After over six years of organizing as Inside-Outside Alliance (IOA), we are bringing this group to a close. Inspired by a rich history of abolitionist organizing, IOA fought to end the practice of jailing Durham residents. We fought to build a Durham in which the caging of our neighbors would be unthinkable. We fought to expose the jail for what it is: a racist, capitalist system that warehouses—sometimes to the point of death—Black and Brown people, poor people, political dissidents, immigrants, and people experiencing mental health crises. While our dream of a Durham without police, jails, or criminalization has not yet come to fruition, we believe IOA, along with many other kindred collectives throughout the city, planted seeds of abolition through our work. Whether or not those seeds germinate is up to us.
Unfortunately, we believe that we can no longer effectively uphold IOA’s mission (as described on our website: https://amplifyvoices.com/about/). Our capacities to organize this group have greatly declined over the past year for various reasons, including some of our members becoming new parents, some moving away, and all having to grapple with the repercussions of a member who committed sexual assault. Rather than allow IOA to become a ghost of its former self, we have decided to end it and to redirect our energies into other groups that will try to realize its principles in different ways.
In our years of organizing, IOA has accomplished a lot. We have amplified the voices of incarcerated folks at the Durham County Jail by publishing 43 issues of the Feedback newsletter, which were composed of letters, drawings, poetry, and petitions from incarcerated people as well as news from outside. We mailed dozens of copies of each of these issues to people locked up in the jail, to support their efforts to read each other’s work, communicate with each other, and inspire each other. We shared copies of these newsletters with people on the outside both in person and through our website. We also made many dozens of shorter newsletters that we handed out to visitors at the jail.
In response to the requests of incarcerated people, we campaigned for:
- Ending the “lock-back” situation of holding prisoners in their cells for 24-48 hours at a time (see statement here: “What we believe. What we want.”),
- Allowing Mexican consular IDs to be accepted for visitation,
- Ending deaths in the jail (see our compilation of writings, “No more jail deaths, No more jail”),
- Preventing the medical neglect that led to many of these deaths by making the jail shift from a for-profit health care provider to a public health care provider (see our “Kick out CCS!” infosheet),
- Highlighting the exploitative, forced character of inmate labor (see “On the Work Pod”),
- Improving the food provided to inmates,
- Maintaining the rights of inmates’ friends and family to visit them in person rather than only via video visitation (see our petition to stop video visitation).
We amplified these demands with at least one hundred protests outside of the jail, at the County Commissioners’ meetings, and in the streets. Although we did not come close to realizing all of these demands, we did help win some important reforms, including forcing the jail to accept Mexican consular IDs for visitors, ending the lockback, making the jail shift their food service corporation from Aramark to ABL, and keeping some in-person visitation rights. Further, although we never had an explicit goal of making electoral changes, partly as a result of our raising public awareness about problems with the jail, the old sheriff lost an election to a new sheriff who took up some of our demands as part of his campaign.
Now, however, we are moving on from IOA and redirecting our capacities and energies into other groups—such as NC Women’s Prison Book Project—that seek to continue organizing in solidarity with our incarcerated comrades and their loved ones.
Please note that our newsletters and communication with incarcerated people will be archived at AmplifyVoices.com. If anyone has questions about IOA after our disbanding, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
With love and rage, we continue fighting in memory of the people who died in the jail. Rest in Power: Jean Carolyn McGirt, Dashawn Evans, James Earl Staton Jr., Niecey Fennell, Dennis McMurray, Matthew McCain, Raphael Bennett, Terry Lee, John Umstead, and all those whose lives have been extinguished by the carceral state, here and everywhere. For a world without cops, cages, or criminalization!
– Organizers of the former Inside-Outside Alliance