Durham protesters call America a ‘prison state’

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A group of protesters calling attention to conditions in the county jail gathered outside of the Durham Performing Arts Center with plans to disrupt Friday’s performance of “The Lion King.”

The protest was called by Inside-Outside Alliance as a way to call attention to the deaths of Raphael Bennett, Dennis McMurray, and Matthew McCain. All three died while being held at the Durham County Detention Center.

“My daughter’s father passed away in the jail,” said Ashley Canady of Durham.

Canady said McCain, her boyfriend had epilepsy and diabetes, didn’t receive the care he needed at the Durham County Detention Center.

“No matter what, at the end of the day, nobody deserves to live the way they’re living on the inside,” Canady said.

Protesters said it’s important they stand up to the upper class people that are attending tonight’s Lion King performance.

“People at the DPAC they come here from out of town have to see this and they need to be made aware of what’s going on in this jail,” Cynthia Fox of Durham.

They want conditions at the Durham County Detention Center, which is located across S. Mangum Street from the DPAC, to improve.

The group marched and blocked the S. Mangum Street as they chanted “open every cell door” and “America’s a prison state.”

From Mangum Street they marched to the American Tobacco Campus, which is private property. Police stood guard and protesters turned back.

In responds to the protest, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that said it will continue to to support citizens’ right to peacefully assemble.

There were no arrests or citations issued during the protest that was made up of about 40 people, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office said it continues to investigate the three inmate deaths mentioned by protesters.

The Durham County Detention Facility is subject to unscheduled annual inspections to ensure the facility is in compliance with state and federal standards. The facility has yet to fail an inspection, and its staff continues to review policies and procedures to ensure a safe and secure incarceration for all detainees.

The sheriff’s office said information on the detention center’s latest inspection can be found here.

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