through the dedicated service of more than 60 professionals assigned to the facility, including a full-time physician.”

Read more about Stewart Detention Center here.