Judge to hear arguments in Central Prison lawsuit

Central Prison (North Carolina)
RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday about dismissing a lawsuit that accuses guards at North Carolina’s maximum security prison of sadistically beating inmates, resulting in broken bones and wheelchair confinement.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle planned to consider whether there is enough evidence already presented in court documents to go ahead with the lawsuit on behalf of eight inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The inmates accuse 19 correctional officers of taking handcuffed and shackled inmates from solitary confinement cells where they were placed for disciplinary reasons to blind spots out of view of security cameras, then severely beating them. Former prison administrators Gerald Branker and Kenneth Lassister are accused in the lawsuit of failing in their duties for not developing policies on investigating inmate abuse complaints and to preserve video tapes that might contain evidence from being erased.

View the entire story.


Related:

Support for NC Hunger Strikers: Sign Petition

Please sign here: http://www.change.org/petitions/nc-prisoners-on-hunger-strike#

See also: Solitarywatch of August 1, 2012 and here at Internationalist Books Collective.

On Monday July 16th, prisoners began hunger strikes at Bertie CI in Windsor, Scotland CI in Laurinburg, and Central Prison in Raleigh. Targeting a wide range of conditions related but not exclusive to solitary confinement, the prisoners have vowed not to eat until their demands are met.

Prisoners have encouraged supporters to call or fax the administrations of these different facilities as well as Director Robert Lewis (see information below), to “march or protest in front of Central Prison and others,” “boycott all products being sold in these prisons,” and to “contact media outlets and let them know what we are doing.”

The prisoners have listed the following demands (listed at the bottom), though they are also encouraging others to include any other grievances specific to their conditions. It is still unclear how many prisoners are currently participating, but correspondence with those on the inside has made it clear that the strike has spread to three at least three different facilities.

Constant attention and pressure on administrations can help make this strike a success, and protect those who are putting their lives on the line.

PRISONERS’ DEMANDS

– Law Libraries. We are tired of being railroaded by the courts, and having our rights violated by prison staff and officers. NC Prison Legal Services are inadequate and oftentimes do not help us at all. A law library is needed to enable us to legally defend ourselves.

– An immediate end to the physical and mental abuse inflicted by officers.

– Improve food, in terms of quality and quantity.

– A better way to communicate emergencies from cells; many emergency call buttons are broken and never replaced, and guards often do not show up for over an hour. At least one prisoner has died this way.

– The canteens that serve lock up units need to make available vitamins and personal hygiene items.

– An immediate stop to officers’ tampering or throwing away prisoners’ mail.

– Education programs for prisoners on lock-up.

– The immediate release of prisoners from solitary who have been held unjustly or for years without infractions; this includes the Strong 8, sent to solitary for the purpose of political intimidation.

– The immediate end to the use of restraints as a form of torture.

– The end of cell restriction. Sometimes prisoners are locked in their cell for weeks or more than a month, unable to come out for showers and recreation.

– The theft of prisoners’ property, including mattresses and clothes. When on property restriction, we are forced to sleep on the ground or steel bed frames naked, with no bedding.

– Medical privacy and confidentiality. Guards should not be able to listen in on our medical problems when on sick call.

– Change our cell windows to ones which we can see through. The current windows are covered with feces and grime. Not being able to see out is sensory deprivation, and makes us feel dissociated from everything that exists outside of prison.

– An immediate repair of cell lights, sinks, toilets, and plumbing.

– Toilet brushes should be handed out with cell cleaning items.

– The levels of I-Con, M-Con, and H-Con need to be done away with altogether. When one is placed on Intensive Control Status (I-Con), one is placed in the hole for six months and told to stay out of trouble. But even when we stay out of trouble, we are called back to the FCC and DCC only to be told to do another six months in the hold, infraction free.

Demonstration At Central Prison This Sunday March 25th 2012: Noon

From: Internationalist Prison Book Collective, Chapel Hill:
March 21, 2012

Hello Friends,

Riding on the back of the call-in day last Wednesday there is a demonstration outside of Central Prison, at 1300 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606, this Sunday, March 25th at noon. The goal of this protest is to bring attention to the “Strong 8″ and put pressure on Central prison to release these men back into general population. We encourage people to bring signs, banners, and drums and noisemaking devices of all kinds.

