TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. — An inmate serving a 20-year sentence in a North Carolina State Prison has been subject to discrimination and harassment by prison officials, he says.
Joseph Stewart, otherwise known as Shine White, is the national spokesperson for the Revolutionary Intercommunal White Panther Organization, an anti-racist political collective of white allies to the Black Panther movement.
Stewart operates a blog from prison entitled “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win” in which he reports on numerous topics including COVID-19 in prisons, racism in America, and various issues involving the DOJ and BOP. Stewart has described himself as a communist.
Stewart was born in 1986 in a poverty-stricken government housing project, the Winslow Apartments, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He says he experienced numerous hardships growing up, including being disowned by his father for having Black friends.
“He would say ‘don’t no white boy have lips like them,’ ” he says of his father.
Stewart says he fell victim to what he calls the “cradle-to-prison pipeline”, having joined his first gang in 1998 at the age of 12. Although, despite his criminal past, Stewart says he’s renounced his delinquent ways and has dedicated himself to providing education and activism from inside prison walls.
“I purged the gangsterism from my make up and became a conscious revolutionary thinker who desired to serve the mental health of prisoners and those who lost their voice,” he writes. “I’ve endured much repression, sacrificed a lot and I still have my flaws. But I know that change doesn’t happen overnight and I know I must be doing the right thing.”
He currently serves a 20-year sentence at the Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville on various charges including the stabbing of a man with a razor in Harnett County Jail. He was initially transferred to the facility from Central Prison in Raleigh, the state’s capital. Stewart has been incarcerated numerous times since 2002, the charges slowly piling up and eventually leading to serious time after he was declared a Habitual Offender following a 2012 conviction for Grand Larceny after breaking and entering.
The Alexander Correctional Institution, where Stewart is held, has a history of mistreatment allegations. In 2008, a prisoner named Timothy Helms claimed corrections officers beat him in solitary confinement to the point that he became a brain-damaged quadriplegic. The man later died in an extended-care facility in 2010, and one corrections officer resigned. An internal investigation showed that prison officials violated several state prison protocols in Helms’ death.
In 2014, two inmates died within four months, leading the prison to later settle a $2.5 million lawsuit with the family of Michael Kerr, an inmate who died of dehydration while being transported to a medic.
Stewart goes by the nicknames ‘Free Bands,’ ‘Five,’ and ‘Neck Bone,’ among others. Officials have listed over 30 infractions on Stewart’s record including violations for flooding a cell and rioting, according to prison records obtained by ethanb822.com.
Stewart published a seven-page letter on Wednesday, March 23, accusing facility intelligence officers of carrying out “discriminatory and retaliatory” acts against him. The 35-year-old Harnett County man says he’s being targeted for his political beliefs.
“I was transferred from Central Prison to Alexander Correctional due to my relentless advocacy efforts, addressing and exposing the inhumane living conditions prisoners housed on [The Solitary Confinement Unit] are subjected to.” he wrote in a statement. “Being transferred from facility to facility is a tactic that has been used by NCDPS against me since 2015,” he added.
Stewart says officials engaged in the ‘systematic destruction’ of a prison newsletter he authored which focuses on “dismantling white supremacy” through education and unity. He says the newsletter’s circulation was halted due to claims from higher-ups inside the prison that he was engaging in Security Threat Group, or STG, activities through the topics he covers.
He claims the prison’s warden, Carlos Hernandez, is denying his incoming mail under the claims of the mail also being STG-related, a claim which Stewart emphatically rejects.
“I know [this] to be false due to those who corresponded with me,” Stewart said. “They would never discuss anything that would violate any of the prison’s policies or procedures.”
Stewart is also skeptical of the prison’s characterization of various Black Panther organizations as “dissident groups” who pose security threats to the facility. He questions why his group has been declared dangerous, while white supremacist prison gangs have not.
“The answer is simple,” Stewart says. “We panthers voice dissent at the U.S. Government when the Aryan groups support the U.S. Government and all their corrupted systems.”
Stewart has published various crowdsourced calls for action to his supporters, known as phone or email ‘zaps’, with activists calling in to voice their support of his claims.
Prison records project Stewart’s release date to come in November of 2029.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to a request for comment.