Prisoner dies in cell fire as guards watch

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by Joseph Stewart

This photo is from another prison, where guards responded to a cell fire a little more humanely than at Polk Correctional. They opened the cell door so the two prisoners inside could escape the fire, shooting tear gas to subdue them, then cuffed them and took them to safety.

On June 29, 2018, prisoner Freddie Pickett lost his life here at North Carolina’s supermax facility, Polk Correctional, due to the deliberate indifference shown daily by the miscreants who patrol these concrete fields. Prisoner Freddie Pickett’s death was documented and reported as a suicide, not as a murder.

Mr. Pickett was murdered by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) representatives. Mr. Pickett, who had an extensive history of mental health disorders, set a fire in his cell. Once the fire began to burn, it activated the smoke detector, which then got the attention of the block officer, Gardner.

From my time being held captive here at this razor-wire plantation, I’ve noticed that officer is a racist sadist who has no regard for a prisoner’s life and wears his neo-Nazi pride as a badge of honor for the world to see. Once Officer Gardner visually noticed the smoke and fire in Mr. Pickett’s cell, he then left at an unhurried pace. Gardner returned with assistant unit manager Harris, who looked in Mr. Pickett’s cell window and told her subordinates, who by this time gathered around, “to not go in and get him until he is unresponsive.”

Several officers from units throughout the facility had made their way to A-Hall of Polk’s supermax unit to watch a man be burnt alive. The same type of gatherings took place in Springfield, Ill., when there were anti-black riots in 1908 where New Afrikans were tied up and burnt alive while neo-Nazi men, women and even police officials stood by to watch.

These miscreants stood by and watched Mr. Pickett bang on his cell window and beg that they take him out the smoke-filled cell. These sadists’ only response was, “Once you’re unresponsive, we will come in and get you.”

We are being murdered, brutally beaten, denied adequate medical care, housed in cells that are not properly heated, given no phone calls, given no outside recreation and treated similar to the prisoners of war in World War II.

The same officers who took an oath to serve and protect stood by and watched Mr. Pickett be burnt to death. It was a full 30 minutes before the officers went into the cell and “pulled” Mr. Pickett’s “unresponsive” body out.

By this time, it was too late, the smoke, the fire and the disregard for human life took the life of Mr. Pickett, who had been incarcerated almost 20 years and was to be released within the next year. He was documented as a prisoner who committed suicide.

I could enlarge on the details of this murder but I want to get to the question I’m sure several of you have. Why would a prisoner set his cell on fire knowing that it could be the cause of his death? These fires are being set “to get the attention of the block officer.”

I’ve been to many of these plantations here in North Carolina and even the oldest have emergency call-buttons in the cells. These are buttons placed in each cell that when pushed alert the officer in the control booth, who then should notify the floor officers that the emergency call-button has been pushed and the prisoner in that cell is requesting the officers’ assistance.

Here at Polk’s supermax facility, there are no emergency call-buttons in any of the 96 cells. The majority of these cells house mentally ill prisoners or prisoners with health disorders.

There being no cell-buttons isn’t due to complications, because when this supermax facility was built, it was equipped with emergency call-buttons in each cell. But over time, maintenance was given the order by administration to disconnect all the call-buttons in the cells.

This was done because of the complaints of the officers in the booth claiming it was aggravating. But not only is this a health hazard, more importantly it also violates the building codes required by the state contractors that must pass this inspection before the facility can be opened. That is why this facility was equipped with call-buttons that were later disconnected.

Being that there aren’t any call-buttons, prisoners are compelled to bang on the window of their cell for long periods of time to get the attention of these sadist overseers. To drown out the noise of us beating on our cell windows, these miscreants plug up four industrial sized fans.

So when prisoners grow tired of beating on their windows, they set fires, which then activate the smoke detector in the cell. And then higher ranking officers such as sergeants, unit managers etc. are notified.

We are being murdered, brutally beaten, denied adequate medical care, housed in cells that are not properly heated, given no phone calls, given no outside recreation and treated similar to the prisoners of war in World War II. The NCDPS (North Carolina Department of Public Safety) policy and procedures and the Eighth Amendment are supposed to protect us from these violent acts. But neither the policy nor the Eighth Amendment are regarded without care or respect.

How many of us have to die at the hands of these miscreants, be brutally beaten or tortured before these tyrants are demanded to cease these on-going atrocities and be held accountable. We don’t have call-buttons, we don’t have any phones to call authorities to help us.

Many of these prisoners don’t have families to care about their wellbeing. But I care about these prisoners, I care about these prisoners with mental health disorders and I vow to continue to fight this oppressive, exploitative, murderous system.

But I’m only one man. I need the assistance of those of y’all in society who can protest outside of these razor-wire plantations, who can call the administrators and question these atrocities.

Send our brother some love and light: Joseph Stewart, 0802041, Polk Correctional, P.O. Box 2500, Butner NC 27509.

1 COMMENT

  1. As a black lady I have a soft spot for black men , our battle is the same an if I had it my way I’d free all my people , I Innerstand who the true enemy is … it isn’t you …stay strong an fight on your feet not your knees ,you are the original an no one can take that fact away from you no matter what happens to your flesh ,you are energy you don’t an won’t ever die …you will always multiply!!!! Thru our ancestors your soul lives on Ase

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