“17 plus hours in a cell is a lot, especially when we are supposed to be considered innocent.”

G___,

Thanks for keeping in touch and for the newest Feedback booklet.  I finally did receive the second Human Relations Commission report you sent.  The first one you sent is missing, most likely due to the mail services here, not a surprise!  I read it thoroughly and agree that a community based research team to survey the facility would be beneficial, along with a civilian oversight board to address continuing issues within the jail.  More knowledge can never hurt, except for the jail’s reputation and how they function.  Video-visitation seems to be a hot topic raising significant controversy.  I’m trying to remain optimistic throughout the whole process and shift to this “hybrid” approach.  I agree that video-ONLY visitation should be prevent.  Though, at the moment, I’m trying to see how the hybrid approach could be beneficial.  They plan to launch the “hybrid” approach funded by the US Department of Justice sometime in the near future.  The newspaper quoted Mike Andrews (Sheriff) today 5/12/17, stating that in-person visits will remain and that the implementation of this new technology was to better serve the community and allow more access to visitation.  From what I’m understanding, there will be more days and times family members can come to utilize the video-visitation.  And there is talk about the possibility of external use for visitation.  Meaning that people can connect and speak to you face to face from their home device, without the inconvenience of coming down to the jail to do so.  I understand the frustration everyone is having with the possibility of them converting completely to video-only visitation.  And one can assume that this trial period with this “hybrid” approach is a way of slowly but inevitably transitioning to video-only visitation.  So, I think it is important and a good proactive step that everyone is already voicing their opposition of the jail to utilize video-only visitation just like other counties including Wake.  But, like I said, I’m trying to see what good things may come from these new computers.  My family does not live in this state and most of my friends have graduated and moved away to where their careers took them.  I have not physically seen my family in over a year.  I would love the opportunity to speak face to face with them even if it’s on a computer.  Talking on the phone only does so much, actually seeing them would be great.  And I’m sure my family feels the same.  I can’t be the only one in this predicament at the jail.  Hopefully the jail doesn’t convert to video-only visitation but I can see how the technology may give people more opportunities to visit and more options to those who can’t physically come to the jail.

In the newspaper the new replacement of Lt. Colonel Perkins was announced, Colonel Prignano.  What he said showed some promise.  Though, is it all just talk like Trump’s first 100 days in office?  The new colonel said he is willing to sit down with members of organizations like IOA to address any concerns head-on.  Lets hope he keeps that promise.  But, what I would like to see is that the new colonel make regular rounds through the pods just like Lt Col Perkins did.  I will give her credit, she came into the pds during our recreation time and addressed many of our concerns personally.  It showed that she cared and was actually doing her job well.  As for Major Couch, the person who temporarily filled LtC Perkins spot, I haven’t seen him in months.  When I did see him we were all locked in our cells and he quickly snuck right beck out the door without ever talking to a single detainees.  I’m glad they did not promote him to the new position – but let’s hope the new colonel surpasses LtC Perkins’ performance.

Last week the gentleman that manages Aramark and the canteen at this facility, over both Paul and Ms. Myers, indicated that they have numerous items in their inventory that they “could” sell, however the jail and its “security” refuses to let them do so.  Apparently every time sold must be approved by the jail.  Interestingly, he said that they have small radios, like ones similar in most prisons, but the jail refuses to allow them to be sold.  We asked the person in charge of security (Cpt. Barnes) about his position on allowing these radios to be sold.  The only excuse he gave was that he was too concerned about them being stolen, lost, and/or broken.  Is this a valid concern that outweighs what these devices could provide for us?  If prisons across the country have permitted the use of handheld radios, I’m not sure why the County Jail cannot.  17 plus hours in a cell is a lot, especially when we are supposed to be considered innocent.  I would love the opportunity to listen to music, news, and even NPR each day.  Every day its a fight with the officers to be able to even watch the news on TV for 30 mins, and don’t even try to watch MTV, VH1, or BET; those channels are blocked and some officers even go a step further and prohibit any music videos from being watched.  I don’t understand why its censored?  What’s even more interesting is that when Cpt Barnes was pressed with the issue even more he indicated that the jail was looking into “new technology” that would have access to the radio, among other things.  Though, I don’t know if this was said to pacify us or if it was really being researched.  My only comment, don’t get your hopes up anytime soon – things progress so slowly around here, it might take yars to actually see whatever this new technology is!

