‘They taking shoes again, which is some real bullshit’

Hello,

I’m doing ok, how are you doing? I hope this letter gets to you quickly and finds you in the best of health and spirits. How is the family doing? I hope all is well with you and your family. It’s ok, I’m doing a lot better now. Just had to keep my faith and stay strong. Yeah, I can’t let them break me down. Just got to hang on. Yes, they taking shoes again, which is some real bullshit! I feel the same way that pod by pod need to stand up and resist this garbage, but most are scared to stand up. Rec time is important and people can’t be getting hurt because we have the wrong footwear. Trust me, I’m telling (people) all I can, but it would help if y’all call and write in about it, please.

Thanks for the info. I guess this is it until next time.

In struggle,

Tanna

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“We got to stand up for our rights”

10-9-17

Dear C—–,

Hey how you doing? First off I am thinking how you got my name and what made you reach out to me. But I’m glad y’all did because I been thru a lot while I been in the county jail. I mean I’m holding up good because I’m strong and have faith. I would love for my voice to be heard because at 17 years old people need to understand not just from older people but young people too… I don’t want it to be private because this is something positive in my life I need and I’m always trying to help people in a place I’m in and give them hope and faith. Use my name, I want to help all I can, please keep in touch. We got to stand up for our rights and I be seeing y’all out my window on Friday. We gone fight till we can’t fight no more.

– Semaj B

Looking Back: Petition on 5C Led to Formation of IOA in 2012

the following was written for publication in feedback, to share with comrades inside.

How did it come to be that folks regularly demonstrate at the jail? How and why do people you don’t know write to you when you’re locked up out of the blue? Where does this little publication come from, and how did it get started? Because these are questions that people currently inside the Durham jail might ask, and because it is vital to keep up on history, from ancient times to the recent past, I’m going to try to briefly tell y’all about the brave inmates who got this all started.

On September 19, 2012, exactly five years ago, 33 courageous detainees on housing unit 5C at Durham County Detention Facility signed and mailed a letter of petition to Durham County Sheriff Michael Andrews. Fed up with numerous facts of daily life, but especially the jail’s failure to provide adequate basic necessities such as toilet paper and soap, writing materials, and its ongoing use of unsanitary food trays and drink dispensers, they mailed the petitions to others, also, including media and the state department of health and human services.

A short article about this petition/ protest ran in the September 22 edition of the Herald-Sun newspaper. This article was a clarion call to a small, multi-racial, multi-generational collective of people who were trying to figure out how to intervene with purpose in Durham’s political landscape.

To quote the last page of the detainees’ petition: “Our protest is simple. All we ask is that we be allowed adequate supplies to maintain proper personal hygiene, cleanliness, to be able to correspond with attorneys, courts, family members, and to be free from undue harm by the bacterially hazardous food trays and drink dispensers. It is unconscionable to think that in our progressive humane society that “pretrial” detainees should be treated with disdain, indifference, and such basic disrespect.”

 

Here it was: a group of detainees taking the stage of history and speaking up for themselves. We got in touch, we talked to friends, family and loved ones at the jail, and we did what they initially asked us to do, which was “amplify their voices” by creating a blog/website (called amplifyvoices.com).  People inside wrote back to those of us outside—a lot. Soon, more petitions came from other pods, along with more news, stories, analysis, manifestos and art. We were asked what our name was, and we began to call ourselves Inside-Outside Alliance.

 

The bravery displayed by those 33 signers cannot be overestimated. In fact, the person who sent the petition to Chris Wood at the Department of Health and Human Services, was told by Mr. Wood that “submitting petitions could be construed as inciting a riot.”(Sound familiar? Oh, they’ll get their riot someday…) Certainly detainees at DCDF had written petitions before. They didn’t know that this time, people outside were going to notice. They did it anyway, even though we are all taught to believe that nothing we do matters, that we cannot alter our conditions, that we cannot ignite a social war against official society. And those locked up? They’re simply told they ain’t shit. But those 33 didn’t believe that. And from that petition began this group, in which people outside have the back of people inside.

