October 8th, 2020
The following is a public statement from the Drum Majors Alliance concerning the treatment of incarcerated neighbors in Forsyth County Detention Ctr under COVID-19:
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3
We stand alongside the Prisoner Outreach Initiative, the Triad Abolitionist Project, and our detained siblings in condemning the callous, careless, and life-endangering policies and procedures of the Forsyth County Jail and of their healthcare provider, Wellpath.
Despite what our city, county, and country seem to believe, incarceration does not mean one’s life is less valuable or worthy of protection. Ever since slavery – in its chattel form – was made illegal, the detained and incarcerated of this country have been treated as a disposable and exploitable population. And the recent broken promises of our local sheriff’s office and the wanton disregard for prisoner safety by Wellpath have made it abundantly clear that Winston-Salem is continuing in this long and damnable history.
By not providing incarcerated people with masks and not requiring the use of PPE by correction officers and medical providers within the jail, Wellpath and our local sheriff’s office have sent a clear message that these irreplaceable, priceless, image-of-God-bearing human lives are not worth their time or money. And by breaking its recent promises to the citizens of Forsyth County, the sheriff’s office continues to dismantle the trust between this city and its citizens. You may not have shot an unarmed black man in the street, but you are willingly denying him every protection within your prisons.
As citizens, we call this injustice. As followers of Christ, we call this sin. They are one and the same. And we draw from the depth of biblical tradition to demand that justice roll down like mighty waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Your decision to endanger the lives of incarcerated neighbors does not make for justice. It does not make for peace. You are forgoing justice. You are standing in the way of peace. For while mothers and fathers and children and siblings and neighbors lift their voice in demanding you treat their loved ones with dignity and respect, we will continue to lift our voice alongside theirs. We will continue to demonstrate that peace that is not peace for all is peace for none.
We stand in solidarity with the following demands put forth by the Prisoner Outreach Initiative. These demands have been shaped by the self-advocacy and self-determination of those incarcerated in Forsyth County Detention Center:
1) 7 masks for 7 days. Disposable masks are not meant to be reused for an entire week.
2) Regular testing for all people in the jail. With guards coming and going, and regularly failing to properly use PPE, it’s not enough to only test people at intake.
3) Free phone calls and free postage. With family visitations cancelled outright, people in the jail are isolated and lonely, and should not be forced to pay exorbitant rates to continue speaking to their loved ones.
4) Release at-risk people and low-level offenders. Most people in our jail are in for drug offenses, parole violations, property crimes or other minor infractions, and should not be kept in a confined space with no ability to keep themselves safe in a pandemic.
**5) End the contract with WellPath. WellPath has shown consistent negligence in its treatment of people incarcerated in the jail, leading to several deaths, and must be replaced with a county- or state-run service that can be held accountable to the people whose families are incarcerated here.
Call to Action: Join Prison Outreach Initiative and Triad Abolition Project for a march on Forsyth County Jail this Friday at 6pm. Details HERE!