Knockin’ doors down to end solitary confinement

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“Protect Our Leaders” – Art: Joseph Stewart, 0802041, P.O. Box 2500, Butner NC 27509. This is a huge work of art that Joseph created to illustrate his story. It measures about 22 by 26 inches, created on regular sheets of 8.5-by-11-inch paper laid side by side and taped together. Only a blueprint machine was big enough to scan it. We welcome a new artist to the Bay View family!

by Joseph Stewart

“The primary cause of suicide is not individual temperament but forces in the social environment. In other words, suicide is caused primarily by external factors, not internal ones.” —Huey P. Newton, “Revolutionary Suicide”

Revolutionary greetings.

In adherence with the beloved Komrade Keith “Malik” Washington, deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter, this is the year of “knockin doors down.” We must start with the doors of solitary confinement. It was estimated in 2017 that over 87,000 prisoners across Amerika are being held in solitary – despite the many studies done by neuroscientists around the world proving that solitary confinement is a neglected social, ecological and environmental risk that also causes and worsens mental illness.

I ask the readers to take a ride with me to North Carolina, the home of 56 razor-wire plantations, where prisoners’ lives can be measured with grains of sand and tyrants rule with atrocities. Where the walls of several of these razor-wire plantations snatched the lives away from nine prisoners in 2018. According to a North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) news release, nine prisoners died in 2018 by suicide.

Benhamin Williford died Dec. 18 at Maury Correctional. Williford was serving a 35-year sentence for arson and second-degree murder.

Brandon Lineberger died Nov. 2 at Pasquotank Correctional. Lineberger was incarcerated for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. He was to be released in 2033.

David Atkins died Oct. 1 at Piedmont Correctional. He was serving two years for a probation violation.

Larry Bowman died Aug. 30 at Maury Correctional. Bowman was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder

Matthew Howlett died Aug. 9 at Bentie Correctional. He was serving time for breaking and entering.

John Dalton died April 19 at Central Prison. He was serving seven years for habitual felony.

Jermaine Johnson died April 7 at Marion Correctional. He was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Michael Grant died Feb. 5 at Maury Correctional. He was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Robert Spicer died Dec. 31 at Nash Correctional. He was serving a 77-year sentence for first-degree sexual offenses.

Those are the nine prisoners that NCDPS claim died from suicide, but there is one prisoner that NCDPS doesn’t list as suicide for the year 2018. That’s Komrade Freddie Pickett, who died April 29 at Polk Correctional. He was to be released 2021 after surviving 20 years within these razor-wire plantations.

NCDPS officials documented his death as a suicide and told Komrade Pickett’s family and reporters that his cause of death was suicide. If this was true at all, then I question: Why isn’t Freddie Pickett’s name amongst the other nine prisoners? Because Komrade Pickett didn’t commit suicide – he was wantonly murdered.

Suicide: nothing new

In the last 28 years, there have been over 93 suicides reported (I’m sure there were more that went unreported) to have taken place within the razor-wire plantations. Since 2015, there have been 25 suicides in the prisons: three in 2015, seven in 2016, six in 2017 and nine in 2018. All these prisoners were being housed in solitary confinement.

Take note: Three out of the nine prisoners listed above were being housed at Maury Correctional. Maury is one of the only three close custody camps to provide mental health services. There were two, but Lanesboro Correctional is in the process of being shut down and transformed into a women’s facility due to the corruption of staff and the many deaths that occurred there.

Maury Correctional is said to have adequate mental health services, providing programs that focus on serving prisoners suffering from mental health disorders. Being that the prisons are overpopulated and there is a staff shortage, a majority of prisoners suffering from mental health disorders are impeded from participating in these programs. They’re forced into housing at facilities that don’t provide adequate mental health services.

Being that Maury Correctional houses regular population, I was housed there for a brief stint in 2017. I know it to be factual that there is a security risk due to the lack of staff. A reporter for the Charlotte Observer reported that in 2018, Maury Correctional had an average monthly vacancy rate of 14 percent. But there are several staff psychiatrists employed there. So, why are there more suicides at this facility? Simple: neglect.

Broken promises

In 2016, NCDPS claimed that they were releasing a plan to curb prison suicides. The plan was to train staff to recognize suicidal tendencies, teach staff how to respond to suicide attempts, and better monitor prisoners who are released from suicide watch.

As reported by the Raleigh News and Observer, starting Sept. 1, 2016, a part of the aforementioned plan would ensure that Level Two mental health prisoners seeking psychiatric help and Level Three mental health prisoners taking psychotropic medications would no longer serve more than 30 days per year in solitary confinement, and are not to be housed in Supermax (H-Con), where I’m currently being housed.

There has been no change, only an increase in the number of suicides. The 2018 suicides marked the highest in state history. So much for a plan to curb suicides.

Prisoners aren’t monitored after being released from suicide watch – they aren’t even being monitored on suicide watch. Prisoners who attempt suicide are placed in a camera cell (with a camera that may or may not work) for 24 hours, or until a psychiatrist comes to ask the prisoner if he is having suicidal thoughts.

The prisoner tells the psychiatrist “No,” even though he may still be having suicidal thoughts. But being that he has been stripped naked, placed in a cold cell that’s filthy, forced to cut his food with his fingers and often humiliated by the officers, he tells the psychiatrist that no, he’s not having suicidal thoughts. The prisoner is then placed back in the cell in which he attempted the suicide, to fight the demons of solitary confinement alone.