Now, the Food!  you asked if you could rely my previous complaints in my last letter to the Human Relations Commission and Wendy Jacobs.  I have no problems with that.  Back in March, I sent a grievance to the kitchen and ABL notifying them on multiple occasions that portions of their meals are not edible due to massive amounts of salt.  The one bite I took I had to spit out, I couldn’t bear the taste.  I didn’t receive a response for almost 8 weeks and when they finally did they aid, “we are working on training our cooks” and to be patient, the food will get better.  If I counted correctly, we are in the 8th month of a 10 month contract with ABL.  What?  What has ABL been doing up to this point?  Is their management that poorly handled?  They obviously have problems.  Yesterday, the officer refused to pass out the fruit and sent it back down to the kitchen because they were rotting.  Why would they even send that up here?  Probably the same reason they sent up curdled milk that looked grey, obviously past the expiration date.  I will admit that over the past couple weeks the cooking itself has improved but their menu is no where near healthy or nutritious.  It is filled with complex carbs, breads, starches,a nd processed meats or breaded patties.  how is this healthy, especially when you can’t even eat part of it due to its sub-standard quality.  I’ve already mentioned before about them cutting foods from the menu they originally began serving.  Where did the bananas, raw tomatoes and cucumbers, spinach/lettuce, and real meat go to that we saw the first couple weeks?  The only thing I see now is brown soggy lettuce overpowered with dressing.  It’s obvious they are cutting corners and the reviews I saw in the paper prior to their start here was nothing but a show.  Whoever manages ABL at this facility needs some help, a better menu, and better quality food.  What irritates me more is that I see the officers purchase food that ABL makes for them and it doesn’t even compare to what we get.  I’ve seen salads with freshly cut veggies, chicken on the bone – things we’ve never had prepared for us.  I understand this is a jail, but they are being paid more in a 10 month period than Aramark.  I don’t know the obstacles ABL faces down in the kitchen, but they were given more funds to outperform Aramark and provide healthier, more nutritious foods.  But I don’t see much of an improvement.  I’m left to think Aramark would have done a better job if given the extra funds.  And that’s crazy to think.  I think part of the reason we were all so disgusted with Aramark and what they served us was partially the jail’s fault with the limited funds they provided to them.

Lastly, Canteen!  They need help and bad.  it’s a sad sight to see each week.  Bull, the previous manager of the canteen here before he got fired, never had any of the problems I see now.  The two women, Pam and Ms. Myers, don’t get along and refuse to work together.  It’s a confusing mess.  They can’t keep anything stocked downstairs in their inventory.  There are weeks without essential things like stamps, phone cards, toiletries, clothing including socks and underwear.  In the year and a half I’ve been here I’ve seen nothing that compares to this dysfunctional management.  Even when they have the items in stock it’s hit or miss if they decide to come to the Pod to deliver our purchased items.  They posted a schedule in our Pod when canteen is to be delivered each week – what good that did, they didn’t follow it.  And it irritates me every time they substitute the items I purchased with something else I didn’t want and is usually at a cheaper price.  I get responses like, “we don’t have that item and we charged you for it so we are giving you this other item instead.”  Ahh, what?  No you’re not, I don’t want that.  And if you don’t catch it and they sneak it in without you noticing, too bad, they won’t refund it even though your order is wrong.  The whole service is pitiful.  Since Bull left Canteen has been falling apart.  I’m waiting for it to finally crash and burn.  Don’t even get me started on Hot Trays canteen offers.  The one time I order a meal it doesn’t come until after midnight and was ice cold.  Since then I refuse to purchase one and that’s been a good thing.  Lately they’ve been charging you, processing your order, and then deciding not to make the meals when scheduled, but at a time and date they want to even though you’ve already purchased it.  Last week they decided out of the blue not to serve meals with chips due to some “executive” decision, even though when you purchased it the order said w/ chips.  I don’t think they understand that some of their decisions are fraudulent.  when I purchase something I don’t expect to be cheated and deceived every time.  Then they get mad at me for being frustrated with them!

