Activists gathered Sunday night outside the Mecklenburg County Jail, where four inmates have died in the past two months.
The cause of death for two of the men — LaVarchio Brenyon Allen and Jamarcus McIlwaine — has not been released, and activists demanded answers about what happened to them.
Allen talked with family and friends over the phone on the Fourth of July, his mother Barbara Allen said Sunday.
“He was fine. He laughed, he talked, made jokes as normal,” she said. “He didn’t seem depressed, sad, mad, nothing.”
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Less than ten hours later, Barbara Allen said, her son was dead. She said so far, she’s been told he just “slumped over and fell dead.”
A CMPD officer said her son was joking with a jail employee not long before he died, Barbara Allen said.
She said video of what happened inside the jail would bring her peace, but she was told the jail won’t release video related to a pending investigation.
In addition to answers about her son’s death, Barbara Allen called for better treatment for the jail’s inmates. Even if they’ve gotten in trouble, she said, they’re living in the care of the state.
“It’s just beyond my understanding,” she said. “Four deaths in two months. Regardless of what they did or what they were in there for, they are still human beings.”
Activists held a banner saying “This Jail Kills” along East Trade Street, attracting some supportive honks from passing cars. The group cheered when lights inside the jail came on. They continued the vigil despite intermittent rain.
Charlotte Uprising organizer Ash Williams said ultimately the jail should close. Charlotte Uprising works to help people find alternatives to calling the police so that fewer people end up in jail, Williams said.
“This is, for us, about interrogating the ways surveillance and imprisonment work in our lives,” they said.