The Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective wholeheartedly supports the courageous efforts by hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, and the thousands of prisoners from other facilities that have shown solidarity with them. It goes without saying that the SHU, and units just like them in our state of North Carolina, are brutal forms of torture and isolation used to break prisoners. In NC we know firsthand they are consistently used to separate conscious and rebellious prisoners from the larger population. As such, we would emphasize that these gulag archipelagos of solitary confinement, these prisons within a prison, are not “broken” but are in fact functioning all too well.
The tendency of the solidarity hunger strikes and outside demonstrations to spread shows perfectly that it is the very nature of isolation that this struggle seeks to attack. And, as isolation is the defining feature of solitary confinement, this tells us that our aim cannot be to “fix” solitary confinement, but must instead be to destroy it. One might point out that the same could be said for prisons in their entirety, and the systems that give rise to them; we could not agree more.
As a group primarily engaged in sending materials to and corresponding with thousands of prisoners in the South, we’ll do whatever is in our capacity to spread awareness of and solidarity with this strike. We hope that the dozens of other books-to-prisoners groups will do the same, that they will break out of the service-oriented role we often find ourselves in. To merely fill a cage with books is a cynical and self-limiting activity; to join with prisoners in tearing down that cage is a joyful one.