Due to the new technology coming in, the jail has been replacing their computer systems.  This inhibited us from puchasing anything from canteen for a week and a half.  No stamps, phone cards, toiletries, nothing.  We complained, so canteen provided us with physical paper ordering sheets.  We asked over and over when our orders would get filled!  PAM told us they had absolutely NO intentions what so ever of filling the paper order sheets even though they were provided.  Some people went 2-3 weeks without the ability to purchase anything because of complications with the new system.  This jail doesn’t give you anything when you are forced through that door into this facility – and then Canteen refuses to process paper orders despite not being able to access the computer system.  Again, pitiful, it’s not Aramark that needs to change – it’s the people who work here that need to change!  Okay, thanks for your letter and checking in, hope to hear from you soon.

 

E.X.

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‘When is that gonna start?’

Hi,

Thank you for my X-mas card (months ago). Sorry I haven’t been wrote you. It drains me, cause it takes a lot out of me. But, can you help me with getting this stuff out there?

  1. I need my right meds.
  2. I can’t remember when, but some officers jumped me.
  3. My name being cleared. It’s always said I’m always starting things. Officers like Mrs. Solomon, and many more (say this). I rarely start anything. The things I do, I’ll admit to it.
  4. Disciplinary always finds me guilty!
  5. Not getting enough supplies, like pencils, paper, envelopes, washing liquid.
  6. They need to wash our clothes in Clorox since they are washing everybody clothes together.
  7. There’s a video about this jail that they show and at the end it tells you, ‘You will be treated with Dignity and Respect while you’re here.’ That’s funny, cause that doesn’t happen. So, when is that gonna start?
  8. An officer was telling me for some reason how they wouldn’t eat anything from our kitchen. I said why. She said—they’re nasty. Can that change?

Continue reading

“Its a vicious cycle where their goal is for you to lose everything you have”

G___,

I received two letters from you on March 31st, one was dated February 11th and the second March 27th. So I think there may be some lag time with the mail. You asked if I had received the Human Relations Commission’s Report and I have not! The only thing I received in the mail are two written letters and both March and April “Feedback” booklets. There is no report anywhere to be found if it was sent. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if it conveniently was lost by the mail inspection here.

As for your inquiry about any knowledge in regards to Uniece Fennell. There is none in 3D, no one knows a thing here and the officers are tight lipped as if it never happened. When I called home the day after the incident my family was asking about the death – And I had no clue about it at all. When I asked the officer in the pod about it he would not comment and wouldn’t even confirm that anything happened. I watched the local news that evening, there was no story about it there either and nobody gets the newspaper. The women’s pod is on the 5th floor, we are in the dark down here on the 3rd floor. Sorry I couldn’t be of any help this time.

Video visitation seems to be a hot topic lately. I heard that the jail was going to transition to it like Wake County but I didn’t realize it was happening NOW! A couple days in the past few weeks we have been prevented from coming out of our cells in the morning because they had someone working in the visitation room: They’ve already started installing metal mounts to house the video screen. It looks like they are progressing forward despite all the protests inside and out. The feedback booklet hits on a few critical points such as profiting GTL as well as the jail’s profit and how video visitation will dehumanize personal interactions. I want to point out how the District Attorney’s office will directly “profit” from it, too. Just like our phone calls I would think the video visits will be recorded. The district Attorney’s office has access to your phone calls and will now be able to pry into your visits. There is no privacy whatsoever. They read our mail, they record our phone calls, and now they will be keeping tabs on our visits. What would it be like if we had that privilege to listen to the prosecutors and DAs discussions and every phone call that they make. Invade their private interactions. Now that would be something. My point is that the deck is already stacked against you and anytime I speak my mind I have to worry whether or not what I say could be falsely used against me or perceived some other way. It’s ridiculous!

On to other topics! The food and ABL. It has been a roller coaster with them and there is no consistency. When they began in October, there was promise, but now I can see that was just a front. The first 3 weeks were good! A variety of fresh fruit including Bananas, green vegetables, including chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, good portion sizes, and no soy. Currently, the fruit we get is not ripe, heavily bruised, and tastes awful, easily finding its way into the trash container. We have not seen a banana since the first couple of weeks. We hardly get greens, nothing like we got the first few weeks even if we do. Lately the food has been so salty you can’t even eat it. The pancakes yesterday were hard as a rock. At this point I don’t know which company was worse, ARAMARK or ABL. There is absolutely no variety ether. You get the same meals every week multiple times a week. It’s getting old very quick. Honestly, at this point I hope the jail does not review ABL’s contract. What reviews I saw and the article about ABL in the newspaper raving about their good quality and healthier menu is a lie. My vote would be to kick them out too. Their quality and service has been declining since day 1.

