“My phone has been blowing off the hook all day” — thank you to all callers and emailers!

This past Monday, August 3rd, we urged people to call and/or email Wendell Davis, Durham County Manager; Michael Page, Chairman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners, and Sheriff Michael Andrews to tell them WE BELIEVE PRISONERS inside the Durham County Jail. That same day, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a regularly scheduled all-day work session in the commissioners’ chambers. As with all work sessions and regular sessions, the meeting was videotaped. Before the meeting was adjourned, a new topic not on the agenda was introduced: all of these calls and emails that have been coming in all day about the jail. This developed into a 30+ minute discussion among commissioners and the county manager about what’s been going on at the jail, what they should (or should not) do about it, the sheriff’s recent report responding to questions about the jail, how the commissioners should relate to and communicate with the sheriff, and how to end those “embarrassing” protests and “improve the image of our jail.”

The entire conversation is revealing and worth watching, though it is not exactly riveting TV. The discussion of the jail starts at 05:50:15 of the video, which can also be found at the BOCC Agendas and Video Library:


For those who prefer the written word — and with a nod to the county attorney, who at 06:17:23 reminded the commissioners that they were in a public forum and “you never know when someone might ask for a transcript” — here’s a transcript of the entire discussion:


While Chairman Page repeatedly said he is not against an independent audit of the jail, his stated reasons were “because Natalie Perkins is the administrator of that jail, and I think they don’t come no cleaner and no [more] honest and no [more] real in their dealings than Natalie” and because “we have nothing to hide, the sheriff has nothing to hide,” and “because we are not gonna deal with this all year long.”  (To which we would respond, “Oh, really?”)

A few other highlights of public comments made by our elected county officials:

“I am not against that [an independent audit of the jail] and I want it to be clear because we are not gonna deal with this all year long. And this morning, none of you spoke of it, but my email and my phone has been bombarded with these calls.” –Commissioner & Chairman Michael Page (05:52:34)

“One of the things they [National Institute of Corrections] said, though, that was a red flag for me, and I pointed it out to the sheriff, is that you’re going to have problems in a jail to the degree that inmates have idle time. And of course, right now with the lockback, there is a tremendous amount of idle time.” –Commissioner Ellen Reckhow (05:54:08)

“I need this to be addressed. We’ve been over this several times, and you know to me it’s quite embarrassing to go to an event down at the DPAC and you’ve got a group of people outside protesting the jail, and somebody asks you what’s going on.” –Chairman Page (05:57:34)

“We are being asked to represent the citizens in our community and their concerns. I want to be supportive also of the sheriff and what’s happening in the jail. I think we need to have a conversation. We could ask the sheriff to come to a work session and give a report. We haven’t done that.” –Commissioner Wendy Jacobs (06:00:35)

“We’re sitting in the middle because — it’s just like with the school board — once we hand the sheriff the money, we can’t control what he does down there in the jail. He’s an elected official. So my point is, if we’re saying to him ‘We’ve got some concerns about what’s going on in your jail, we can’t take your word for it’ — and we don’t want to put that in writing — ‘but we need a third party that we feel comfortable with, that would not only get the community to agree to it, but you will agree to it because it’s somebody outside your purview of control.’ ‘Cause his attorney and all the people down there write it up so eloquently, when I look at it, I say ‘man, this a model thing goin’ on down at the jail.’ And then the next thing you know in the headlines, ‘he’s not gettin’ his mail, he’s fittin’ to hang himself,’ all this kind of stuff. So that’s not what it says when they give us that report.” –Commissioner Fred Foster, Jr. (06:10:56)

“This is not an attack on the sheriff. You know, as the chairman of this board, it is very disruptive to me what these people did in the last few months, and we’re not gonna have it. And they are threatening you to do that until it’s addressed.” –Chairman Page (06:13:23)

So, it remains to be seen what will happen next, but obviously we got through to them on Monday. Many thanks to all who continue sounding off and coming out and making your voices heard!

“We’re gonna give ’em hell ’til they open every cell.” –Chant heard outside the jail on April 17th, 2015, the first of 17 (including tonight’s) consecutive weekly Friday protests

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