Full Text of Our Petition to the County Commissioners

Sign this petition at https://www.change.org/p/durham-county-board-of-commissioners-stop-video-visitation-in-durham-county-jail

Detainees in the Durham County Jail, and their loved ones on the outside, overwhelmingly oppose the Sheriff’s department’s proposal to implement video “visitation” – a glorified phone call – and many of us see it as the first step towards eliminating in-person visitation, as has already happened in Wake County and jails and prisons around the country. As it is, families are required to show up 30 minutes in advance for a 20 minute visit with plexiglass between them and their loved ones. The visits are cumbersome to schedule, especially for those who do not have internet access. Video “visitation” will still have all of these disadvantages. It will also still require visitors to be physically present at the jail, just to have a skype chat with their loved ones, and if/when external “visits” are permitted, it will cost “visitors” 20 cents to a dollar per minute – contributing to both the isolation and financial exploitation of detainees and their families. While the Sheriff claims that video “visitation” represents no threat to in-person visitation (that is, real visitation), according to a 2015 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, in 74% of cases where video “visitation” is introduced, real visitation is eventually taken away entirely.

The Durham County Board of Commissioners are complicit in the Sheriff’s attack on detainees’ human right to in-person visitation. According to an article in Indy Weekly, “In 2013, commissioners approved a budget amendment adding the Justice Department grant” which is funding the implementation of video “visitation” “to the sheriff’s budget. Because county departments don’t have the authority to accept grants on their own, this action was required; the board could have voted it down. That amendment specified how the grant would be used.” The commissioners also voted in favor of the Sheriff’s department contract with GTL, which explicitly provides for video visitation.

The County Commissioners also have the power to act to defend visitation. They could have defended it in 2013, had they bothered to read the GTL contract and the Department of Justice grant to the Sheriff’s department, which they voted to approve, and to consult with the public, especially detainees and their loved ones, about it. Time and again, they have displayed a remarkable capability to exercise power over the jail when put under enough public pressure, even after repeatedly protesting that they have no power to act. The most recent example of this is the role they played in removing Aramark from meal services at the jail after detainees and community members organizing with Inside-Outside Alliance raised health and safety concerns around the jail, including maggots in the food. In the same way, there are any number of steps that they can and should take to put pressure on the Sheriff to guarantee in-person visitation to detainees and their loved ones. Some of these are:
Use their power under NC state law to put the Sheriff under oath and make him answer the public’s questions about video visitation, as well as his collaboration with ICE and other human rights violations.
Reverse their decision not to hold a public meeting to hear the Durham Human Relations Commission’s report on the Durham County Jail, which explicitly recommends that in-person visitation be defended as a vital resource for detainees and their loved ones.
Use their next opportunity to vote NO on the Sheriff’s contract with GTL or any other contract that includes video “visitation” services and pressure the Sheriff to drop GTL the same way that they successfully pressured him to drop Aramark from providing meal services in the jail in 2016. If Aramark can be prevented from putting maggots in detainees’ food, then GTL can be prevented from implementing video “visitation.”
Publicly pledge to vote NO on any Sheriff’s budget that includes funding for video “visitation,” whether from the Department of Justice (who are currently funding video “visitation” for a “trial period through a grant to the Sheriff’s department) or from the county itself.
Publicly pledge to vote NO on any new money for the Sheriff’s department from the county so long as in-person visitation remains under threat.
These are just some potential steps that the County Commissioners can take to defend in-person visitation for their constituents in the jail. There are, no doubt, others, and we invite the commissioners to be creative in exercising their power – especially their budgetary power – over the Sheriff’s department. At the very least we call upon them to publicly acknowledge that they do have the power to act.

Therefore, we the undersigned demand that the Commissioners, and the Sheriff’s department, do all that is necessary to ensure:
That there is no reduction in in-person visitation in favor of video “visitation.”
That glorified phone calls do not come to replace in-person visitation in any way.
That all video visitation equipment currently installed in the lobby of the jail be removed and no new equipment be added.

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“I have no doubt it’s because of inmate petitions, IOA and the volunteers and the protesting in front of the jail. It seems like we are making some headway and things are starting to change.”

G___,

Thanks for the letter and the Feedback pamphlet.  I was the first person to receive the new April edition and it has been a hot commodity with everyone wanting a chance to read it.  As for me, I’m doing okay, just waiting for court dates for things to progress a bit faster.  Trying to be as patient as possible.

