Showing Solidarity with Prisoners in South Central Regional Jail

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
posted by fern

When my friends and I locked our bodies to a coal Barge on the Kanawha River, we found ourselves in a place of great visibility. We were immediately noticed and photographed and our story and message spread through newspapers, on twitter, and all over the internet.

That same day, we entered South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County, WV, where those held are almost invisible. I believe that jail is always inhumane–a poor way to resolve social conflict but an excellent way for those in power to repress dissenting people groups. I was still surprised, though, at the appalling conditions in this overcrowded state jail. When we arrived at the jail, Rebecca and I were ushered into an approximately 15’ x 12’ holding cell which already held about twelve other women. We had to step gingerly over prone bodies to make it to the concrete bench on the edge of the cell. The jail was chill and we were exhausted, but without blankets all we could do was cling to each other to keep warm. Normally, inmates are only in holding for a few hours until they are processed and sent to pods where they have access to beds, a phone, and space to walk around during the day. The women curled up on the floor of our holding cell, however, had been there for days; some had not even been allowed to make a phone call to let someone know where they were and how to bail them out. Under a constant fluorescent light, the cell hung heavy with a temporal disorientation and a despair of ever being seen or heard.

The body count swelled our second day to 17. With too few mattresses and not enough space on the floor to stretch out, most women curled up in a small space and lay still in the constant dim light as hours stretched into days. Please of any kind were ignored by all guards. Our cell went for about 8 hours without toilet paper and one woman lay listless and burning up as her blood sugar spiked. Though we all called for her to be brought her insulin, we were ignored for hours on end as her condition worsened.

The United States Government incarcerates more of its population–about one out of every 100 adults–than any nation on Earth. This nation contains about 5% of the world’s population, but almost one quarter of the world’s prisoners.1 Many of us, particularly those of us with a lot of class and racial privilege, still need to wake up to the ways that the U.S. uses its penal system to repress its people. Especially because our campaign has a lot to do with unjust laws and unjust enforcement, we want to acknowledge the horror inherent in the “criminal justice” system and show that we’re paying attention to the suffering and social damage that it causes.

What I would ask of you all is that you would call the south central regional jail (304-558-1336) and tell them that if they have over a dozen people in a holding cell for days, they have too many people. Tell them that you think that it is unacceptable for them to hold anyone under such miserable conditions and that they need to be providing everyone with the medical care that they need and that their doctors have prescribed. Call and let them know we’re paying attention.

Pictured: The newest member of RAMPS



7 Responses to “Showing Solidarity with Prisoners in South Central Regional Jail”

  1. Gail says:

    Hi squirrel,

    I met you in Washington at the Tar Sands. I was arrested last month in NYC for a CD at Occupy – and even our holding cell was far better than what you describe. Ugh. Thanks for your continued work, I hope to come down from NJ for the July action.

    Gail Zawacki

  2. Gracie says:

    I just called the jail number and it has been changed. BTW , I live in Okla.

  3. squirrel says:

    Yeah, I guess that’s saying something if we’re beating NYC. I’ve heard lots of horror stories and would never want to go to jail there. I’m so glad you’re coming for the walk-on and I hope I can hear your story of CD with Occupy!

  4. not a criminal says:

    Ummmm…..I was always taught by my parents, if you don’t want to do the time, DO NOT do the crime. My husband is a state trooper and he puts his life on the line each day protect the citizens of this state. He is also a veteran of the war in Iraq. He put his life on the line and spent a year away from our children to protect the FREEDOMS that you all are privaleged enough to have. You all have done nothing to earn these rights, except being born into a country that has others put their lives on the line for YOU. Maybe if your parents taught you respect of authority and had not bailed you out each time you were in trouble…..maybe, just maybe, you would open your eyes and grow up….Nahhhh, just hide behind mommy && daddy’s money and pray that when one of those poor, beleagured inmates robs you, they leave you with your life. God Bless

  5. matt says:

    Looks like the raccoon is being held against its will to me.

  6. fern says:

    Dear not a criminal,

    My parents have never bailed me out of jail.

    The United States is not exactly the only country that sends soldiers away to war. Maybe that relationship between war and freedom is a bit more complicated?

    I spent a good bit of time with some state police last weekend, and as they beat and brutalized my friends around me (these friends were being peaceful throughout), I didn’t really feel that I was being gifted with a lot of “freedom,” “privilege,” or “safety.”

    You are right; my parents did not teach me to respect people just because they have power over me.

    Maybe do have one thing in common, though: we both value making sacrifices for what we believe is right.

  7. Laura says:

    “Don’t judge your day by the the harvest reaped, but by the seeds you sew” Robert Lewis Stevenson. May you continue to plant seeds for transformative change where ever you find yourself.

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