Many people who were instrumental in the founding of Inside-Outside Alliance, due to their tremendous analysis, wit, artistic talent, creativity and bravery, have moved on from DCDF and even from Durham. To all of those, I send a heartfelt thank you for leading the way. The same goes to others–detainees and family members, former prisoners and random activist-types–who have given their time, energy, and intellect along the way. People will continue to move through the jail system, and move through this city, but the idea of IOA—that struggles are being waged inside of jails against conditions and against an inhumane and white supremacist system—will remain. Who better than the detainees and prisoners to speak for themselves about the brutality of that system, and ways to overcome it and make the world anew? That, at its core, is what IOA is.

As I have done before, I will (very humbly) paraphrase the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara (who was talking about Vietnam and the need to wage anti-imperialist war): We need to create 2, 3, many IOAs! From a modest beginning, we have a modest vision, in the words of James Connolly: We just want the Earth.

Forever in struggle and with much love,

Steve L.

 

“I hope the Durham Association of Educators, along with Alerta Migratoria and IOA will coalesce to pressure the Sheriff to bring in educational opportunities beside GED for these up to 24 years old”

Dear G___, ___, and the IOA Family,

Got your letter today with copy of July 17 Feedback enclosed.  Thanks a million.  I enjoyed reading both.  Wish I could have appeared at that meeting with you guys before the City Fathers/Mothers (smile).  I wish even more for the ability to take and send pictures of these trifling meals ABL provides us.  Portion sizes are ridiculous!  My 5 year old grandson would be truly upset.  It’s even worse when they provide meals in the 3 slot styrofoam trays like they did for lunch and supper today.

For lunch we had sloppy Joes.  They (ABL) half filled one of the two smaller slots with meat sauce, put cole slaw in the front large spot, french fries in the 2nd smaller slot and added a bun.  For supper we had apple sauce in one of the smaller slots, baked sliced potatoes w/ very sparse ground meat (probably leftover hot dogs from July 4th) and a piece of bread.  We are all praying they get ousted next month.

I can hardly wait to get out to help join in this fight!  Too often detainees will get out of jail and/or prison and soon forget about the many injustices they’ve had to endure and that those left behind continue to suffer.  Reminds me of how Pharoah’s cupholder forgot about Joseph for some years until Pharoah needed his dream interpreted.  This thing is very personal with me and I will not forget.

Court went well on June 14th.  The Superior Court Judge denied all of the Sheriff’s attorney’s motions filed against me (motion to dismiss my complaints, motion to transfer my case from district to superior court).

We now head back to District Court on July 21st and I am gearing up for it.  Anyone off that day is welcome to show up.  If anyone does come, sit in the gallery on the side opposite of law enforcement.  I have subpoenaed several Sheriff’s deputies and police officers and two magistrates to testify and none will like being there (smile).

I had some rather nice court victories last month.  Back in 2012 three teens stole my Chrysler Sebring Convertible, went joy riding to Granville Counting and coming back, were seen and chased by Wake Forest Police in Capital Blvd.  They wrecked and totaled my car, unknown to me for several months later, they racked up $488 in tolls.  NC Quick Pass tried making me pay it and I refused.  Then they added on processing fees and civil penalties and sent a collection agency after me in Dec 2016.  They even blocked my vehicle registration (which is moot because I’m still in jail).  That did it so I filed a petition for contested case hearing in the NC office of administrative hearings (OAH).  Long-to-short, I won the case last month.  I state spent well over $5,000 trying to force me to pay $488 plus $232.00 in penalties.  That is so irresponsible of them.

I filed a petition for appointment of new defense counsel in Durham Superior Court on Feb 6, 2017 but Durham Officials ignored it after I even made several inquiries about it.  In such cases a person can petition the NC Court of Appeals for what’s called a writ of mandamus to compel state actors to perform a duty owed to them.  I did it and the court of appeals granted me petition on June 26th and I went to court yesterday where a Judge remanded my sorry lawyer Woodrena Baker-Harnell, over the Asst. DA’s (Cynthia Kenney) objection and I now await the appointment of new counsel.  I also got a bond reduction petition filed and to be heard this month.  The AOA also offered me a plea deal for 23 to 30 months that I declined.  I’ve been in here 22 months on this illegal charge and I will fight it to the nth degree or until it is dismissed.