I wrote last time about the DA’s office and the prosecutor threatening to obtain another search warrant after a judge has already noted significant misconduct by officers. Well they mangaged to get one, how, I have no clue. The only way is by lying and bad faith, which the DA’s office is notorious for so I’m not surprised. I just read an article in the newspaper on 3/31/17 quoting a supreme court judge. In summary it mentioned that the average person does not think the justice system within North Carolina is fair and a large percentage think the process is too slow. My follow up question to that would be to isolate Durham and see how it compares. My guess would be that Durham would be far worse. I sit here day after day watching how the system in Durham works and it is concerning. Most of the prosecutors are no better than Mike Nifong and Tracy Cline, maybe even worse. I swear they teach a class to these prosecutors on the best way to hide the truth, withhold evidence, and when all else fails keep them in jail and delay, delay, delay. Its a vicious cycle where their goal is for you to lose everything you have; whether its your job, house, car, marriage, etc. And once they’ve exhausted and beat you down by holding you in jail they wait until you give up. It’s just crazy to me and something needs to be done.

Oh, I want to give my thoughts on this jail with regards to Uniece Fennell. I don’t know what happened, but if it was suicide I don’t think that means the jail can wash their hands from liability. My understanding is that this jail was supposed to get more funding for mental health. Officers were supposed to get training on how to better handle mental health issues. If Uniece was troubled enough to harm herself, there were obvious signs that should have been caught. These officers don’t care about anyone in this jail and they are certainly not observant enough. Next, how does the jail provide the means for someone to commit suicide. This should not have happened and should not have even been possible. I’ve lived in these cells for 17 months, if she was able to be successful in her attempt – something was not right and something needs to change. You stress the hell out of people and then place them in a harsh environment. We already know that mental disorders are widely prevalent within the jail. It’s a shame that yet another person dies in this jail.

Alright! Thanks for the letters and Feedback! Looking forward to hear from you soon and any new updates!

– E.X.

‘I think they wanna control every aspect of each inmate’s life’


Ms. Bell,
Everybody know that DCJ is the worst jail in NC and now they are going to cut out face to face visits.

I think they wanna control every aspect of each inmate’s life. I understand that this is jail but it is very cold in here even in the summer. I don’t know why they feel it has to be this way!

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“There is a word for what they are doing, It’s called price-gouging.”

____,

Thanks for checking in on me. It’s crazy to think an entire year has passed sitting in this jail! Nothing much has changed since the last time I wrote. At one point the jail was censuring my mail and refusing to give me certain letters, but those issues were straightened out a while ago after addressing the matter with Major Collins. It seems as if the Detention Officers sorting through mail were going about and beyond what they should have. The mail service here has really struck a nerve recently though. Apparently the jail ahs recognized several days as holidays that are not considered state holidays. As a result mail was not distributed or sent out for 6 days. This not only interfered with communication with family members over the holidays but also directly impeded our access to the courts. I know several individuals who prepared letters to be sent to the courthouse but that was halted until the Detention Officers felt like coming into work and doing their jobs. You are telling me that not a single officer in the entire jail could collect the mail and send it ot the post office in that 6 day time period? Come on!

I did catch the “Night Without Detensions” protest on the news where individuals shut down the entrance into the jail by shackling themselves together. I’m glad people on the outside have the courage to draw attention to the rights Detainees are supposed to have. I’m also glad to hear that the complaints written to the Human Relations Commission of Durham has pulled some weight which led to recommendations on improving the jail. I would definitely like to see what recommendations they have provided! I know that IOA has been aggressive with coordinating an independent investigation into the jail, especially since January, and I hope this is one step closer to reaching that goal. I’m sure a lot will be uncovered during the results of any investigation of this jail. Some of what I read is unfortunately exaggerated and I wish people would stick to the facts instead of falsely inflating petty matters, but there is some truth to everyone’s comments. Many things are wrong here that need to be fixed!

