Prison activists are holding a call-in day in support of eight inmates held in solitary confinement at Central Prison in North Carolina. According to their account:
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.”
Intensive Control is defined by the North Carolina Department of Corrections as “the long-term removal of close custody felon or minimum custody level I misdemeanant inmates from the general inmate population to confinement in a secure area. The intent is the control of offenders whose behavior has proven to be repeatedly disruptive to the operations of the facility, non-compliant with instructions and orders, or as a transition following assignment to maximum control status. Intensive control is authorized at any point during an offender’s confinement if needed to contain the offender in a more secure environment over a long period of time.”
Depending on precisely which charges were brought against the inmates, they can be held in isolation for 30-60 days per charge, according to the disciplinary rules of the DOC.
Two other inmates have written a letter in support of the eight inmates.
The North Carolina Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for comment at the time of this publication.