I also filed suit last month against the magistrate who issued the illegal warrant for my arrest.  The hearing against her is to be made public and should take place sometime in August.  The ADA is miffed about that, too.  I – DON’T – CARE!  They trample all over my rights but want me to practice stoicism and not complain.  That will never happen!

The jail’s new, overpaid administrator, Colonel Prignano is not worth the almost $100k he is paid.  He obviously knows nothing about how to effectively manage the jail’s mostly young populace.  I and others have written and tried talking to him about making the 6pm local news and 6:30 world news mandatory.  For some unexplained reason all TVs are turned off at 6:45 pm and we are locked into our ells for the night.  However, shift change is not until 8:00 pm.  It is so annoying to be watching the world news only to have the TVs turned off in the middle of it.  Prignano’s reply to us was: “I don’t care about the TVs.  They could take them out of the jail as far as I’m concerned.”  Really…?

A few years ago some really gung how law and order state legislators felt the prisons were too plush, too soft on crime.  They felt prisoners were being rewarded to be able to lift weights and watch color TVs.  So they contemplated introducing a bill to ban weights and TVs from all prisons.  That sparked a quick from prison administrators, who told the legislators they would resign if such an act became law.  Why?  Because prison administrators know that weights help burn off stress and overactive testosterone, and TVs is one of the most effective control devices in prisons.  Those legislators quickly demurred.  For Prignano to discard our request in such cavalier manner speaks to his lack of experience.  His position ought to be eliminated to start with.  Why would a jail of 550 people need a colonel making 97,800 a year plus a major and several captains all making over $70,000 a year?  It’s insane and is a waste of tax dollars.  One captain for each shift could effectively run the whole jail as is done in many jails statewide.  The Sheriff’s budget is overloaded…at the top!  Prignano is a mere puppet, good ole boy, who does whatever Notorious Andrews tells him to do.  I guess that’s why Andrews did not want to hire and administrator from outside his department.  All this cronyism is state and federal government just makes my stomach want to throw up!

The youth in here have nothing to do during lockback but yell back and forth to each other, bang on doors, table, sinks and windows while rapping, much to the dismay of their neighbors who are trying to read, think, or sleep.  They need educational outlets badly.  I’ve always heard that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.  Prignano could care less.  He is in it for the paycheck and nothing else.  I hope the Durham Association of Educators, along with Alerta Migratoria and IOA will coalesce to pressure the Sheriff to bring in educational opportunities beside GED for these up to 24 years old.

A lot of Hispanics are bilingual.  Few US citizens speak any Spanish.  I would have love taking Spanish clases these past 22 months in here and several Hispanics would love taking English classes.

I will pass the word around and look for good candidates to correspond with members of the Durham Association of Educators.

I am able to use my GTL prepaid phone card to call you guys sometimes.  Is there a good contact # and time to call?

You all take care and continue the good fight.

Love in Christ,

K.O.

PS: I’ve heard other officers say that Ms. Officer Snipes informs certain jail officials the names of detainees who correspond with IOA.  Snipes is a trip.  She and officer Richmond open and read all incoming (and some outgoing) mail.  Neither are certified to do so.  They gossip to other staff about what they read, too.  Neither of them should be touching any mail as they are not certified!

“this system don’t support us students”

Dear G______ W_______

I’m doing good right now, how about you?  Thanks for everything you doing, we need support in here & don’t worry you can share anything I say b/c the world need to know what is going on up in jail.  I’m with the L.O.D. group because my lawyer ain’t helping out at all, he just brought me a plea, for 4 years of prison time.  So I can sign but I didn’t sign it he told me if I don’t sign it then we will take it to trial, if you lose the trial you are going 18 to 20 years & is better to sign the plea he told me, but didn’t tell me anything about how could he help me.  My record is clean my first time been in jail.  I said this ain’t fighting for my rights, the lawyers & DAs working together to throw us in prison unjustly & I’m a student – I got the right to a fair trial.  No BS they saying to me I know that this system don’t support us students.  They saying I’m dangerous to society.  They are dangerous to society, b/c any student can fall victim in this sytem.  They will charge you with anything that fits your description & claim you guilty.  That’s sad that we live in a messed up world.  I think the video visitation is absurd they just trying to not let no one come & see us, the system is messed up I have been waiting for court & news about my case but all they give me is straight BS.  But thank you or being our voice out there.

