The voiceless platform 

Christopher-Dixon, The voiceless platform , Behind Enemy Lines
Christopher Dixon

by Christopher L. Dixon

I once read a caption under a picture of Sojourner Truth that said, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance,” and try as I did to think of something else, the only thing that I could think of was the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS), which is the governing body of the billion-dollar industry of incarceration for the state of North Carolina. An industry that has been compelled to change its description from “prison” to “institution,” which simply allows certain loopholes that have detrimental effects on the victims of incarceration. 

The average person may not think of the word prison without the word reform because that is the purported effect of prison, reform and rehabilitation. Instead, the institution warehouses bodies for the private corporations of kkkorrectional institutions that are Big Business of white supremacists with big money who have corrupted the state of North Carolina and its judicial offices, which NCDPS happens to be one of. For me to read, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance,” I can only think of the tyranny that is the shadow of so-called justice.

A favorite quote of mine is, “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.” That’s what living under siege of confinement in this state is, on so many levels. While it’s widely known that those with power often abuse it, the extent of that misuse is rarely seen and or brought to life. 

As prisoners, we are often at the mercy of an officer’s whim when it comes to the truth of an incident, disciplinary matters and uses of force. Officers and administrators both are clever, using ingenuity to invent ways to bend and break rules for their own personal agenda. Their unmeasured umbrella of protection allows them to act without care of reprimand. 

A psychological study by Philip Zimbardo called the Stanford Prison Experiment showed that in the environment of prison and power, the officers need policing as well, but outlets for prisoners to do so are an even bigger manipulation than the ever-present billion-dollar industry that feasts on the love of prisoners’ families who support them in the domain of a stock entity. Ironically, we are living in an environment that itself is criminal.

This colonialism has three major weapons that make it such a dominant force under the umbrella of kkkorrectional tyranny: abundant publication over-censorship, excessive use of solitary confinement periods for petty reasons, and meticulous reasons to deny contact with loved ones in all forms. An example of their over-censorship is a June 1, 2022, letter I received from Leigh Lassiter, the secretary of Prison Books Collective in Carrboro, North Carolina, who informed me that my current prison, Alexander Correctional, has returned “Yearning” by bell hooks, the PARC National Prisoners Resource Directory, and the zine World Behind Bars. Their reason is they are choosing to ban the organization itself and its publications, even though they are a federally recognized non-profit and recognized by the NCDPS Publication Review Committee as a legitimate distributor. Anything of substance that provides knowledge, legal assistance, health tips or food for thought is banned, while comic books, joke books, coloring books, etc. are not censored.

The issue with solitary confinement is that it isn’t reserved for severe disciplinary infractions or emergency measures for addressing safety threats. Minor offenses such as cursing end with months in isolation as a result. Policies do not even require a conviction on ANY prison rule violation before placing someone in isolation or even North Carolina’s supermax unit. These policies are currently being litigated against by the N.C. ACLU Legal Foundation (Irena Como, Emily Seawell), N.C. Prison Legal Services (Daniel K. Siegel, Mani Dexter, Mary Pollard) and Disability Rights of N.C. (Susan H. Pollitt). 

Prison is a zone of war, deceit, corruption and negativity, and while it beats you down on the outside, it slowly kills you on the inside, making it an experience of powerlessness.

The final weapon of meticulous reasons to deny contact with loved ones is one that I’m unfortunately very well versed in, as I’ve been incarcerated since Jan. 29, 2013, and have been allowed ZERO visits and only two calls per month. Their reason to be able to implement such an inhumane policy is the term Security Risk Group (SRG) that has levels one, two and three being the highest. While I don’t agree with their policies, I ironically overstand them, being that I’m Black, educated, capable of thinking rather than acting and an activist.

What I don’t understand is that only immediate family is able to visit SRG Level 2 and Level 3 prisoners, which is culturally a disadvantage that they are fully aware of being that most Black and Brown families of incarcerated persons are either from single family households, broken homes, or raised in social services, which would greatly disadvantage them in the options of immediate family. 

