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May 7, 20

North Carolina: Phone Zap & Car Demo for National Prisoner Grievance Day

Call for solidarity with National Prisoner Grievance Day through a phone zap and solidarity demonstration in North Carolina.

On May 7, incarcerated people across North Carolina and nationwide will engage in a coordinated, mass grievance filing day, mailing in hundreds of letters to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to seek remedy for abusive and inhumane conditions of confinement.

This action was organized by NC prison rebels Joseph Shinewhite Stewart and Randy Watterson, who have both suffered intense retaliation for organizing during the 2018 prison strike and beyond. It is being supported by outside prison abolitionists who are calling on people to amplify this important action by making calls all day long on May 7 (see script below) and by joining a car demo at Central Prison in Raleigh on May 9.

Greater Context

Due to coronavirus, the catastrophe of the U.S. prison system has been more in the public eye than usual lately, with thousands of confirmed covid19 cases and deaths mounting daily. But for incarcerated people and their loved ones, every day was already a crisis, well before COVID-19 hit.

Abusive and inhumane conditions prevail as the status quo in every state and facility: inadequate food, unsanitary and toxic living quarters, pervasive threat of violence, medical neglect, uncompensated labor (prison slavery), and long term solitary confinement, to name just a few of the human rights violations perpetrated daily against people in cages. Then last February, North Carolina added a new injury: a policy restricting who can put money in someone’s commissary account, which most prisoners depend on for basic necessities due to the insufficiency of nutrition and hygiene products provided by the state.

A Policy Designed to Harm

This Jpay policy has lead to needless suffering, deprivation, and ultimately victimization, as people who already had very little became even more desperate. A stark rise in violence and “strong-arming” over the last year (perhaps as much as a 21% increase) has been the highly predictable result of this policy, directly contradicting DPS’ claim that the policy was created to prevent this type of extortion and coercion.

As incarcerated organizer Joseph “Shinewhite” Stewart explains, “In this situation, a prisoner is compelled to become indigent. In turn, the prisoner engages in strong-arming other prisoners and committing other illicit acts for monetary gains to ensure they have the necessities…If the goal is to curb violence and to ensure safe living conditions for prisoners, then this policy makes no logical sense at all.”

Moreover, this policy hits black and brown people, poor people, and immigrants particularly hard because of the way it is written and applied. The impact is racialized and discriminatory. More that that, it is simply cruel. If these Jpay restrictions were ever intended to curb strong-arming, after more than a year DPS must admit failure and discontinue the policy immediately.

Take Action!

In light of the above, a grievance filing day will take play on May 7. You can support this action by:

  • Downloading a copy of the grievance <http://tinyurl.com/grievanceNC> form and mailing it in on May 7 in support of incarcerated friends or family!
  • Making the calls below on Thursday, May 7.
  • Joining supporters in Raleigh for a car demo at Central Prison on Saturday, May 9 (meet at Dix Park at 5:15pm) – banners and noise makers encouraged!

As anti-authoritarians and prison abolitionists, we know there is no such thing as a humane prison or cage. Prison signals a crisis not simply when it is too big or too brutal, but because it emerges out of a society that views people as disposable and seeks to displace responsibility for accountability onto an abstract entity (the state) rather than empower individuals and communities to define what healing and wholeness mean for themselves. So in advocating for improved conditions of confinement we do not seek a legitimization of prison, but only to lessen the suffering of our comrades and to enable them to keep fighting, knowing they are supported and have not been forgotten behind the walls.

PHONE ZAP CALL SCRIPT :

“Hello, I’m calling in support of prisoners who are filing grievances with the Department of Justice today about a wide range of abusive and inhumane conditions. I want to express my strong support for the demands of these individuals, and for their families and loved ones who are also being harmed by these conditions and policies. I especially want to emphasize the urgent need to end the discriminatory and dangerous JPay policy, which restricts who can put money in an inmate’s commissary account. This policy has INCREASED violence and strong-arming over the last year, which is the opposite of DPS’ stated goal of curbing extortion. By forcing inmates to become indigent and desperate, you are ensuring more victimization.

Additionally, the policy violates the equal protection clause of the US and the NC Constitutions. If DPS sincerely wishes to curb strong-arming, it must admit failure and end this policy immediately.”

Bob Steinburg, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee for Prison Safety: Phone: 919-715-8293 Email: [email protected]

Erik Hooks, Secretary of NC Department of Public Safety: Phone: 919-662-4500 Email: [email protected]

Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons: Phone: 919-838-4000 House Phone: (330)544-4425 Email: [email protected]

Write to Shinewhite & Randy: Joseph Stewart #0802041 4285 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699 Randy Watterson #0427985 527 Commerce Drive Elizabeth City, NC 27909

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[email protected] is a collective of anarchists who believe that jails and prisons, rather than offering a solution to the harms people commit against themselves and their communities, instead make social problems worse. We are a prison abolitionist organization, which is to say we are part of a wider movement working towards an end of incarceration and the creation of alternative, transformative forms of justice in our society.

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