Sincerely,

_____

 

“this for the Durham Association of Educators”

Dear g______ ________

I’m doing alright thanks for asking, yes we are doing a creative writing class where we get to express ourselves in different kinds of ways.  Rap, poem, drawings, speeches, & a lot more.  Curtis Barnette [another detainee] started the class & we sign up for it.  We start at 12 or when the multi-purpose room ain’t at use & any action book or drawing book is good & a dictionary, too.  I like making great drawings so I’m like more tattoo drawings.

this for the Durham Association of Educators, & the union of public school teacher: thank you for focusing on our Education.  I’m still enrolled in my base school.  I was 17 when I got here, now I’m 18.  I’m up in here for a couple a months now.  The government should focus on building schools & jobs instead of making money for the jail, b/c this jail system is so crooked.  I’m here with no proof of me committing any crime of what they blaming me for – no weapon found, no evidence of any stolen goods, no witnesses.  I’ve been just waiting for my court dates & they cancel my court date every time its been scheduled.  My lawyer just once he came and see be.  I haven’t been to court at all.  The DAs lying on everything, the court appointed lawyers ain’t helping, to be honest.  Fuck Durham County Jail, they want me to feel down & plead guilty so they can make money off me.  You know what they chose the wrong person, b/c I’m staying strong.  I got into the word of God & he helps me to stay strong & for my family & loved ones who support me they can’t even come to visit me.  I only saw my mom 3 times & now they ain’t allowing her to come.  I’m against the video visitation.  So many young teens like my age die in this cells & they just say they committed suicide or natural cause.  It ain’t true.  The COs allow it to happen & if they ain’t do nothing about it that’s how they move up to new positions.  The canteen be ripping us off of our money, they don’t return our money when we order canteen & they don’t bring our canteen, & they act like they don’t know nothing.  Man shyt crazy.  I can’t even trust the law & I never did & never will.  I speak for all my latinos up in here.  I got a friend here & they don’t let him have any visit.  His family want to see him but they don’t allow him to have any visit, & when they feel they loosing our case they put a deportation order on my people with out having proof of anything.  We get crazy rash on our body b/c of the sope & our clothes are being washed with only water & we get rash from it & we get back pain from the bed they give us.  They treat us like a bunch of animals.  They hold us over years & trying to make us commit suicide & if you don’t have money you can’t get no medical attention or get the medication you need to live.  Shyt crazy man.  They block the phone sometimes so we can’t call anyone.  People are still here fighting o live & some lost their life fighting the system.  Thank you IOA for working on protest to help us students & anyone up in jail.  Thank you and god bless y’all.

 

Sincerely,

ghost z:.

CHECK THE MIRROR

L.O.D. has to be a vehicle of advancement.  It must be understood by all members and soldiers in this struggle that in and of itself ignorance is our greatest enemy.  Through ignorance we are made afraid.  Through ignorance we’re impoverished.  Through ignorance we remain unskilled and unmotivated in the working world and repeatedly fall victim to the many pitfalls that ignorance provides for us.  By designs drawn up and set in motion many years ago we’ve been trained to be so ignorant that we don’t even recognize our enemy.  In ignorance we blindly follow fads, trends, and the whimsical ideals of people just as uneducated, ignorant, and afraid as we are.  To stand FOR something is to stand AGAINST something.  Many have lived and died having never come to this realization.  What is it that you stand for?  What do you love that loves you in return?  Life or death?  Living in fucked up environments of racism destroying everything against the heart.

