This post is the first in a series investigating conditions in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center from the perspective of people incarcerated there. Posts will be compiled here.
In January, Vanderburgh County Detention Center inmate Jacqueline Neugebohrn wrote to a Where the River Frowns contributor about conditions in the county jail and her experience there. Jacqueline has been held in the jail for over a year--since January 11, 2017.
Her letter comes a few months after the Vanderburgh County Detention Center was cited for six violations of Indiana Code:
On Thursday, December 21, Evansville Letters to Prisoners (ELTP) hosted an event at Central Library where attendees read about common pathways to prison, explored and took home zines and other prisoner support materials, dropped off paperback book donations for the Vanderburgh County Detention Center, checked out library materials on mass incarceration and abolition, and listened as members of ELTP read aloud letters from prisoners. Some of the letters were written specifically to be shared at the event.
The event was part of a series developed by the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library called "A Million Voices in the River City, "which aims to ask the question, "is 'E' really for everyone?" Each month, a different group of people whose voices are often overlooked are invited to use the lobby of Central Library to share their stories.
The letters read aloud were written by Indiana prisoner, scholar, and playwright Anastazia Schmid; Indiana prisoner Shaka Shakur who recently underwent a successful hunger strike for better living conditions; Lamont Heard, a Michigan prisoner who was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile; anarchist prisoner Sean Swain; black liberation fighter Kuwasi Balagoon; and Malcolm X.
Evansville Letters to Prisoners formed in October of 2015 as a way for people interested in supporting prisoners to work collaboratively. The group regularly holds letter writing events at which people can write to prisoners of their choosing or to the prisoners who are spotlighted that week, such as political prisoners with upcoming birthdays. Periodically, the group also holds fundraisers, movie nights, and other awareness-raising events. For updated information on the group, see facebook.com/evansvilleletterstoprisoners.
by Those neighbors you called the police on last week
In 1824, prospectors drilled two salt water wells at Maryland Street and Fountain Avenue on the eastern banks of Pigeon Creek in Lamasco, Indiana. They auspiciously intended to open up a salt factory and expand their fortunes but would have no such luck. Despite their ambitious investments into the project, they quickly learned the water was too salty for the primitive desalination equipment of the times and the landscape proved too hostile for their endeavor and were forced to abandon it.
This saltiness and hostility toward the upper class--the "burghers" (literally German for "wealthy out of towners") as they came to be known locally until the mid-1900s–-has permeated the neighborhood throughout its history.
After weeks of indecision, I finally decided to make the five hour drive from Evansville to Pikeville, Kentucky, last weekend to attend a neo-Nazi rally. To be real, I didn't totally feel like going. I mean, who wants to spend their weekend listening to arguments in favor of sending gay people and people in mixed race relationships off to re-education camps? It sounded super annoying and it would have been easier to just avoid the whole thing.
But I've been getting more and more concerned lately about the growth of white nationalist movements, all these racist attacks on marginalized groups, and the way the white working class is hitting the streets in support of a billionaire and his fascist policies. Like anybody who's read a few history books, particularly about the growth of fascist movements in Europe in the 1930s, I don't like the way the winds are blowing.
Plus, this shit felt personal given the fact that one of the main groups organizing the event--the Traditionalist Worker Party--has its home base just a few miles up the road in Paoli, Indiana, and its shitbag leader, Matthew Heimbach, has told the media about how he thinks people in Southern Indiana are really open to his dreams of concentration camps and white ethno-states: "Southern Indiana's a natural home for our politics...You have struggling working-class issues; you have the frustration and alienation from Washington insider politics. We need to be where people are being left behind, and I think there are few places that can compete with Kentucky (and) Indiana."
Extreme right-wing groups advocating white nationalism and a fascist government have recently announced their plans to hold a conference and rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 28-29, 2017.
The press release for the event from the National Socialist Movement announces that an umbrella organization calling itself the National Front, which includes the Traditionalist Worker Party along with various KKK, neo-Nazi and other Alt-Right groups, will hold a conference at Jenny Wiley State Park near Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 28, followed by a rally at the Pike County Courthouse in Pikeville from 2-5 p.m. on April 29.
On Tuesday, February 23, Evansville Letters to Prisoners hosted a benefit at PG on Franklin Street to raise money for folks from the region who are facing charges related to anti-inauguration protests in Washington D.C. this past January. This was the fifth in a series of benefits in the past six months. This event showed how the volunteers who put these on have progressed in their theatrics, ability to engage in anarchist ideas in an accessible manner, and commitment to exploring the experiences of the beneficiaries in a tangible and interactive environment.
In response to the spectacle of Trump’s ascension, anarchists from around the country met in Washington D.C. and made a counter-spectacle. Several of the images that have become iconic from the inauguration day riots were used to theme carnival games for the benefit in Evansville. Attendees were greeted at the door, encouraged to donate some money and then presented with a table of free literature, including analyses and explanations of the black bloc, the tactic of property destruction, rioting and insurrection.
Protest tactics came to life on Saturday at PG, where attendees at Evansville Letters to Prisoners' event could learn how to "lock down" to equipment, create barricades, make face masks out of everyday items, shield themselves from state violence, and compile and use a street medic kit.
Participants could also make prayer ties and participate in a drum circle facilitated by members of a group of native and non-native people who meet regularly to drum. The repeated rounds of drumming throughout the event echoed the role that spirituality has played at Standing Rock. Drummers carried in mind a particular intention during each round of drumming, including positive intentions for water protectors and hope that those seen as enemies--cops, security personnel, politicians--change their minds and hearts.
Di Lucid is a 19-year-old rapper from Evansville who just released a new album called Constellations on November 9th. We were intrigued after seeing him perform at PG one night and decided to catch up with him and learn a little more about his life. When we met up, we talked about the new album, coming up as a white kid in a mostly black hip-hop crew, seeing his friends go to prison, living with mental illness, and about the Evansville hip-hop scene as he sees it.
Di has a show coming up with Kelo Kaddafi and Ali Buckets on January 6th at PG. Don't miss it.
Pollution statistics in Evansville are alarming--seven coal plants within 30 miles, higher levels of fine particles in the air than 90% of the country, and more toxic pollution released into the area than in any other mid-size or large U.S. city.
Poor air quality contributes to Vanderburgh County's life expectancy being lower than peer counties, as poor air quality is known to impair lung development, lead to brain damage, and cause cancer, and it is connected with autism spectrum disorder and psychiatric disorders.
Vectren, which supplies energy for the Evansville area, contributes to the problem with outdated coal-firing units at its Brown and Culley power generating stations.
Locals gathered on November 16, to confront Vectren about their ongoing use of coal and natural gas for energy production and to ask for a transition to alternatives.
What does it mean that one candidate was chosen over another--how many people enthusiastically vote for any U.S. President, what impact can the President actually have, and what are alternatives to buying into this political system?
Estimates indicate that 128.8 million people voted in Tuesday's Presidential election, which is 55.6% of the voting-eligible population. However, if people who are typically overlooked for reasons of age and felony status are included, the percentage drops to only 39.6% of the total U.S. population having voted.
Of those who voted, 59 million voted for the winner--a mere 18.2% of the total population.
According to a survey from the PEW Research Institute from late October, of those who support a particular candidate, only 55% or 56% "strongly support" their candidate of choice.