March 29, 2011 prisonbookscollective
Comrades and outside supporters of the prisoners at Bertie CI in Windsor,
NC, recently received word that two prisoners on Solitary Confinement
recently barricaded themselves in their cells as a protest of prison
conditions and repression. This “lock-in” action lasted four days, and was
timed to coincide with an outside demonstration by anarchists and
supporters on March 12th. It also coincided with the second of two
national call-in days to the prison and NC Department of Corrections.
Two days into the lock-in, which began March 10th, about twenty anarchists
gathered outside the prison with drums, pots and pans, and large banners
reading, “Against Prisons.” According to one prisoner,
“In regards to the demo on the 12th, the pigs tried to keep it under wraps
from everyone. Usually, when a disturbance happens, they’ll lock the
facility down. On this occasion, they figured if no one brought attention
to it then they could go on as if everything was normal. One problem
though. There are rooms facing the parking lot and prisoners were able to
see what was happening! Word of mouth is effective. We started kicking on
the door and flooding. A couple prisoners set fires.”
Another prisoner got written up for his behavior, his disciplinary report
alleging, “creating a riotous type protest and causing other inmates to do
the same thing.” Two days later, the prisoners conducting the lock-in were
forcefully extracted from their cells, and later promised that many of
their demands would be met.
The following is a description of the lock-in action by one of the
prisoners involved, as well as the demands they submitted to prison
Description of Action:
“On March 10th, 2011, myself (James Graham) and my comrade Danny
Washington barricaded ourselves in our rooms and refused to come out for
anything. This was done in protest of the conditions here at Bertie
On March 14th, we both sent a list of demands to prison officials
demanding that we not be treated like animals and slaves and that they
institute programs that address our basic human rights. Once they received
the list of demands, they sent the Unit Manager, Asst. Unit Manager,
Captain, and the Intelligence Lieutenant (he deals with prisoners who are
labeled as being part of a Security Threat Group) to our doors to speak to
us and ask us if we had any food trays, but neither of us answered and
they left. The captain summoned his lil’ “goon squad,” and he came to our
cells again, this time accompanied by a guard holding a camera, giving us
a direct order to come out of our cells. He received no reply. He stated
on the camera that we “had weapons” and that his goons would come and
extract us from our cells “to restore order.”
First off, we had no weapons and I didn’t know that refusing to come out
of your cell was causing a disturbance. Once they saw we weren’t coming
out, they left. When they returned, it was the Captain along with his
goons who had an electric shield and a mace canister (the size of a fire
extinguisher). They came to my cell first and told me to “submit to the
cuffs” and come out of my cells. No reply. One of the guards opened my
food trap and sprayed mace in my cell and closed my trap hoping that would
force me to come out willingly. It didn’t work. Next, they did the same
thing again and it was unsuccessful too. Then, the Captain called the
guard in the control booth to open my door. My door wouldn’t open courtesy
of my barricade. I sat back and waited patiently while listening to the
guards cough and choke on the mace as they struggled trying to get my door
open. After witnessing this for a good lil’ while, they finally got my
door open and rushed in my cell, tackled me and held me down while I was
handcuffed, chained, and shackled. I was then thrown in a shower – with
the water on – for about five or six minutes, taken to see the nurse for a
check-up and placed in a cage. They also ran my comrade’s cell, but I
don’t know the details.
We had the chance to speak to the Superintendent, Asst. Superintendent,
Captain, Intelligence Lieutenant, Unit Manager, and Asst. Unit Manager. In
meeting with them, we went down the list of demands [attached below] and
addressed every demand. This is what I was told in response to these
* A new chaplain will be starting on 3/28/11 who will come around and
visit the prisoners. Also, they will be making sure there are
materials for all religions and no specific religion will be shown
* Lack of nurses has been the reason for inadequate medical care and
in timely responses to medical emergencies. More nurses are in the
process of being hired.
* More dental staff are in the process of being hired as well. The
dental floss issue wasn’t discussed.
* The Unit Manager and Asst. Unit Manager were told to make sure we
had clothes daily and they promised to contact the warehouse about
making sure our clothing was sanitized.
* The food will be served according to the dietary charts in Raleigh.
Basically, no change.
* Maintenance would be contacted to make sure the temperatures are
correct, and to clean the vents out.
* I was told to contact a woman in the Education Dep. about starting
up some educational programs for prisoners in solitary.
* I was told to contact Raleigh about the publications ban list.
* I was told we would ne given toilet brushes during cell clean-up
–and we have been.
We have made great strides in the right direction. We will definitely
continue what we have started and will continue in the struggle. Whatever
repressive tactics that may be used against us won’t be anything we
haven’t experienced at one time or another. The only thing to fear is fear
itself and the only thing to lose is these chains.”
Prisoners’ Demands and Communique:
* Equal treatment of all religions. Here at Bertie CI certain
religions are favored over others. The chaplain only provides
religious materials for certain religions and the rest he tells
prisoners to “write your leader.”
* Adequate Medical Care. Ibuprofen and aspirin are given out like a
cure to all diseases – including vomiting up blood.
* Prompt responses to all medical emergencies. Often times it takes
hours for medical personnel to respond to a medical emergency.
Sometimes it’s ignored altogether.
* Adequate dental care. Prisoners have to wait months after filling
out numerous dental requests before being seen by a dentist. Also,
prisoners house in solitary are prohibited from having dental floss
even though it’s vital to dental care. The excuse for the denial has
been “because you’re on lock-up.”
* Clean clothing. Prisoners are given clothing that has not been
washed properly or not at all. Prisoners have received clothing with
urine, feces, and semen stains in them with foul odors. Prisoners have
caught rashes from wearing these unsanitized clothes.
* Adequate portions and nutritional meals.
* Protection from extreme conditions. In the winter, the air
conditioning is blasting, in the summer, the heat is blasting. The
extreme temperatures are done for psychological purposes.
* Clean air. The ventilation (air flow) is so poor it undermines
sanitation. There’s excessive dust and lint particles in the air in
our cells which prisoners in solitary confinement breathe 23 hours a
* Educational and self-improvement opportunities. Prisoners on
solitary realize that no guard can rehabilitate them. Only we can do
that. Problem is, there are no resources for us to utilize.
* The publications ban list be revised. The ban list exemplifies
racism, bigotry, and prejudice. It targets Black books, Black
publications, and a specifically Black genre: urban fiction.
* A toilet brush to properly sanitize our toilets. Prisoners are in a
cell for a minimum of 23 hours a day in a cell with a toilet they use
We refuse to come out of our cells in protest of these conditions. We will
continue to struggle by various means until these demands are addressed.”
These actions followed an increase in tension and struggle inside of
Bertie over the last 6 months, as the prison has experienced the
appearance of Black and anarchist study groups, as well as several
collective actions involving refusals to leave cells and the occupation of
yards. Personal and political relationships between anarchist and prisoner
support groups and prisoners have also increased. We stand in total
solidarity with these prisoners, and remain committed to helping their
struggle generalize whenever and wherever possible.
North Carolina, cmon raise up!
…some anarchists against prisons…