Seventy percent of the prisoners housed here at Polk Correctional Supermax Unit are either at Level Two mental health and seeking psychiatric help, or at Level Three mental health and taking psychotropic medications. This is a unit where prisoners are confined to a small 6-by-9-foot cell for 23 hours a day, the 24th hour spent in a small sally port to pace back and forth.

No outside recreation, no phone calls and no contact with others besides your sally port roommate. Sixty-three percent of the prisoners housed in solitary confinement here in North Carolina are Level Two or Level Three mental health, forced to serve long stints in solitary confinement.

The oppressors’ recipe for killing a prisoner

Of course, the dispiteous living conditions of solitary confinement are main ingredients. No socializing, no contact with family members except via postal mail, and idle time to hate the past and fear the future. A majority of prisoners housed in solitary confinement are prescribed some type of psychotropic medication.

The most common drug prescribed to prisoners is Zoloft. It’s prescribed to prisoners who suffer from depression and obsessive-compulsion, and it’s used to treat post-traumatic stress and to treat social anxiety.

No outside recreation, no phone calls and no contact with others besides your sally port roommate. Sixty-three percent of the prisoners housed in solitary confinement here in North Carolina are Level Two or Level Three mental health, forced to serve long stints in solitary confinement.

All the aforementioned disorders derive from long stints in solitary confinement. Do we really believe that the oppressor wants to cure us? Of course not; there has to be a hidden agenda, but it’s only hidden to the unconscious one.

According to Clinical Drug Information, LLC, Zoloft has an FDA warning! This is due to the side effects of taking this drug. It raises the chance of suicidal thoughts or attempts. This risk may be greater in people who have had these thoughts or actions in the past. Some people may have very bad, and sometimes deadly, side effects when taking Zoloft.

Taking this drug may cause low sodium levels resulting in headaches, trouble focusing, memory problems, feeling confused, weakness, seizures or change of balance. It can cause bleeding, throwing up blood or throw up that looks like coffee grounds, coughing up blood, blood in the urine.

Taking this drug can cause very bad health problems that may not go away and could potentially cause death. All the aforementioned side effects and warnings were provided by Clinical Drug Information, LLC. Other drugs such as fluoxetine and hydroxyzine that have FDA warnings and have side effects similar to Zoloft are also prescribed to prisoners.

If the oppressor can’t mentally murder us, they count on the prescribed drugs to psychically murder us.

The heart of the hydra

Kenneth E. Lassiter has been employed by NCDPS well over 20 years. He was promoted to director of prisons after serving many years as the superintendent (tyrant) of Central Prison, where many prisoners have been murdered at the hands of his subordinates and where neglect and the rooms of solitary confinement have caused the death of many mental health prisoners.

Kenneth Lassiter cooks up false information and serves it cold to the press and other concerned members of society. He claims that progress is being made – yeah, progress to continue their repression. The truth ain’t in him, people. But I’m duty bound to let y’all know what’s really good without allowing his reprisals to deter me.

I am being held captive at North Carolina’s only Supermax facility by his call, because I advocate for the suppressed prisoners, and I strive to expose the miscreants for the vampires they are. Vampires hate the light, and with this ink pen and the assistance of my Komrades on the outside, I intend to shed light on all their atrocities. The facts are that mental health services aren’t being provided and mental health prisoners are being neglected and wantonly abused.

There are 96 prisoners housed in this Supermax unit; 60 of them are either Level Two or Level Three mental health. But Kenneth Lassiter and his cronies would have the public believe that there are no mental health prisoners housed in Supermax.

This would lead the public to believe that their 2016 plan to curb suicides is being implemented. But it’s not, and until organizations and activists start applying pressure from the outside, nothing will change but the number of prisoners who kill themselves.

As long as the oppressor is allowed to lie, prisoners will die

As Huey P. Newton stated, “Suicide is caused primarily by external factors, not internal ones.” The external factors are these dispiteous living conditions. No outside recreation, no phone calls and long term solitary confinement: All are a part of life in solitary confinement. So let’s start “knockin’ doors down” and liberate these prisoners suffering from mental health disorders.

For those of us who are resilient and strong of mind and body, this is our duty. If you aren’t prepared to sacrifice, then you’re not serious, and if you’re not serious, it’s best you get out of the way because the Panther and the Elephant are on the loose.

Dare To Struggle. Dare To Win. All Power to the People.

Joseph “Shine White” Stewart, Deputy Minister of Defense, White Panther Organization, NC-Branch

Postscript: A Call to Action

Komrades, it is a must that I echo the call of Komrade Keith “Malik” Washington. All activists, human rights lawyers, organizations, non-profits, cadres and revolutionaries who support the marginalized prisoners held captive within the many razor-wire plantations: I entreat that y’all answer his call. He and Komrade Jason Renard Walker are leaders and both are members of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter, which serves the people and is duty-bound to transform these slave pens of oppression into schools of liberation.

To quote our minister of defense, “COINTELPRO is alive and well. The political police are as active as ever in repressing dissent and the liberation struggles of oppressed nationalities within America.”

People, we must protect our leaders, by allowing the oppressor to suppress the voices of Komrade Malik and Komrade Jason, you are allowing the voice of over 2 million prisoners to be suppressed, for they are the voice for those who don’t have one.

I was transferred last year to North Carolina’s Supermax facility for echoing last year’s Aug. 21 prison strike. I don’t have many outside resources that support my cause. So I ride the wave of our leaders and strive to serve the prisoners here in North Carolina to the best of my ability. Komrade George Jackson said, “It should never be easy for them to destroy us.” You can prevent this by offering a small amount of time to our struggle.

Dare To Struggle. Dare To Win. All Power to the People. Panther Love!

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

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