May 30, 2017
ATTN: Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs
To: The Honorable County Commissioners
Durham County, North Carolina
I write and appeal to each of you who revere and fear the Lord God Almighty, to search your hearts and consciences and hear my complaints, and do your duty in Godly fashion. Keep in mind that as God has allowed you each to be in authority over how the Durham jail is operated, you each will be held accountable for whatever decisions you make when your every knee is bowed before Christ’s Judgement Throne to give an account of your life’s deeds.
We all can agree that jail is not a resort, and hardly anyone wants to be detained herein. But for those of us who are here, be we guilty or innocent of the charged offense(s), we should be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Nevertheless, we also know that many abuses exist in jails nationwide and your office has the ability and duty to curb and put an end to such improprieties in the Durham County Jail. If not, then such violations and abuses will continue to exist with your Board’s imprimitur.
What is the purpose of video visitation? The Sheriff claims it’s only an alternative – not a replacement – to face-to-face visits. If that’s true, then it would be advantageous to those who live hundreds of miles away and out of state, provided they can utilize Skype or some other home computer video to implement such visits.
I believe most detainees’ families live in or near Durham. If these family members are relegated to coming to the jail, only to sit before a monitor downstairs to see and communicate with us through another monitor upstairs, that would be a travesty of justice, an unnecessary invasion of privacy on our visits, and a waste of tax dollars.
Instinct and history tells me that video visitation is not going to be an alternative form of visitation. Rather, due time, face-to-face visits will be phased out to give the Sheriff a captive audience to charge exorbitant fees for visits. Otherwise, why try to fix what’s not broken?
For the most part, detainees in jail ahve not been convicted of any crime. Under our system of jurisprudence, we are supposed to be deemed innocent until we are proven guilty. But in reality, this jail treats us in opposite fashion with this Board’s seal of approval.
Our mail is unlawfully censored daily, particularly by a black female officer named Snipes. Too often she sits in the hallway outside the programs office opening and reading our incoming letters, line-by-line, on both sides of each page. She does this to every letter her hand touches in the name of “security.” She is just nosy as can be and knows she can get away with this abuse of authority. She is not authorized to even touch our mail.
Likewise, our telephone calls are all recorded and are vetted by law enforcement to include the District Attorney’s office. We don’t get to listen to the Sheriff’s and DA’s conversations and strategies concerning us, so why should they have this unfair advantage to hear ours? Our most intimate conversations are violated by jail officials – telephone calls that cost us or our families an arm and a leg to utilize. And now, the Sheriff wants to record our personal visits and charge this captive audience ridiculous prices for that too. When will this Board put a stop to “Big Brother’s” abuses upon our privacy rights? We are detainees – not convicted felons.
If we could afford bond, many of us would not be subjected to these privacy rights abuses. We could talk unimpeded with absolute privacy to our attorneys and loved ones. Simply because we cannot afford these staggeringly high and needlessly excessive bonds, the Sheriff is permitted to fleece our families and us in a myriad of senseless for-profit schemes.
CAPTIVE AUDIENCE ABUSES
Just a few years ago sheriffs did not outsource canteen and telephone services provided to detinees. They provided such services themselves, just as the NC Dept of COrrection continues to do today (canteen services) at a 15% to 25% markup.
Allowing the Sheriff to outrsource canteen services, as well as our daily meals, invites abuse. Rather than go with the vendor who offers the most reasonable products at the most savings to detainees (and our struggling families and friends who sacrifice to help support us), the Sheriff readily rejects them. Why? It’s all about greed and profit. The Sheriff wants a 50% kickback off of every canteen item sold to us! In all other entities, this practice is called illegal price gouging. Here again, your Board is well aware of this unconscionable practice, yet turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to it.
Detainees are already deprived of their freedom and lose income, held by excessive bonds. Why would any fair-minded person want to exacerbate our hardships by imposing grossly inflated canteen prices on us for the most generic brand items, e.g. one square packaged Ramen Noodle soup costs us $0.82, yet you can buy these same soups 6 for $1.00 at any Food Lion or Dollar Tree and they still make a profit selling at such price.
There is supposed to be a service fee of $1.00 for a pre-paid GTL telephone card. A $10.00 card plus $1.00 service fee is supposed to cost us $11.00 total, or $21.00 for the $20.00 GTL card, but we are charged a whopping $7.00 service fee (profit) for each, having to pay $17.00 for a $10.00 card and $27.00 for the $20.00 card. This is highway robbery and this Board’s sense of propriety surely knows this.
Hebrews 13:17 states in pertinent part: Obey your leadrs and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who MUST given an account. I implore you each to depart from politics and from doing business as usual and do what is godly and righteous. Jesus is often quoted to say: when you have done this (whatever you do) unto the least of these, you have done it unto me, Matthew 25:35-40.