I’m also surpirsed the Human Relations Commission expressed concern about the private companies profiting so much from Detainees. There is a word for what they are doing, It’s called price-gouging. And unfortunately it’s not just the private companies fault, but the jail’s too. From what I understand ARAMARK has won the new contract for canteen/commissary, they aren’t going anywhere. However, the jail charges ARAMARK to sell their pdocuts here. Part of the reason prices on canteen are so high is to blaance out what the jail charges to even sell the items. We are a captive audience and have no choice but to pay these ridiculous prices on items and ARAMARK knows this. I don’t blama ARAMARK for trying to make money, but there really needs to be boundaries on how much they can inflate these prices!

As for the Human Relations Commission recommendation to abolish bail, seems a bit far fetched to me. I do agree that bail in Durham is excessive in many cases, to the point that not even a wealthy many could post bond. Simply, the point of bond and detention is to make sure you come to court. I would assume many people have all intentions of coming to court, but I know some, are going to flee any chance they get. For that reason part of me agrees with bond, but something that is reasonable at the very least. Of course everyone who is being detained is going to support the contention of abolishing bail. That would mean we wouldn’t be detained any longer. However, I know this jail brings in a lot of money to this city (over $21 million) and many jobs, all of which would suffer if bail was abolished. THe state and county would never let that happen.

I know IOA has wored very hard and has made substantial progress with the jail. What I would like to see is the same progress with the DA’s office. I have had the pleasure over the past year to witness a lot of questionable behavior come out of that office. And the Assistant District Attornies have perfected every under-handed trick in the book to delay, keep you from getting a bond reduction, add more charges months down the road to railroad you and further enhance your bond, mishand evidence, and did I mention they delay your case? I have heard the prosecutor make every excuse imaginable to continue or delay my case from “I was on vacation and need more time,” to “my child was sick and I haven’t had a chance to look at the case,” and my favorite “I want more time so I can offer a plea bargain he probably won’t accept.” But yet somehow they always are able to prevail and get a continuance to the next month, sometimes 2 months. With all that said, I’m hoping to mave on to trial soon. It only took 14+ months to get to this point. Oh, I forgot to mention I had a court hearing the first week of January, and yes, it was continued to February. I think this excuse tops them all. Over the past year my attornies have easily widdled away at the states case and 2 separate search warrants were found to be defective. Which translates to Durham police officers violating my 4th amendment rights and numerous North Carolina statutes repeatedly. Judges ruled in each instance police officers conducted an illegal search. At the court hearing in January, the prosecutor wanted a continuance so they could now go back and search the same place that they had illegally searched to begin with. This is or would be an illegal search again in an attempt to exploit information that a judge has already suppressed. Basically, the prosecutor asked for a continuance so they could conduct an illegal search! Crazy. But nothing surprises me here in Durham anymore. And they got the continuance, hopefully they think twice before acting though.

Alright that’s enough ranting – thanks for the letter and updates. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

– ____

‘One voice is but a whisper, a thousand are a mighty roar’

Dear IOA

I am a female inmate currently in custody at Durham County jail. First, I want to praise the work and efforts made to give voice to any and all parties willing to speak out against issues that would otherwise go unaddressed. As a temporary resident in this jail I am expressing the need for all inmates, male and female, to be properly screened and searched. Lice were discovered in 5D (women’s housing unit). The woman came into the facility with them, and was a part of general population for nearly a week before they were discovered. She was given one treatment, placed on medical lockback and virtually forgotten about besides meals. When approximately two weeks had passed, there was a breech in communication. One squad was told she was medically cleared, when she had not been. She again joined general population, only to be locked back until she was released. There have been grievances filed about females grooming and styling hair in the eating area, which is highly unsanitary, but no one has formally addressed this matter. Another issue in the female pod is the constant unnecessary request for toilet paper and feminine products, which should be kept on hand. There is no reason a woman should have to wait for items that are necessary to ensure good hygienical practices. Continue reading

‘It’s about to be rough all over’

February 16, 2017

2:20 PM

Hello,

How are you doing? Well I would like to start off by saying that I am so sorry for taking so long to write you guys (IOA) back. This letter is well overdue, but I hope I’m not too late. I hope you all (IOA) are doing well and this letter gets to you quickly.

Well I have been doing ok, given the circumstances I’m in. I have been having a lot on my mind these past few months, but other than that and trying to stay out of trouble, I have been ok. What’s been going on with me? Well, not too long ago I had a talk with my lawyer and found out that after almost two years (22 months) the D.A. is just now getting the autopsy back. Which should have been back, but as you already know Durham County justice system is messed up and they will do anything as well as whatever they want to do to you. Continue reading