Wednesday marks the 10th day that Lane County Jail detainees have participated in a hunger strike. This is in response to a lawsuit that was filed against jail supervisors and Gov. Kate Brown, by Bryan MacDonald and three other detainees.
On Tuesday, community members gathered outside of the jail for a teach-in, and to brainstorm ways to help the detainees.
Erin Grady with the Lane County Mutual Aid Network said the purpose of the lawsuit and the hunger strike is to force the facility to follow proper COVID-19 precautions and protocols.
According to Grady, the five demands from the detainees are the following:
1. Detainee’s vitals are regularly monitored.
2. COVID-19 safety measures are implemented—including social distancing, as well as regular cleaning and bleaching.
3. Guards inside the jail wear face masks.
4. Detainees are provided the right to a speedy trial.
5. Detainees are provided access to religious services and visitations.
“So those are their demands,” said Grady. “These are not ridiculous demands.”
Grady said the jail has recently started to regularly monitor detainee’s vitals, which is their first demand.
Lane County Sheriff Public Information Officer, Sgt. Carrie Carver sent an email response about the change.
"We have medical staff at the jail 24/7," said Carver. "All inmates are evaluated by medical when they come into the facility and thereafter as their individual situation necessitates. The frequency of when vitals are checked for inmates is dependent upon their individual medical needs."
Starting with a total of four hunger strikers, Grady said MacDonald has been the main person leading the hunger strike. Other detainees have followed suit and refuse food for as many days as they can, until they reach a point where they need to drop out. But Grady said more detainees participate in the hunger strike each day.
In response to the strike, Carver wrote that it is within their right to do so.
“ Inmates have the right to refuse meals, and we have medical staff in the jail 24/7 in the event that an inmate’s decision to not eat impacts their health,” wrote Carver.
Protesters are now even more concerned for MacDonald because they believe the jail is incorrectly labeling MacDonald as mentally ill.
“Bryan is currently being held in solitary confinement,” said Grady. “And they are doing exactly what they have done throughout history—which is claiming to the rest of the jail, and telling him that he is suicidal. And it's really weird to have someone tell you that you're suicidal when you're not suicidal.”
But Carver says the allegations are not accurate.
"To our knowledge there is only one inmate who is on a hunger strike," wrote Carver. "The Lane County Jail does not have 'solitary confinement.' The jail does have single person housing, and inmates in those housing areas are out of their cells for a certain period of time a day depending on their security classification. Individuals who are being monitored by medical for a variety of purposes may be housed in a medical observation area (located near medical in the jail) which is single person housing."
Members of the Lane County Mutual Aid Network are asking community members to contact and file complaints with the Lane County Jail, the county sheriff, the circuit court judge, and county commissioners.
Community members also plan to protest outside of the Lane County Jail everyday starting Wednesday to show their support.
This story has been updated with responses from Lane County Jail.