On its website, Return Strong claims to be "committed to deconstructing the prison industrial complex by unapologetically fighting to center folx of color and people experiencing poverty in all phases of the criminal legal and correctional systems."
Despite Return Strong's accusation of systemic abuse, the Nevada Department of Corrections stated that most of the Ely inmates involved in the strike object to the "food portions being served" by a new food vendor, Aramark Correctional Services, and that only some object to "conditions of confinement, property issues and disciplinary sanctions."
By all accounts, 39 Ely inmates participated in the hunger strike when it first began on December 1. As of Friday, that number has dwindled to 24, the AP reports, though exact participation is difficult to gauge since some inmates have consumed food on certain days but then resumed their strike on other days, Fox News reports. NDOC confirmed that it has continued to provide food to all striking inmates on a daily basis and that it "is working to resolve this matter."
Though the exact number of strike adherents is unknown and their individual grievances vary, NDOC officials claim they have taken steps to address the issues overall. "The NDOC is auditing portion sizes at all facilities throughout the state and reviewing the contract with the current food vendor," a statement from NDOC said. "Additional complaints are also under review."
So far, the complaint regarding concurrent disciplinary sanctions has already been addressed. William Gittere, the acting director of the Nevada prison system, confirmed that, as of Friday, inmates can be subjected to only one sanction at a time, a change he described as "significant." Examples of such sanctions include the loss of phone or commissary privileges.
Aramark Correctional Services ran afoul of the Michigan Department of Corrections in 2014, when some Michigan inmates conducted a hunger strike to protest various issues with the food, including unapproved meal substitutions and alleged worker misconduct. One report even claimed that a kitchen employee had ordered food contaminated by rodents be served to the prisoners. MDOC ultimately terminated its contract with Aramark more than a year early. Aramark did not return AP's request for comment regarding the strike in Nevada.
Gittere became the acting director of the Nevada prison system when the previous NDOC director, Charles Daniels, stepped down after a murderer managed to escape from a facility just outside Las Vegas back in September. The murderer was ultimately re-apprehended and returned to prison.