On New Year’s Eve, dozens of people brought noise to the Durham County Detention Center. Those wishing well for the hundreds of inmates inside demonstrated on three different sides of the facility, allowing numerous pods to see. Nearly two hours of noise — drumming, pot-banging, shaking and chanting — were interrupted only by the following remarks delivered outside the jail by Yolanda Carrington of the Inside-Outside Alliance, and a summary of the struggle for Liberty and Justice for Carlos Riley, Jr.:
“We are here tonight to send New Year’s wishes to those in Durham with the least freedom. We are also here to show our support for those brave inmates who have been struggling to change the deplorable conditions inside this facility. In the past few months, several petitions have been sent to Sheriff Andrews and Lt. Colonel Perkins as well as media outlets protesting conditions, specifically around cleanliness and sanitation, lack of basic supplies, and lack of heat and hot water.
The usual assertion by the Sheriff’s Office always comes back that everything is fine, or what do they expect? But who is doing the inspecting, and who are they accountable to? We have heard of improvements recently on heat and hot water and on supplies such as toilet paper. For that we say, right on; keep struggling.
But in communications with inmates and their families, we have heard a lot more: lack of medical attention, including a woman who found out she was pregnant but received no examination or medical attention during her detention there. The spread of illness due to inadequate cleaning, food lacking in all nutritional value, to say nothing of taste or consideration for inmates’ dietary restrictions, price gouging by the commissary and telephone companies contracted to provide food and calling services, brutality and general harassment by guards.
We have also seen and heard inmates’ families angry about high bail amounts, and confused about visitor parking around the jail, and visiting times and procedures. With these obstacles in mind, the level of organizing inside the jail is remarkable, given that the jail population is not stable. By definition you’re dealing with folks that who are pre-trial, or who are serving a short sentence. Inmates also face a definite possibility of reprisal from Durham County jail officials. It is remarkable and should be supported, but we should not be too surprised. Struggle and resistance is the mirror of exploitation and oppression. The organizing that inmates have taken here and in other jails and prisons in the last few years represents the seed of a new society. It is happening in small and sometimes isolated ways, but it is happening.
While we’re here to show inmates our support and well wishes, we are also here tonight to demonstrate (loudly) our profound and immovable dissatisfaction with a city and county and system that chooses to warehouse human beings, to lock up overwhelming young Black and Brown people. The struggle of those inside is our common struggle—the struggle for a free humanity.”