Some Background Information:

On December 16th, 15 prisoners working in the kitchens at Central Prison, in Raleigh, sat down on the job in protest of the hours, lack of gain time, and working conditions. Prisoners in these kitchens are made to work ten hours a day, seven days a week. The strikers refused to go back to work until questions were answered regarding their hours and gain time. Instead of addressing their concerns, the head kitchen corrections officer told the men to, “get [their] sorry asses back to work,” and called in for backup. Now these 8 men have been sentenced to I-Con status, which is essentially solitary confinement.

You can find more information here.

Support Striking Raleigh Prisoners! Announcing Demo and Call-In Day

From: Internationalist Prison Books Collective:
March 8, 2012

On December 16th, 15 prisoners working in the kitchens at Central Prison, in Raleigh, sat down on the job in protest of the hours, lack of gain time, and working conditions. Prisoners in these kitchens are made to work ten hours a day, seven days a week. The strikers refused to go back to work until questions were answered regarding their hours and gain time. Instead of addressing their concerns, the head kitchen corrections officer told the men to, “get [their] sorry asses back to work,” and called in for backup. This is the same facility where a scandalous media report on conditions in the mental health ward forced Warden Branker into early retirement.

Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, guards soon came and threatened the men into returning to work. Eight of the men, however, continued to refuse to work until their questions were asked. These men were charged with “disobeying a direct order” and “work refusal,” and placed in solitary cells. Just a few days ago, the men were given an abrupt disciplinary hearing, in which they were railroaded into I-Con (Intensive Control) as punishment. I-Con is an intensive form of segregation, typically 23 hours a day in a small solitary cell, with few if any resources available, constantly censored mail, and little recreational activity. Sentences on I-Con often last 6 months or longer. One prisoner wrote about the hearing, “I tried to plead my case to the hearing officer, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t even listen. It was already pre-arranged what the outcome would be. It amazes me what Central Prison gets away with. They don’t even care about policy. They do what they want.”

The men who refused to return to work are calling themselves the “Strong 8,” and have been in touch with outside support groups to spread news of and ask for solidarity in their struggle. It is clear that the attempt to isolate and repress these men’s strike is an effort to intimidate any efforts at organizing on the inside before they start. The struggle to get these men off of solitary is about more than just the freedom of these 8 men – it is about the use of solitary confinement as a tool for political intimidation, prisons as a form of forced labor, and the “new jim crow” of the contemporary prison-industrial complex.

Outside supporters are initially calling for several different approaches to get these men off solitary. First, there will be a mass call-in day to both the prison warden and the NC Director of Prisons on Wednesday, March 14th. This is being heavily publicized both regionally and nationally – we’re hoping that those who are too far away to attend demonstrations will help out in other ways. The contact information for these call-in days is below:

Central Prison Warden Ken Lassiter
ph:(919) 733- 0800
fax: (919) 715-2645

NC Director of Prisons Robert C. Lewis
ph: (919) 838-4000
fax: (919) 733-8272

Second, there will be a demonstration outside of Central Prison, at 13:00 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606, on Sunday March 25th at noon. We encourage people to bring signs, banners, and drums and noisemaking devices of all kinds. The prisoners have explicitly asked for some banners and signs to read, “Free the Strong 8 Kitchen Workers” and “Fire Mr. Rice.” The protest will be during visiting hours, so we hope to directly spread word of support for the strike throughout the inside via family members, as well as increase pressure on the administration to return the men to general population.

Thirdly, we are asking for people to conduct a massive media and internet outreach campaign around this strike and the subsequent punishment of the workers. Administrations get away with this kind of thing in part by sweeping news of any and all prison resistance under the rug, so that family, friends, affected communities, and other prisoners don’t hear about it. Please spread news of this struggle by any and all websites, newspapers, radio stations, and other media outlets you can think of.

The struggle to get these men off solitary won’t stop with these small actions; this is likely just a beginning. It goes without saying that any and all acts of solidarity and support are encouraged. We will continue to post and send out more information as it is available, both from the inside and outside. To see the original post of the story and find future updates, you can go to prisonbooks.info.

Until Every Cage is Empty,

Against Prisons and the Society that Builds Them,

an ad hoc coalition of groups and individuals supporting the Strong 8