That is what L.O.D. represents.  The struggle.  The fight.  The stand against systems of ignorance, for the advancement of that which we hold dear to our hearts.  How long will you be a faker in your own skin?  Afraid to BE cause they say you can’t BE.  Afraid to do cause they say you can’t do.

A L.O.D. soldier is unafraid of the fears that ignorance provides.  A L.O.D. soldier’s greatest weapon is education.  “Know how.”  Plain and simple.  Once you know better you should show better.  If we knew better we’d do better.  In this technological age and time where the answers are provided at a button’s touch who can keep you from knowing something?  As an L.O.D. soldier you have accepted the responsibility for not only your own personal advancement, but also for that of your brothers and sisters in the struggle because the best way to get ahead in life is to help someone do the same.  The only way to break the cycle of this crabs in a bucket syndrome we’re stuck knee deep in is to stop being the crab.  Period.  L.O.D. is not a gang and will not adopt the so called principles of such.  What it is, however, is an alliance of like-minded individuals who’ve recognized the perilous situation we’ve had thrust upon us and hunger to be active in making a difference.  L.O.D. recognizes that the Enemy (this governmental machine) does not discriminate and neither shall we.  Any race, creed, color, or sexual orientation will and shall be accepted with open arms.  L.O.D. is a movement that begs the question: is this life or is this Death?  Where a person is born into a design of debt, poverty, incarceration, and death by age 30.

In today’s America there are two species of human being: non-felons and felons.  Felons, have become the new slave, alien, outcast, reject, undesirable, etc.  The promotion of ignorance in today’s society is at an all time high and it is this very ignorance that justifies the oppressive abuses we suffer at the hands of the law.

The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as punishment for a crime.  Look it up.  We claim to be adults, but we’re afraid to speak up and speak out against the ignorance in our own neighborhoods that steals our children from us.  That same ignorance that claims our children is the very same ignorance that fuels the fears and frustrations of these quick trigger cops who kill seemingly in cold blood.

Living
In
Fucked up
Environments

Of
Racism

Destroying
Everything
Against
The
Heart

I salute the men and women of I.O.A. and thank you from the core of my heart for your courage and dedication to a selfless cause.  I’d been meaning to raech out to you guys for some time now.

As for your concerns about the complaints with this jail???…

My only complaint would be the lack of educational opportunities for the long term detainees.  I’ve made several requests myself to have some character education/ethics and choices work books sent in so that I can start a class but…instead, as you can see on the back side of page one, I’ve started a creative writing class and had a helluva turnout!  Months back I’d started a mens group in 4-D but I failed the young bros up there by letting my anger and frustration get the best of me.  In life – especially behind bars – people will treat you the way you present yourself.  I cannot echo the complaints you hear in every letter because hey…this is jail.  This building has saved many people from themselves, so as novel the thought of total abolishment of jail is, it would truly do more harm than good.  In a perfect world these prisons and jails wouldn’t be necessary.  Having spent 21 1/2 years day for day with no breaks in between in prison, I can honestly say it (prison) is needed.  I have met many a man who have lost all desire to change…if they ever possessed it to begin with.  Sad, but too true.  My Lord and Savior had different plans for me and so he filled me with the will to endure and to never give up.  He filled me with compassion and the desire to help mend this broken picture of society.  To let my own life and experiences be an example to our youth of not only what not do, but also of how to turn your life around for the better.

Man, I love it.  Inspiring substantial thought in people.

You have my permission to print this letter in its entirety and to use my full name.  I stand on every word I’ve written and fear no reprisal from staff.  I can honestly say that the vast majority of the staff I’ve encountered here are genuinely good people just doing their jobs to pay the bills.

In closing I’d like to ask you guys at IOA to see about sending me some materials (workbooks, etc.) to aid me in my task of creating a change.  Like I said earlier, ethics and choices, character education, anger management, stress management…anything that will bring something new and worthwhile to the boxes that these brothers and sister are unable to think outside of.  Help me help our society.

I am L.O.D.

Sincerely fearless and able,

Curtis Barnette

God bless y’all and I love you all.