“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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“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.

Visitation blues

In the lobby, Sunday morning visitation

Person 1, seated and waiting: What happened to all the rest of the benches in here?

Person 2, who sat down next to him: I don’t know.

P1: There used to be two or three more long benches.

P2: Now there’s no place for more people to sit down. You got to stand.Any more people come in here and they got to stand.

P1: And they want you here early (the sign says to arrive 30 minutes before a scheduled visit, which lasts only 20 minutes).

P2: Yeah, so people be standing longer.

P1: And then they got this mess going on outside, and no explanation for it. (Orange fencing extends around the front of the jail. There is a contractor’s name on it, but no explanation of the project)

P2: Oh, this fence? Yeah, what’s that all about?

P1: Beats me. And the officer at the desk didn’t know, either. And he didn’t know how long it would be up.

P2: (Shakes head)

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“There is some rumor going around that visitation will soon change too”

G___,

Thanks for the Feedback newsletter this month.  Yep, I’m still here waiting on the ever so slow legal system.  Seems like everyone here is in the same boat, waiting months on end to go to court just to have it postponed by the prosecutor for some nonsense reason.  I’ve been here 9 months and finally ready to get some pertinent motions heard, and the prosecutor claims she hadn’t had enough time to prepare for my motions, postponing my next court date for yet another month.  It’s crazy!  As Donald Trump would say, “It’s rigged.”  Other than that everything has been okay.  The mail has been like always, slow and sporadic.  Occasionally they’re opening my mail, still, but the only response I can get from the officers that manage the mail is that they don’t regulate what mail gets searched and why.  I guess I’ll get no answer as to why my mail is being searched.  We got a letter this week from major Rita Collins saying we will not be able to receive stamps in the mail anymore.  I didn’t like that news, now I have to give Aramark more money just to get stamps.

I did catch the article in the paper a couple weeks ago about the County Board of Health’s report and finding them deficient in 4 of 38 regulations.  The jail was obviously not in full compliance with these health regulations and my assumption is they never were to begin with.  It’s also obvious the National Institute of Corrections and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare who came to assess the situation after Matthew’s death in January swept any non-compliance under the rug.  Both deaths that occurred in this jail in the last 2 years have been preventable given the appropriate preemptive measures that should have been taken.  Now I’m wondering how long the jail has been in violation of standard regulations set by the county board of health?  I guess the more eyes that come to inspect the jail the better, and I hope the City of Durham’s Human Relations Commission is able to make a difference here, whenever they do their public forum.

There is some rumor going around that visitation will soon change, too.  Instead of in-person visits, they are organizing to set up audio/video feeds and monitors for visitations.  Your family members will still have to come to the jail to “visit,” but you will only see a T.V. transmission in which you can both hear and see each other.  I’m gonna say it’s similar to Skype or FaceTime.  Yet another way for the jail to record every action you make when you are here, just like the phones.

Anyway, thanks for your letter, the Feedback newsletter, and your continued support!

_____

“we need more time out of the cells”

I am __________, I got your letter the other day and was glad.  I know that there are many things that are happening in this jail that you all know about and outside people but it seems that no one is doing anything about it.  This is a horrible place.  The food is better but it is still lacking in so many ways.

I think that we need more time out of the cells.  They have you locked back too much.

I think the guards need more training and people skills, because many do not interact with people well, they lack the skills to speak in the right tone or even what to say in some cases.

I think they hold people in jail too long.

Can we do something on the outside, teaching people about the jail and the way it is run to keep them out?  I believe that may help some people.  Not all but some.

The jail program needs to be reworked from the top to the bottom, because it is not working.  It is no longer about right and wrong it is money, who cares about the lives the courts hurt.

If there was more openness, you would not have all this trying to find out what being said in the Feedback.

Thanks for hearing me out and look forward to hearing from you again.

 

Sincerely,

L.V.

Finally got the news…

The two daily newspapers have now ‘covered’ the (near) ending of the lockback, giving the sheriff a chance to pretend that he was going to tell the public about the “new phase of the detainee walk schedule.”

The News & Observer

The Herald-Sun (you can’t read it, though, because they make you pay for their awful content)

and the announcement from the county.