“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.

“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.

– ____

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

‘This is our life inside’

the following letter was received more than five weeks after it was written. 

Oct 22 2016

Hello!

My name is J. B. I’m an inmate in Durham County jail scheduled to return to — County…I am in fear of serving the rest of my time in Durham due to an outbreak of scabies that the jail and medical staff have tried to cover up. I was exposed to this disease because the medical staff put the inmate who was infected in our block. I actually shook hands with him, he used the phones and showers. Two days later they removed him and the sergeant along with a nurse came in with biohazard bags and removed his personal items. Continue reading

‘I pray that all my brothers make it through’

Unity—One body—More Power

We are all convicts at the end of the day. I don’t bang nothing. But we killing each other on the outside. And it’s no better on the inside. Do we not see the system is trying to lay us down. It’s black and white right in front of our face. They don’t care about red or blue. The only color standing behind these walls are black. Young or old, we as black men are losing power in a system that wants us to fall. Continue reading

‘They didn’t cover my issues…’

EPSON MFP image

“Well, I guess the only thing I didn’t or don’t miss is being locked down all these hours, watching them damn jailers watching TV or playing on the computer instead of watching me!”

Well, I read the paper on the forum. I’m not really sure, it just seems like they didn’t cover my issues, and then the 42 letters, if true, would be like 8% of the inmates. Hell I sent at least 3 on 4 different topics: food, medical & dental, lawyers taking too many clients. You could imagine guys what it’s like in here, not able to defend yourself at all, with lawyers that won’t answer our letters, mail, email, and for those who have loved ones or friends on the outside to aid in communication with your lawyer, they still aren’t able to contact them for months on going! As my case gets weaker, theirs gets stronger! Continue reading

An announcement from the top: ‘So many of you have been writing…’

Friday morning September 9, Lt. Col. Natalie Perkins, jail director, came into the pod and made an announcement. She told detainees that because “so many of you have been writing to the Inside-Outside Alliance about how dirty and bad the trays are” there was going to be a new process for cleaning the trays and all food materials so that they “wouldn’t have anything to complain about anymore.” She said that all trays and utensils and anything to use to eat would be collected after the last meal of the day in order to clean them. She said nothing about who would clean them, or how the process for cleaning the trays (which have come under a lot of scrutiny) was better or different than before. However, Perkins was likely well aware that many people like/need to eat snacks between their last meal (around 4:30 pm) of one day and their first meal (around 6:30 am) of the next day, and that this new process to ostensibly redress the lack of clean trays would actually create another problem (no utensils to eat snack soups and other items) and piss people off. And she wanted to be sure detainees would know to be upset with Inside-Outside Alliance, which listens to and sometimes publishes the words of people who are hoping to get “these inhuman standards addressed,” rather than the detention facility, its staff, and its corporate partners’ staff, who perpetuate the conditions of filth and squalor.

The timing of this announcement from the top dog, an extreme rarity in itself, is also significant: on the day that prisoners in at least 24 states were participating in a mass strike, and less than a week before the city’s Human Relations Commission was set to host a forum on the impact of the county jail on city residents.