Central Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina
January 20, 2020 – ongoing

Sixteen prisoners went on hunger strike on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in solidarity with two hundred prisoners allegedly facing brutality in the prison’s mental health unit. The strikers allege that prison staff uses chemical mace against mental health prisoners, neglects medication refills and healthcare generally, sends them to solidarity confinement at increasingly higher rates, searches their cells during their group therapy sessions, and destroys the prisoners’ property during searches.

The sixteen prisoners on hunger strike are not in the mental health unit. They have taken action as an act of camaraderie.

The Industrial Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) has twice asked supporters outside of the prisons to call prison administration and demand they:

  1. End the excessive use of chemical mace on prisoners who have not been a threat to staff or others.
  2. Stop the targeted searches of mental health prisoners who attend weekly group on Unit One. We know that this is an attempt to discourage them from receiving treatment.
  3. Address the deliberate indifference shown by medical staff not refilling prisoners’ self-meds and neglecting to answer sick calls in a timely manner.

According to a survey published in 2010, mentally ill people were in jails and prisons more than they were in hospitals. Though North Carolina lawmakers allocated millions of dollars to mental health reform initiatives in prisons, a retired prison psychologist has indicted this a failure, with money not going to aid prisoners “as promised.”

Citations:

16 Hunger Strikers in an act of comradery for fellow prisoners starting MLK Day”, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

Day 5 of Hunger Strike at Raleigh Central Prison”, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, January 24, 2020.

Full Report on the alleged failures of prison mental health reform in N.C.”, Charlotte Observer.

Healthy prisoners launch hunger strike on MLK Day to support tortured mental health prisoners – join the phone zap”, San Francisco Bay View, January 18, 2020.

More Mentally Ill Persons Are in Jail and Prisons Than Hospitals: A Survey of the States”, Treatment Advocacy Center, May 2010.

Phone Zap!! DAY 7 of HUNGER STRIKE: 16 Hunger Strikers Act For Fellow Prisoners”, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

 

Header photo source: wikimedia.org
Article published: January 29, 2020