Fiction: “The Story of the Plan”



Note: The following short story was written by DCDC inmate Floyd Harwell. This slice of creative writing illuminates deeper truths about the systemic racism of the prison-industrial complex and the human lives that are caught up in the entrails of this system.

by Floyd K. Harwell Continue reading

A voice inside: It’s Time to Take the Banner of Freedom & Justice and Move it Up to the Next Level

Glad to know you are serious about the cause of our rights inside Durham County Jail. I commend your efforts and wish one day to stand and support the cause with you for the inmates and prisoners all across the state. Hoorah, and cheers to you.

Hope [that talk] is heard by thousands who have loved ones incarcerated. It’s a shame to see what our young black youth think of being locked up and forgotten about. They see it as a badge of honor, when it’s really a badge of shame.

I look around the pod, which is really a “tomb” for the “living dead” and the average age of those “living dead” are in the range from 17 to 22 years of age, that’s over 75 percent in this tomb alone (staggering).

I wonder a lot about our species as a black culture. They say that the best way to kill or destroy a culture is to kill off the young and that way we become extinct.

Today, all you have to do is put a gun in a black man’s (boy rather) hand and sit back and watch the “mayhem” it causes in “our” neighborhood, or as the “killers” (white racists) would say “niggerhood.” No longer do we see whites protest any more, you know why? Cause they just pick up a newspaper and smile to see “4 arrested in drive by, 3 dead, and an innocent child, or elder person, or an entire family killed.” This is the madness we must bring forth and expose their plan in order to stop it.

What ever happened to (the) NAACP, civil rights leaders who stood up for justice and our rights to be heard, where a black man felt he belonged and had rights to be heard. Don’t you think it’s time for people like us to take the banner of freedom and justice and move it up to the next level? The lions of our time are getting too laid back (lazy) in the sun. We need for them (Black Leaders) to teach us what to do, how to organize and assemble marches, speeches, protests, and put the control of our youth back in the hands where it belongs, and that’s the parents and schools and discipline. Take it back from the courts and the police. (I scream for this to be done and not heard).

We have to come to the “rescue” and be “heroes” in the eyes of our youth, and stop waiting for someone or somebody, or someday, or some “plan” to arrive. I say today is that day and yesterday was way too late to begin.

…I’ve spoken my peace and I hope to God or to to your understanding you get the big picture here. We need to stop the bleeding and start the re-healing.

Peace to you,

Floyd Harwell

Fight on.

Thirty Days in the Hole

The writer below was instrumental in starting the protest in September on pod 5C of the Durham County Detention Center. His being sent to the “hole” may or may not have been a repressive measure in response to his organizing among other inmates. The conditions imposed on those in the hole at DCDC may sound similar to those in Central Prison in Raleigh, recently exposed by The Independent.

Friday, 11/23/12

I pray this letter find you and yours safe and healthy in God’s loving care, also that you had a thankful holiday! Gobble Gobble

My most humble apologies for not writing back sooner. Explanation: The day of your letter I got into an argument with another inmate . . . I end up going to the “Hole” for 30 days. GUESS WHAT? One of the rules in the hole is that you only come out of your cell 3 times a week for one hour to shower, then you are cuffed and shackled the rest of the time (very draconian). Well I didn’t write back because another rule in the Hole is NO PENCILS except for that 1 hour 3 times a week while HANDCUFFED. Can you say suppression of the 1st Amendment?

So I’m out and I write now. It is truly appreciated that there is a grassroots movement to help “amplify our voices” about the wretchedness of our temporary incarceration . . . I mean Come on . . . A man having to beg for toilet paper. I’ll give to the jail…Trays are much, much better and I’ve noticed quite a few new ones as the NCDHHS Chris Wood said there would be.

You know this is not a black, white or Latino thing . . . this is the reality of a small population — color does not matter — whereby all are treated with indignity and disrespect. Moreover, it is about a branch of government that feels they are above reproach . . . and to a certain point they are. The courts pretty much have a “DON’T INTERFERE” policy when it comes to incarcerated individuals. They say “Management is better left to the professionals in this area (cause our shit don’t stink).”

The problem is these so called professionals are generally undereducated and/or get into this field with “sadistic intent” . . . who hasn’t had a loved one affected by crime? What better way of getting pay back on people charged with crimes than to instill inhumane, draconian treatment?

You spoke of the people I asked you to contact in our struggle. (Editor note: They have not yet responded.).There are two others who have the power to affect change!

1) Rep. Larry Hall
2) Mickey Michaux

I know Larry will speak his mind when needed and that he supports 2nd Chance programs.

I would also like to suggest another appointed official:
Sheriff Michael Andrews

The right kind of “Public” pressure on him may persuade him to personally look into our complaints of:
1) Inadequate supplies
2) Sanitation (hot water even)
3) More humane treatment of jail occupants

We are a progressively humane society, we just have to bring it BACK to people’s attentions!

What better time for compassion than during the holidays?

Do not get me wrong: the disproportionality of races in this facility is GLARING.

There are a lot of reasons for this, most have to do with socioeconomic factors, bigotry and just plain hatred. I am one of the first ones to agree with Dr. King:

I can’t wait for the day when a man (or woman) will not be judged by the color of his skin but
by the content of his CHARACTER!

And therein lies the rub, they don’t care WHO they lock up because they judge us as to have NO CHARACTER!

Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance.

If we scream loud enough someone will hear.

Grace and Peace,

A voice inside: “We have already been judged before we are judged”

This letter arrived from an inmate in a pod we hadn’t heard from yet. He likely heard about Amplify Voices Inside from another inmate on his pod who had been told of it from a visitor. Along with this letter, he sent a petition signed by 41 inmates on his pod. Both describe a slew of awful conditions the inmates face.

November 20, 2012

To Amplify Voices Inside,

. . . We are proud to have somebody on the outside fighting for us, I commend you for your and our voices to be heard.

There are also other conditions in here that need addressing such as: Better Health Care, Longer Visiting Time, Hours of LockBack during the day, Proper Heating of Building, Too Cold, Spiders, Flies, Air Filteration, Proper Washing of Clothes (come back dirtier), Proper UV lighting (Sun), Meals, Water Containers for Pods, Microwaves for Aramark Soups and Products, Prices (Too High), Care Packages (Hygiene Products), better toothbrushes, Church (Groups), Relaxation Methods (Stress), DVD Movies to Pods on Good Behavior to each other and staff, Library, better Kitchen Staff, Paint Crews for Pods, High Bonds that don’t fit the Crime.

We here feel as though we’ve been found Guilty and are being punished. What happened to Innocent until proven otherwise? We have already been judged before we are judged.

Thank you
“7420” Floyd K. Harwell

A voice inside: “They have just cut out our only serving of milk”

NOTE: We have received permission from the author of the letter below (from late October 2012) to publish his words and his name here. (We will also publish anonymous voices from inside–whatever a person requests.) The letter is published in its entirety. To date, we have heard nothing else about the milk situation.

Dear —–,

They have just cut out our only serving of milk, which was only 30% of the daily calcium requirement as it was. We are trying to bury them with grievances, (it’s incredible they should even think of doing this) but if you’ve got any mojo, I think this would be worth using it for. I’d write the Herald-Sun and the N&O, but I’m out of postage right now.

Yours, Robert Smith

“Nothing ain’t gonna ever change unless you stand up and fight.” — James Taylor