Behind ‘that door’

September 27, 2018

From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters

Art by Billy Sell, one of the hunger strikers at Corcoran State Prison, who died during the 2013 hunger strike. See

Art by Billy Sell, a prisoner at Corcoran State Prison, who died during the 2013 hunger strike.

Hey family and friends: Have you ever wondered what was on the other side of that door they bring your family member through to court, shackled at the waist and feet, wearing that pumpkin orange jumpsuit? Let me tell you something you don’t see while you’re sitting on cushioned seats that are equal to the pews of T.D. Jakes’s megachurch. Your son or daughter is a few feet beyond that door sitting on stainless steel. He or she is sitting in a concrete and steel holding cell with a toilet covered in urine and feces, looking at graffiti that some condemned soul scratched into the paint.

Yeah, the courtroom is full of oak wood, carved tables, jury box and judge’s bench and cold water in pitchers on the table while your son or daughter is sitting in a cold stinky cell drinking lukewarm water out of their hand.

In court you see the judge and lawyers being respectful to your son or daughter. But behind closed doors the guards ignore them at best. At worst they are verbally and sometimes physically abusing them, pushing them, putting cuffs on too tight and refusing to give them toilet paper to use the bathroom.

This is something you don’t see, something the courts don’t want you to see; and something I hope you never have to see for yourself.

—Randall James

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