We continue to support, advocate for and amplify the voices of those trapped in cages and those recently released. We have made incredible progress over the last year, and we’re excited to tell you about new directions in our work.
Stories from South Central was created as an emergency response to the systematic chemical poisoning of people incarcerated in South Central Regional Jail in Charleston, WV, in the wake of the January 2014 MCHM spill. Our investigations revealed widespread human rights abuses inflicted upon the jail’s population during this crisis (and generated this in-depth ThinkProgress article). In June, this report formed the basis for comments by the President of the Connecticut State Senate where he called out the former executive director of the WV Regional Jail Authority, Joe DeLong, for his failure to protect prisoners from drinking toxic water.
Though our work on this matter is far from over, those brave prisoners who chose to speak out have ensured that this travesty will not be forgotten and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.
The failed response by the jail staff and administration to the water crisis is an example of a larger pattern of abuse, violence, and negligence. To combat these abuses, we operate a full-scale prisoner support and advocacy project.
We’re now working with former prisoners who want to fight for better jail conditions, more decarceration and re-entry opportunities, and accountability for past abuses. We are currently collaborating with comrades we met while they were locked up in South Central to build a network of prisoner supporters and advocates primarily consisting of formerly incarcerated people.
We are pleased to announce that the West Virginia Department of Corrections has lowered rates on phone calls substantially, and we are pressuring the Regional Jail Authority to follow suit, resulting in front page coverage in the Charleston Gazette and further coverage via the Associated Press.
Our work includes staffing and funding a jail support hotline that WV prisoners can call to report on conditions, request help with lawyers or bureaucrats, send messages to families and friends, or just chat with us. The high number of people contacting us means there are fewer people languishing in West Virginia jails and prisons without outside contact and more prisoners bravely defying a culture of repression and violence to speak out and assert their humanity.
We also continue to support prisoners by keeping up regular written correspondence, visiting, providing court support, facilitating new pen pal relationships, maintaining a media presence, providing commissary and books for prisoners in need, and working to build solidarity between the climate justice and prison justice movements.
Please support this work with a donation! As an all-volunteer organization, we depend on generous donations from supporters to continue our work. No donation is too small — everything helps! If you are in a position to do so, please consider becoming a recurring monthly donor.
Your support will help us keep moving forward with our efforts to amplify the voices and political power of those currently and formerly incarcerated. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
For a world without cages,
P.S. Here are some more things you can do to support this work …
- Join our pen pal program! Many prisoners have asked us to help them find someone on the outside to correspond with. Send us an email for more information — tell us you’re interested, and we’ll set you up.
- Ask your friends and networks to support us.
- If you can provide legal support, or if you want to talk about supporting prisoners and/or this project in other ways, get in touch and tell us more.
- If you haven’t already, please like and share us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!