Signing their life away

Dear ____,

How’s it going? Well I hope everything is well and ok for you and the family at I.O.A. Like I said it’s good to know we have a voice out there and we’re not forgotten. The stories the inmates write about the officers, the nurses and the so-called higher ups are true. I Continue reading

The Key Word is People

The writer makes an appeal for the human rights of prisoners and distinguishes between treatment in jails and prisons. He also raises some issues about mail and other materials being denied to prisoners in Durham jail.

Hey _______,

I didn’t know what happen to you. I have not heard from you in a long time. I did not get the books. Someone told me the jail had stop giving us mail that came from you all. If you sent the books, I did not get them. Continue reading

The Shipping and Handling “Gimmick”


What’s happening out there? I pray that God has kept you safe and in his care since we last spoke. I’m still holding on as best I can. I was ecstatic when I got Volume 2 of the Feedback issue and read my piece on the front page. That was totally invigorating. Thanks a lot for that. You and your organization are truly a blessing.

I know that you’ve asked for grievances and things of that nature, but everything is done on a kiosk. They’ve gotten rid of “The Paper Trail.” Continue reading

“In order to fight and defeat an opponent…”

I recently had the opportunity to read Volume I of your newsletter, and found it very intriguing. I was so impressed by the pure premise of your organization that I was inspired to join the fight.

First, in order for one to fight and defeat an opponent, one must first attempt to understand one’s opponent. Some insight:

The people who work in this establishment whether in or out of uniform are a major part of the problem. Continue reading

Prisoner’s Mother denied visitation because shirt is “too revealing”

I came up here at 5 o’clock. I’ve been coming since March when my son got in here and I’ve never been told any rules about what you can wear and what you can’t. They waited until 6 when it was visiting time. The officer who signed me in should’ve told me, but he just let me through. So, it was six o’clock and they called my son’s name, and I go up to where they let you in and the woman up there told me I couldn’t go in, that my shirt is too revealing. It’s 99 degrees! It’s the hottest week of the summer. I’m wearing a tank top, but I didn’t think my shirt was too revealing or anything.

I think it’s a big bunch of B.S.!!

Linda, Durham prisoner’s mother

Vague rules, arbitrarily enforced, make for unhappy parents, loved ones and friends. Another parent recently told us she was denied visitation because she left the waiting area to check to see if she got a parking ticket. No one ever told her she couldn’t leave. If time is money, as they preach in the business world, prisoner’s families have as much time-money stolen from them as anyone in ‘free society.’

Lockback Grievance

A key weapon in the logic of incarceration is the disciplining effect of the prison on those outside who have some relationship–however tenuous–with the labor force. An effective barrier for the rulers, this mode of thinking causes many workers to separate themselves, not to recognize their struggle in the struggle of the inmate, and not to listen to the voices from inside, as this writer admonishes. We might do better to take up an old, perhaps forgotten slogan of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to rally folks about their comrades locked up on ‘dangerous’ speech and other charges of sedition. Their banners featured someone locked up and framed by jail bars: We’re in for you! it screamed. And today’s inmates are, also. 154

We need a voice on the outside. So many people are suffering and need to tell their story but not too many are willing to listen! Keep doing what you do one day you will be GLOBAL if not already. God Bless.


…I was placed on lockback behind the door for 3 days without a shower, phone call, or hour walk which is mandatory according to the rules. Continue reading

Not much going on: Getting Harassed and Strip Searched Every Day

The writer, C, makes an earnest case for lifting the pencil ban. With so much time spent in cells, why can’t inmates have pencils there?


How have you been doing? I received your letter but it kind of took me a while to write back because I didn’t know to write. I think what you all are doing is cool because a lot of people could care less about people that are in jail. I find myself being harassed and even sometimes beat by police and jail officials. I just felt as if there were no one to help. There is not much going on in jail but the fact that we keep getting harassed and strip searched every day over the pencil thing. I think the taking away our pencils is some bullshit because we have to write our letters in the day room with all the other inmates looming around and being nosy. But besides that everything seems okay…

Thanks and have a nice day.

Commissary prices: Business, as usual.

As the Durham County Justice Center becomes the focal point of the downtown skyline, consider the public funds that have been used for that building, designed to more efficiently funnel more people–overwhelmingly black and brown men–into its next-door neighbor, the jail, and from there perhaps to state prisons. Does the money for such an important project also cover the very basic necessities which are supposedly provided to inmates? Not exactly. Below is a Durham County Detention Center commissary purchase list. Due to the low quality and nutritional value of food passed out to inmates by Aramark (recently named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies!), supplementary food purchases from the commissary are a near necessity. Similarly, with clothing and cleaning products–“health and beauty” and “general merchandise.” Look at the unit size when looking at the prices, and then consider your recent purchases at Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree. What you see, far from “free room and board” is an opportunity for a company such as Aramark to extract profit at a rather high rate from those who usually can least afford it. Profit is the order of the day, and the jail, far from a “neutral” place, is yet another site where the government allows for income to be redistributed upwards. commissary

Official response: “Submitting petitions . . . could be construed as inciting a riot”

The below letter is a response to inmates’ petition of grievance from Chris Wood, State Jail Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. Regarding the complaint about unsanitary food trays, he says “I can partially substantiate your complaint.” About other complaints, he says “I am unable to find that your complaint is neither substantiated nor unsubstantiated at this time.”  (What does this even mean?!?) Also, if you write to us again, “it could be construed as inciting a riot.”

If the local grievance procedure isn’t working — and clearly, given what Amplify Voices Inside has heard from inmates, it is NOT — then what other avenues do inmates have?  Furthermore, given lack of access to email and the exorbitant cost of making a phone call from jail, how would it be possible to email or call the DHHS office “if you have questions in the future”?

As usual, official response brings more questions than answers.