On June 30th an inmate at the Richmond City Jail, died. RIP Kerry Wayne Bennett.

That was the 2nd death in the month of June in the City Jail. Previously, Grant R. Sleeper, died after being moved from the Jail to the Hospital.

These are not the first inmates to have died at the Richmond City Jail due to overcrowding, poor facilities, intentionally cruel management, lack of access to food, water, medicine, and medical care etc. The Richmond City Jail is an atrocity.

The proposed solution to the torturous conditions at the current Richmond City Jail is the construction of a new jail facility.

We call for the immediate release of all prisoners currently being held at the Richmond City Jail. Moving them to a different facility, even as a temporary measure, will undoubtedly result in the overcrowding of that or those facilities. It will likely also result in the removal of those inmates from the Richmond area which will make it more difficult for them to receive support and visits from their family, friends, and lawyers.

In the long term we also oppose the construction of a new jail facility, particularly if it is an expanded facility. When our prisons and jails are all over crowded, we question the need to have so many people imprisoned.

The Richmond Anarchist Black Cross is an autonomous Collective committed to prison abolition and prisoner support. As anarchists we are oppossed to all systems of oppression and repression and have concluded that prisons serve no positive function in society. We actively seek to abolish the institutionalized slavery of the Prison Industrial Complex. We are dedicated to working in solidarity with prisoners and drawing connections between a multitude of struggles.

http://www.criticalresistance.org has more information about reasons for supporting the abolition of the Prison system in the United States.

This Article, from the Richmond Times Dispatch has more details:

Richmond, Va. —

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate what it calls “punishing” conditions at the Richmond City Jail after the deaths of two inmates last month.

“We believe that these deaths are symptomatic of ongoing unconstitutionally harsh conditions at the jail,” ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis said in a letter sent yesterday. The letter asks the Justice Department to take action under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

Willis refers to the deaths of inmates at the jail, the inadequacies of which city officials — including current Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. — have lamented for years.

On June 30, Kerry Wayne Bennett, 49, was found unresponsive in his bunk when someone tried to wake him for breakfast, according to Woody. His death in the overcrowded jail came days after Grant R. Sleeper, 54, died of environmental heat exposure.

Sleeper was in the jail from June 16 to 18, when he was transferred to VCU Medical Center. He died eight days later. According to the National Weather Service, Richmond’s high temperature June 16 was 84, the June 17 high was 93, and the June 18 high was 89.

The men’s tiers at the Richmond jail do not have air-conditioning, unlike Henrico and Chesterfield counties’ jails, which are air-conditioned, according to authorities there.

Woody said last week that Sleeper had a pre-existing medical condition but that the heat inside the jail could have led to his death. He added that it can be hotter inside the jail than outside.

Steve Murman, a spokesman for the state medical examiner’s office, said yesterday that the cause of Bennett’s death has not been determined, and it could take weeks. The high for June 30 was 85 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

“We believe that the conditions at the Richmond City Jail pose a persistent threat to the health and safety of inmates, as illustrated by the two recent deaths,” Willis’ letter said. “Periodic proposals to improve or replace the jail have repeatedly come to naught. The situation at the jail requires federal intervention.”

Willis says the ACLU of Virginia has received more than 50 complaints from inmates during the past five years. He added that “almost certainly, that is a small portion of inmates who have been adversely affected by the jail.”

The group’s letter landed on the eve of the Department of Justice’s report on mortality in local jails, which is due to be released this morning. Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar confirmed that the agency received the letter and said, “We will review the letter to determine what action, if any, is appropriate.”

City officials have for years wrestled with issues plaguing the jail.

Woody, in his first months on the job in 2006, oversaw the replacement of broken cell-door locks. The new hardware was installed after one inmate was beaten to death when another inmate broke out of his cell.

Now, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ administration is reviewing proposals to build a modern facility. In March, the city accepted an unsolicited proposal to design and build a new jail, and four groups are vying for the potentially $137 million project.

Jones released a statement yesterday expressing his condolences to the families of the inmates who recently died.

“I proposed the building of a new city jail to deal with the poor conditions at the current facility, and we are moving forward with that project,” the statement said.

Woody said in a voice mail that he is satisfied with Jones’ efforts toward a new jail. He also said deputies are doing their best despite the difficult conditions.

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