My personal family situation had me raised in the system until an aunt I call mother was legally placed as my guardian by family court, but NCDPS will not acknowledge her as my immediate family, which extends to my children not being able to visit their own father, even though they beg to, because he has no immediate family to bring them. I do have siblings (seven sisters and two brothers living, two siblings deceased), but the sins and struggles of my birth mother damaged those relationships to almost nothing, being that we had little to no contact growing up. I must admit raising young Black men through letters and monthly phone calls with the world being what it is and me being where I am has my heart bleeding.

The disinformed are made to believe by isolated incidents that all policies and responses by administration and officers are needed and therefore relevant. But using myself again as an example, how am I a security threat, much less a Level 3, when I’ve never assaulted an employee of NCDPS in any form and have only defended myself against other prisoners, which happen to be a handful of incidents in the entire 10 years I’ve been incarcerated in prison, and a perfect disciplinary record for the two and a half years I was detained in my county jail. 

All of my disciplinary infractions are minor, yet I’m a Level 3. Why? Because the state incarceration system has created an atmosphere that is akin to the conditions of Germany’s concentration camps established by Adolf Eichmann, with their overwhelming overuse of unnecessary force, manipulation of policy and disciplinary procedures, unsanitary environments of medical and mental health, deliberate actions to create distance and destroy family connections and support, and such onerous disciplinary sanctions that they create conditions in solitary confinement that threaten the mental and physical well-being of those they are charged with protecting.

Laxity in the accountability of officers being punished for the exceedingly unsafe, unethical and many times unprovoked treatment by its entire staff in the Western District against prisoners is shielded by the fact that 95% of these institutions’ employees are relatives of one another and are therefore unwilling to go against family. While not given a way to protect ourselves from complete disregard to be treated as humans, we are also not given fair and just opportunities to rehabilitate, educate and reeducate, or plan and prepare for successful re-entry into society. 

Outside of GED classes, commercial cleaning (free exploited labor) class, and Christian-based faith classes and programs, we have no way to prepare to be successful in society once released, if we are prisoners in close custody (maximum security). This clearly explains why North Carolina has a 97% recidivism rate. Prison is a zone of war, deceit, corruption and negativity, and while it beats you down on the outside, it slowly kills you on the inside, making it an experience of powerlessness.

Powerlessness is seeing yourself as valueless, as not being able to imagine that you make a difference to anyone or anything. When you feel worthless, you are terrified by your life, and when you are terrified by your life, you are continually in the pain of trying to shape your life as you think it needs to be. When that pain is acute, you cover it with anger. 

It is a proven fact that the society around us influences how we act, think and feel. Therefore, how can one expect to exhibit characteristics of society’s expectations in a positive norm if those characteristics are only taught and talked about, but rarely nurtured into one’s daily life. That’s the same as planting a garden and expecting it to bear fruit without tending it and taking care to assure that your efforts bloom. While no effort is applied to nurturing or even simple acts of kindness, there is a concentrated action and undertone to dehumanize and violate the civil rights of prisoners at every turn.

Moliere-Dimanche-drawing-1400x1245, The voiceless platform , Behind Enemy Lines
Drawing by Moliere Dimanche, a Haitian-American artist formerly incarcerated in Florida prisons, who would use any material he would come by as a canvas.

I once reached a point in my life where I didn’t want to live anymore. Life had tormented me and my choices in life began to take my breath away. But even without a will to live, my heart still kept beating. My torment brought depression and my depression led me to daydream and my daydream led me to write these words: 

Resistance

I woke up with resistance in my blood

Even though I want to give up

Keys singing to the buzz of the lights

While oppression runs amok

Cold another tray served

I have to check for signs of disrespect

Maybe a glob of spit or shards of glass

Giving blessings and thanks to eat is a chance I take

Bend at the waist and spread your cheeks

Just to take a shower

I’ll wash in my sink cause I’m a man d@##!t

Before you inspect me like we’re at a slave auction

Suicide plans are made by others

Who can’t live with a boot on their neck

He may have taken his own life but I know what went on

The system committed murder

Beat on my door with your sticks when you pass

Just to disrupt my peace

Cause I won’t answer to “boy” or feed into your games

My dignity’s still within reach

Blood in my eye and my soul is on ice

Pride is my power to revolutionary suicide

I woke up with resistance cause they want me to die

And I’ll be d@#*%d if I make it that easy!

Send our brother some love and light: Christopher L. Dixon, 0988174, Alexander Correctional, P.O. Box 247, Phoenix, MD 21131.