Thursday, August 22, 2013

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:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

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.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Death row prisoner Marcus Robinson clearly demonstrated that racial bias had influenced his death sentence

From: NCADP
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP)

Dear Fellow Abolitionists,

This morning in North Carolina's first test case of its Racial Justice Act, Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that death row prisoner Marcus Robinson clearly demonstrated that racial bias had influenced his death sentence. This is a truly historic moment.

Today's decision marks a new day for justice in North Carolina, where the legal system acknowledges the unsavory role that race plays in the decision to seek the death penalty, against whom, and for what crimes. It respects the rights of persons of all races to serve on juries.

The decision is a significant step in the right direction. And, it will save many lives. With this ruling, North Carolina continues its leading role as a state willing to honestly and fairly examine the affect of race in its criminal justice system.

Read more in initial news stories here, and there is this analysis on the Huffington Post. You can watch video from the ruling here. Download the ruling and read it for yourself, here.

This decision is rather timely, especially in light of Sunday's 25th anniversary of the McCleskey decision, and just days after the release of a new study from Duke University demonstrating the greater likelihood of all-white juries to convict defendants of color.

In McCleskey, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to provide relief from a demonstrated pattern of racial bias in death sentencing. Instead the Court said that it was up to the legislature to address the concern as a matter of public policy. In enacting the Racial Justice Act, the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Perdue have done that, making it clear that the state of North Carolina rejects the influence of race discrimination in the administration of the death penalty.

Today's decision is a testament to the fact that we must not allow capital punishment to force us to abandon our basic commitment to fairness. With Sunday's anniversary of McCleskey, the juxtaposition of all of this is sweet.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty congratulates the broad coalition of North Carolinians who have worked so hard for this day, including the Legislative Black Caucus, the extraordinary legal team, grassroots organizers and leaders from a variety of organizations, clergy and communities of faith, and others. It has been an incredible and inspiring effort. Today you have struck a major blow for justice. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb 23 Call In Day for NC Prison Rebels

From: Prison Abolitionist:


------This comes via Freedom Archives political prisoner list-serve---------

Feb. 17, 2011 Anarchist News

http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/13961

On Wednesday February 23rd, there will be a national call-in day to the North Carolina Department of Corrections, in solidarity with prison rebels across the state, and in particular those facing repercussions for organizing study groups and collective actions at Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor, NC.

Organizing in Windsor has happened alongside the now famous rebellion in Georgia, where in mid-December of 2010 prisoners organized the largest coordinated prison strike in US history. For six days, in at least six facilities across the state, thousands of prisoners refused to work in response to the brutality and indignity of prison. Anarchists and radicals responded with call-in days and solidarity demonstrations outside of jails and prisons in their own towns. Similar tactics, low-risk but diffuse and constant, were recently used to great success in conjunction with a hunger strike by four Ohio prisoners on death row for their role in the Lucasville prison rebellion.

Though it has not garnered the attention of the mainstream media or large national organizations and figureheads, this struggle has been consistently growing in North Carolina prisons as well, and has been supported by a number of small collectives, publishing projects, and
individuals on the outside.

Of particular note is the struggle at Bertie C.I. Over the last year, prisoners there have organized large study groups focusing on Black anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas, as well as the history and politics of gang truce efforts. Radicals there have made the effort to reach across racial and gang-based divisions, and the effort has borne fruit: on at least three occasions in the past few months prisoners have taken collective action around issues of food, clothing, and exercise, successfully occupying yards or refusing to leave their cells en masse until given what they want.

Though achieving small victories in this process is encouraging and important, we see these developments and the practices of solidarity we exercise alongside them not as part of a specific campaign around a particular set of grievances or demands, but as a process of growth and resistance that seeks to destabilize prisons and render them increasingly ungovernable.

Several prisoners have faced repercussions for their roles in this activity. One prisoner, an outspoken anarchist and gang leader named James Graham, has been thrown in solitary confinement on a more or less permanent basis, and was brutally beaten by six guards during a cell extraction several weeks ago. Others have also faced time in solitary, the loss of "privileges," and other punishments.

February 23rd will be a national call-in day to show support for all North Carolina prison rebels, to tell the North Carolina DOC and Bertie CI officials that we're paying attention and that our comrades in Windsor are not alone. Call them. Fax them. Email them. The authorities at Bertie feel empowered to beat and isolate rebellious prisoners in part because they think the prisoners have no outside support, and that there will be no consequences; February 23rd is the first step in proving them wrong.

Tell the DOC: Hands off James Graham! Hands off all Prison Rebels!

NC DOC
Phone : (919)838-4000
Fax: (919)733-8272
Email: info@doc.state.nc.us

BERTIE C.I.
Phone: (252)794-8600
Fax: (252)794-4608

Posted via:
Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863-9977
www.Freedomarchives.org

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can the Racial Justice Act Change the Practice of Picking All-White Juries in North Carolina?

Aug 10th, 2010
Cassandra Stubbs, Capital Punishment Project

Last week, five North Carolina death row inmates filed motions seeking to have their death sentences vacated under North Carolina's new Racial Justice Act (RJA), a law that allows death row inmates to use statistics to show that race played a role in their cases. Buried in the fine print of the inmates' motions is a story worthy of its own headline: a new study by researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) found that prosecutors in North Carolina removed qualified African-American jurors at more than twice the rate that they removed all other jurors.

The MSU study looked the use of "peremptory strikes," the practice by which attorneys for both sides remove jurors whom they don't want on the jury. The MSU study found that prosecutors in North Carolina, by overwhelming numbers, don't want African-Americans on their juries, even if they are not opposed to the death penalty and are fully qualified to serve. Even more revealing, the MSU study found that prosecutors statewide removed African-American jurors at even higher rates in cases where the defendant was African-American: proof that prosecutors are even more intent on reducing the number of African-American jurors if the person to be tried is African-American.

The disturbing results of the MSU study are unfortunately not limited to North Carolina. A report issued by the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama just last month documented racial discrimination in jury selection in death penalty cases across the South.

What is unique about North Carolina is that it is the only state in the country that has a law in place to address the problem of discrimination in the exercise of peremptory strikes. Although the Constitution prohibits racial discrimination in jury selection, the courts have not developed an effective way to stop the problem. In North Carolina, for example, the appellate courts have never reversed a capital case because of discrimination in jury selection.

The country will be watching closely to see if North Carolina's law can remove the historically fused link between race and jury selection in capital cases. African-Americans were excluded historically from jury service first by laws directly prohibiting their participation, and later by poll taxes, property and literacy requirements. The racially based use of peremptory strikes is the on-going legacy of this history.

Kenneth Rouse's case will be one of the key tests of the new law's force. Rouse, one of the first five to file his motion, is one of 33 North Carolina death row inmates sentenced to death by all-white jury. One of the white jurors chosen by the prosecutor to serve on Rouse's jury routinely referred to African-Americans as "n-----s" and later stated that "bigotry" was influential in his decision to vote for death. In Rouse's county, the prosecution struck African-American jurors at almost three times the rate it struck all other jurors.

The RJA gives the North Carolina court the power to commute Rouse's death sentence to life based on the evidence of bias in jury selection in his case. The court's ruling could be the leap forwarded needed to finally prevent prosecutors from sending home African-American jurors.

(Originally posted to The Seminal.)

Link to ACLU article Here