It’s easy to shun those in jail and to care more about appearances to your constituents. But you each will pay a steep penalty if you fail to exercise the God-given authority you have been entrusted. If your conscience has not been seared with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2) then you will do what is just and equitable.
Please put a stop to the Sheriff’s abuse of the canteen system. The annual budget your office approves for the Sheriff’s office is more than sufficient for all of its needs; in fact, it’s excessive. The Sheriff should not be allowed to operate any “for profit” program against his detainee charges. Again, such practice invites abuse administratively and monetarily.
The Sheriff’s office and Jail are stacked with excess employees; it’s like a huge welfare system. Many of the jail’s detention staff are obese, out of shape, cannot promptly respond to emergencies and are paid well over $50 and 60 thousand dollars a year, a total waste of tax payers’ money, who sit in an office all day. A lot of Pod officers are overweight, too.
There needs to be a qualitative management program put into effect for several reason. All overweight personnel’s names should be placed on a list requiring mandatory weight loss over a specified period of time or be terminated.
A time-in-motion study should also be conducted to get rid of excessive personnel. Too many people are assigned to do the same job but only few do the actual work. I say this in all sincerity: you could reduce the actual personnel in the Sheriff’s department by 33 and 1/3% and get an increase in production by 50% by requiring the remaining staff to do their jobs. A lot of cuts need to be made at the top in administrative and longevity positions, who demand the lion’s share of salaries. If they had comparable jobs in the private sector they would have long ago been terminated for failure to produce, and their redundant job slots would have been eliminated.
There are ample people here at the jail who could easily operate the canteens (as Wake County Jail Sheriff’s staff do) to eliminate the existing price-gouging practice. The same applies to the kitchen. If our military can train and provide its own cooks, why doesn’t the Sheriff’s office still provide this service? It would certainly help reduce contraband from entering in by private vendors providing such services and would reduce costs.
Let me comment on the new ABL management group that was hired 9 months ago. ABL promised to improve the quality of our food by leaps and bounds provided they were paid the additional money demanded.
The first two weeks ABL came on board we were provided fresh bananas for breakfast on Saturdays, and then that stopped. We still get grits or oatmeal (without sugar) each morning – no meat – but a turkey sausage gravy on Fridays. The only improvement we see is the cheap plastic bag of milk we get daily and the elimination of soy producets. We get a lot of moulded apples and oranges, no fish products at all, and maybe 3 times we have received some tough-to-chew greens. The lack of fresh vegetables causes a lot of skin disorders. We also get lots of unpalatable cole slaw and wilted lettuce as poor substitutes for green leafy vegetables.
Had Aramark been given the same amount of money as ABL, we would be provided more wholesome meals. Aramark did give us baked chicken for our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. After many complaints, ABL gave us baked chicken on New Year’s only. ABL likes to feed us patties for lunch and supper, with wilted lettuce and baked potato fries and molded fruit as a whole meal. That might work for teens and kids but not for adults
Why is it difficult for us to get dry cereal like corn flakes, bran or rice krispies or something similar to them? Why can’t we buy a salad tray for $2.00 as ABL sells to staff – a salad that is wholesome and contains fresh veggies and meat? It’s punitive to deny us a mere chef’s salad.
Why are we not served any fish products ever by ABL? What happened to the fish sandwich that schools and even prisons serve? ABL is as greedy as they can be. They put excessive salt in food items that we often cannot eat. And when we complain, they get an attitude or claim to still be training cooks! And why do they put nasty tasting stewed tomatoes in scrambled eggs?
Lastly, jail officials put too much emphasis on sports and entertainment on the jail’s TVs. Every morng when TVs come on at 9 am, they are automatically placed on channel 31, ESPN, for an hour or more. At noon they watch TMZ, a celebrity entertainment news program.
TVs are supposed to be on Univision from 5pm to 6pm for Hispanics and from 6pm till 7pm for the local and world news. But too often staff will not turn TVs to the news, catering ot the youths’ desire to watch videos, gangsta movies, and other incorrigible programs.
The jail has all but cut out newspapers for us to stay informed – a constitutional violation. We get one newspaper a week if we get to go to the library on our scheduled day to read it. We should get newspapers daily, as well as get to watch local and world news.
Commissioners, why don’t y’all make surprise visits to the jail during lunch and supper time so you can see for yourselves what is being provided us to eat? Visit the pods so you can see what is on our food trays. The Sheriff is only going to show you the good food items ABL provides for staff to eat.
These problems will continue to fester and become more systematic until you each say “ENOUGH” and put a stop to it. Please make some positive changes. Give the food contract back to Aramark (with the same money you now give to ABL) until the jail takes this responsibility back. Thank you.
PS: your office controls the Sheriff’s budget. You thus have a lot of influence as to what occurs in the Sheriff’s office. So use it!