A Glorified Phone Call

Pictured above is one of eight video screens installed on the ground level of the DCDF. These will be where friends, family and loved ones see the detainee with whom they have scheduled a visit. As you can see, they will speak through a telephone receiver. Upstairs, detainees will go to the visitation room, where they will sit down at one of the windows, and, instead of see their visitor at the window in front of them, will look into a tablet-sized screen and speak into a telephone receiver. As this photo makes clear, our rallying cry—“video visitation is a glorified phone call”—is spot on.

Although the Renovo (owned by GTL) online visitation scheduling system is currently allowing people to schedule video visits*, there is no word about this in the lobby at DCDF. In fact, hanging on the wall near the scheduling kiosk in the lobby, there are laminated instructions from Pay-Tel, the jail’s former telephone service provider (contract ended in June 2015). Also hanging on the lobby walls in two different places is a brochure celebrating a “Recovery Celebration” that is happening somewhere in Durham in September or happened last September (it is unclear). There is also no word about the fact that the Renovo system was “upgraded,” meaning that people with older operating systems on a home, work or public computer, or on a personal device, can no longer use the online system to schedule a visit, and therefore must schedule at the lobby kiosk.

Sheriff Mike Andrews and DCSO spokesperson Tamara Gibbs have claimed that video non-visitation will make for a safer environment and will save the county money. They have made this claim without ever saying how (and media has not forced them to provide reasoning, despite the fact that it is a preposterous claim). The online scheduling system does suddenly show wording about purchasing visits, internet visits, and the possibility of video nonvisits having a cost (see screenshots below). As always, changes are made and detainees and their families are not informed about them.

The station pictured here, and the seven alongside of it, are undoubtedly objects worthy of our unmitigated wrath and fury. In the great and long tradition of Ned Ludd, these machines should be summarily and swiftly smashed to bits or simply pulled out of their docking stations and trashed. But, even if that is done, we must remember, it is not the machines that are really the problem, nor are they the most suitable targets of our wrath. Rather, it is what the machines represent: a belief on the part of those in power that they can justify the increasing degradation of detainees and prisoners and their loved ones. Andrews, who never shows his face, and instead sends his lackey, Paul Martin; Couch, the interim detention director and so-called head of security; and the county commissioners, especially those who approved the video visitation plan (Wendy Jacobs, Brenda Howerton, Ellen Reckhow). They must be held accountable.

*We invite folks to share any and all information about experiences they have had using the scheduling system or with the video non-visit terminals. Share to our Facebook wall, as a comment on this blog, or via email (insideoutsidealliance@gmail.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

‘DCJ: Same shit, different toilet’


What’s up IOA? Thanks for writing. I’m hanging in there. Can’t really complain, God let me wake up. But as far as DCJ goes, same shit, different toilet. They find a way to make our lives worse by the day. The pod that I’m in has had a problem with our kiosk for damn near a month and the jail has still failed to fix it. Continue reading

‘I am TOTALLY against having ‘visits’ on a screen’

Feb 21 2017

IOA

What’s up. Thanks for writing. I’m living, so I can’t complain. I am one of the inmates that’s TOTALLY against having visits on a fucking video screen. It’s already bad enough they read our mail and the phones are tapped, now they want to record us on video. They’re just trying to find another way to railroad inmates and their families. Who wants to drive all the way downtown to “visit” their loved ones on a screen when they’re right in the same building? 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

Class War on the Color Line: Reform and Repression at the Durham County Jail

More than a year after the Sheriff’s department’s murder-by-medical-neglect of Matthew McCain, the Durham County Jail is, once again, in the news.  On Tuesday, January 3, after receiving letters from almost a hundred detainees and after three individuals blocked the entrance to the jail on the night of November 18, declaring it #ANightWithNoDetentions, the Durham Human Relations Commission released ten recommendations for how to improve conditions at the plantation on Mangum street.  Some of these, most notably that a community-based research team be allowed to do a survey in the jail, were things that detainees, their families, and the community at large have been demanding for a long time.  Others were extrapolations from what detainees wrote to the commission, and what members of the public said in a forum the HRC held on September 15 of last year, including concerns about mental health, corporate price-gouging of detainees and their families, bail, and the Sheriff’s department’s cooperation with ICE.

Then, on January 6, the News and Observer reported that the jail will move to video visitation this summer and that retrofits are already underway.  Inside-Outside Alliance has known for some time that this was in the pipeline – Global Tel’s latest contract to provide phone service in the jail includes a provision for them to run a video visitation system – but we’ve never had a definite timeline before.  Now it appears that, over the course of this summer, the jail will be retrofitted and its policies rewritten so that in-person visitation will be eliminated and replaced exclusively with visitation-via-videoscreen.  It should go without saying that depriving detainees of even the limited in-person interaction with friends and loved ones that they now experience at visitation is the height of inhumanity even for an institution like the Sheriff’s department that has raised contempt for human life to the level of a ghastly art form.  We should also note that GTL advertises video-visitation as a way to derive profit from and reduce the costs of inmate visitation. Continue reading

Flood the phones to defend visitation at the jail–FEBRUARY 27th

The Durham County Sheriff’s Department is planning to end in-person visitation at the Durham County Jail this summer and replace it with glorified phone calls. We know this decision isn’t made out of concern for Durham families with loved ones on the inside — in reality, it is a callous money grab written into the Durham County’s contract with the telecommunications corporation GlobalTel. The Durham County Commissioners can put pressure on the Sheriff to keep visitation as is. Call and email them next Monday, February 27, to make sure jail visitation is on the agenda of their March 13th meeting. Our voices will be heard!

Wendy Jacobs: (919) 418-3169 wjacobs@dconc.gov
James Hill: (919) 536-8820 jahill@dconc.gov
Brenda Howerton: (919) 544-4160 bhowerton@dconc.gov
Heidi Carter: (919) 225-4268 hcarter@dconc.gov
Ellen Reckhow: (919) 383-3883 ereckhow@dconc.gov

***SAMPLE SCRIPT***
My name is _________________. I’m calling/emailing to ask that the County Commissioners place the Durham Jail’s decision to end jail visitation on the agenda for their 7pm regular session on March 13th. Many people in the community have expressed how the Sheriff’s Department’s elimination of visitation will hurt folks on the inside and their families. The community should have a say in a decision that would negatively impact so many Durham residents. We demand that you include jail visitation on the agenda for the March 13th session and allow for public comment. Thank you.