Why I stayed in

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
posted by admin

by david

Just to clear up any possible confusion, I thought I might write a brief note explaining some of the circumstances surrounding my recent stay and release from South Central Regional Jail.

I was arrested on August 21 for locking to a barrel of ‘dirty water’ in front of the governor’s mansion in Charleston, WV. I was charged with trespassing and obstructing and my bail was set initially at $5,000, with a “10% option”, which in Kanawha County meant that I could be bailed out for $500. There was enough money in our legal defense fund to bail me out, but I elected to stay in. I was hoping that while in jail, I could settle my charges by working out a plea deal with the prosecution. After a few weeks, during which I had only intermittent contact with my public defender, it was clear that no such deal would be forthcoming.

At that time I considered requesting bail, but at that point I had been moved to stay in because I felt like there were pressing issues inside the jail itself that I felt like I needed to help address. First, the jail administration had enacted a ban on outside books being sent into the jail, which I considered unjust and dangerous. Second, I was trying to support a young man who was still in high school who got locked up with me and had to deal with being in jail for the first time while having difficulty finding support on the outside.

While i was doing what i could from the inside, the jail support team was doing what they could from the outside. After many phone calls, meetings, and letters, these issues were successfully resolved; inmates are able to receive books again and the young man was released.

So, after 30 days in jail, on September 19th, when my jail support went to see a Kanawha County magistrate, I got released on my own recognizance (meaning we didn’t have to pay bail.)

Doing time has been an eye-opening experience for many of us who have spent time in jail as part of this campaign. I remain extremely troubled by conditions prevalent at South Central (especially the plight of folks remaining in jail weeks or months after being cleared to be released to home confinement) and by the way our society uses incarceration to deal with problems like family conflict and unpaid traffic tickets. As someone who views the fight against surface mining as part of a broader liberation project for Appalachia, I feel it’s important that we continue to make supporting the incarcerated a regular part of our practice as activists here in West Virginia.

The downside to this work is that my incarceration cost RAMPS a significant amount of money – primarily from the cost of calls from the jail. People were always there to answer both my calls and those from my fellow inmates, which added up to hundreds of dollars at the exorbitant rates the the jail charges inmates for that privilege. If you would like to help defray the cost of my incarceration, please donate here.


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