The federal government’s usually secretive use of court-ordered forced feedings of prisoners on hunger strikes is depicted in a newly published video that The Intercept won the release of through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Ajay Kumar, an Indian seeking asylum in the U.S., began his hunger strike in the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, privately run by Management and Training Corporation, to protest his detention and the conditions there. After two rounds of forced feeding, Kumar’s lawyers won his release in September 2019, 76 days into his hunger strike.
In the video, guards from Global Precision Systems at the El Paso Service Processing Center enter Kumar’s room clad in body armor, surround the emaciated prisoner in his bed, and restrain him while a tube is inserted through his nose to his stomach. After two unsuccessful insertions, the third is left in place. That tube eventually was removed, but Kumar continued his hunger strike, and again was force-fed until his release from the detention center. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the private contractors refused to comment. In the video, the security officials call their action a “calculated use of force,” and Kumar shows obvious distress as the tube goes in and out. The American Medical Association and International Committee of the Red Cross condemn the practice. U.S. human rights expert call it a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Dozens of detainees have gone on hunger strikes and many have been force fed in recent years. Kumar applauded The Intercept’s effort to show “how ICE is treating people inhumanely.” “I asked them to give me my freedom,” Kumar said. “If they had granted it at that time, there would have been no need for all of this.”