Just. Like. You.

the inmate wrote this specifically for the jail protest, and was originally read in front of the jail on 7/10/15.

To those will truly listen,

I am an inmate at the Durham County Jail and have been for 16 months. But for one brief moment please do not see me as just an inmate. For one breath see me as a son, or a father, an uncle, or brother. See me as our forefathers saw me when they drafted the constitution. For it doesn’t matter if I am innocent or guilty, black or white, male or female. I am a person…Just. Like. You.

The reason why I bring my plea to you today is because I and 600 other people just like me are being mistreated everyday–right in your backyard. For most of us we don’t have thousands of dollars for expensive attorneys or strong political connections to help our voice be heard. To most people we are inmates–we do not deserve to be heard, and any mistreatment we receive we do deserve.

Hopefully you are amassed today because you actually care about the treatment of people. If so, then I share with you today the injustices in Durham County Jail. 

Right now you have 70 some women packed into a block with only bed space for 64 people. They have the ‘extras’ sleeping in the multi-purpose room on the floor. A floor that is not cleaned with bleach. A floor that is teeming with dust, fungus, and germs. Three women have had miscarriages and received no medical care. This is how your mothers, your daughters, sisters and wives are being treated.

The people in charge of the mail constantly break federal laws. Packages containing used books from Internationalist Prison Books Collective have sat in a room for at least 3 months with no notice given to inmate or sender. Letters to and from Inside-Outside Alliance have either been sent back with no explanation or “magically lost.” People that have charges in other counties and that are sent on a writ for court have all of their mail “returned to sender” while gone. And often legal mail is opened before it arrives to the inmate.

Three or four months back the jail performed a huge “shakedown” with members from Wake County Jail armed with K-9s, projectile rifles, and medical detectors. Yet their main focus seemed to be taking all inmates’ personal books and belongings. Dictionaries, thesauruses, crossword books, religious books–it did not matter. We were all told that from now on we would be limited to two (2) legal books, one (1) Bible, and two (2) general interest books. Kept locked back in a cell for (first 160, then 154, and now) 140 hours out of 168 a week we are only allowed two general interest books. With so much time on one’s hand I know many people that can read 2 books in two days or as much as 2 books in a single day. And God forbid you should want to trade any 2 books that you’ve already read for two new books. This could take weeks–even months.

As stated before we are not given the correct cleaning supplies to clean the blocks. The only time bleach enters the block is when work detail cleans the showers–once a week. 50 to 70 some inmates all living together in one block everyday without the correct cleaning supplies. I find it hard to stomach to learn that the cleanliness standards in motels are better than they are here. Mold growing rampant on the concrete blocks we sleep on and thriving in the thin mattresses, water and toilets that stop working for days every two weeks or so, air that barely trickles out of the vents, deplorable situations that people are forced to live in.

I find it interesting that the same people who provide our meals are also in charge and receive profit off of the canteen items. In the past 16 months the quality and quantity of our meals has declined markedly while prices for canteen items have increased. Our meals are served at or below room temperature and are served by officers and inmates not wearing gloves or hairnets.

The jail receives all of this funding for different things, just like the recent $2 million extra dollars for the purpose of “suicide-proofing” the cells, but yet decent hygiene products are not given to inmates that have no money to buy the expensive items off of the canteen. I am just an inmate, but I would be interested to know just how much of the budget is supposed to go towards hygiene products for inmates, money for our meals–and just what exactly we are supposed to be receiving.

Correct Care Solutions is the health care provider subcontracted out to the jail. I tell you in all sincerity that these people are committing criminal acts. Ignoring inmates that need care, failing to provide the correct medical treatment and medications–unexplained skins rashes, not being treated, dental complaints that are not even looked at for 6 months or more–and the only time medical staff will hurry to do their job is when the commisioner’s office is notified. There are people with serious medical situations and who have horrible experiences that are scared to come forth with their experiences for fear of backlash from members of the jail, and this does this happen!!

For all of the things that I have written here and more, when presented to staff, we are told to file a grievance. However, these grievances are either never answered, given to the very staff member we are having a problem with, or are answered but never acted on.

I do understand that jail is not supposed to be a favorable place to stay, but jail is only a holding spot until one goes to trial–a place of “innocent until proven guilty.” Unfortunately, it is being run like a third world country prison instead of by members of a U.S. that believes in fairness and the rights of its citizens.

I hope that as this is being read that there is at least one person listening in a position to bring change that will stand for what is right…if not, why do we call this a “justice system.”

Sincerely,

Inmate X

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