By the sounds of things, the IOA and the volunteers have been very busy this past month.  I wish I could have been present for the debate with Michael Page and Major Martin to hear their responses and the appropriate actions they are taking to everyone’s concerns regarding the jail.  I will say that after March 15 and for the past two weeks we have been receiving hot meals for dinner instead of cold bologna sandwiches, which has us all a bit shocked.  For the past 5 months it always been cold sandwiches and all of the sudden hot meals.  I have no doubt it’s because of inmate petitions, IOA and the volunteers and the protesting in front of the jail.  It seems like we are making some headway and things are starting to change.

I had a lengthy conversation with one of the CO’s this past week.  We were discussing the IOA and he told me that the Sheriff is starting to make changes and the food is not the only change to come.  Hopefully this is true and we will see here shortly.

There are plenty of things I could go into detail about but one of my concerns now is with the mail.  I have had recent problems with both outgoing and incoming mail.  In February I was notified by my family that my mail was opened and taped shut.  From that point on I started to secure each envelope so that if it was tampered with, it would be noticeable.  Again my family notified me that my mail continued to be opened.  The jail is only supposed to open outgoing mail if there is a threat to security or order of the jail and have probable cause to do so.  My mail should not be subject to this and there should be no probable cause to repeatedly open my mail.  Also, I am not being notified that my mail is being searched.  I questioned the mail services here regarding the issue and the only response I got from Mrs. Walker is that she doesn’t deal with outgoing mail and it being opened or searched.  Still today, I’m unsure why my mail was opened and searched.

Now, incoming mail is a similar problem.  Recently, I have been receiving scanned and printed copies of a national geographic magazine.  I was notified that magazines are contraband and my mail would be returned.  What I am receiving is not a magazine but what is similar to an article printed from the internet.  So now my mail is being censored and I am not allowed to receive National Geographic articles.  How is this contraband?  How can this possibly cause any threat or harm to the jail?  The only thing I can do is write a grievance to appeal their action to send my mail away and prevent me from receiving it.  Though it has been over a week and the sergeant has yet to reply to any of my concerns or problems.

Lastly, my family has also sent me bookmarks and puzzles in the mail.  I know this because they specifically mention them in the letters.  However, they are nowhere to be found within my mail.  This means that whoever is inspecting mail is taking these items out before giving me my mail.  Again, this is an example of them censoring mail.  What bothers me is they do so without your knowledge, without notifying you that they removed items from your mail.  There is no mention as to why it was censored or how it violates any regulations or policy.  I’m almost certain that if the jail censors your mail you should be notified of their actions so you are given the appropriate time to appeal that action.

So to answer your concern about mail from the IOA; I wouldn’t be surprised if incoming mail is being screened and censored or just blocked from being delivered, especially from IOA.  Much of the staff here do not like being within the newsletters or on the website to begin with.  Though, nothing is certain and it seems that I’m receiving your letters without difficulty.

Again, thanks for the letter and newsletter.  I look forward to hearing back from you and the IOA.  We do get to go to the “Library” every week or so and of course there is always a very limited selection.  I would never turn down an offer for a book, and I’m certain that many inmates here would also like it too.  Books are consistently shared among the Pod, especially if it is a good read.  My favorite authors are ____________ and ___________.  So far I’ve found “__________,” “__________,” and “__________” here in the library by ____________ and have read them.  I’ve also read “__________” and “__________” series by ___________.  I’m sure there are plenty of other books by these authors.  However, do not feel obliged to purchase any books, but of course it would be much appreciated.

  • _____

Petition: Food requirements not met

This is a petition speaking out against the nightly sandwich trays being served at the Durham County Detention Facility. Every evening detainees at this facility receive bologna, salami or ham, sweet bread, and applesauce. There is a code which states:

Section VI, Food:

  1. We will receive three meals a day at regular intervals.
  2. *Food will be wholesome, nutritional, appealing and the type available in the community.
  3. No bartering or wasting food.
  4. *The menus meet recommended dietary allowances.

Codes to be met:

  1. N.C. Administrative Code
  2. American Correctional Assoc. Standards
  3. Local Health Code Standards

We as detainees are stating that the starred requirements are not being met.

5-B pod

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

 

‘It’s unfortunate how little they know about our belief and respect it’

In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most gracious, Though I’ve not been locked up for long I’m sure I speak on everyone in here’s behalf when I say “Thank You” for the petition to end lockback! Al Hamdulilah Ramadan has been going well for the most part, it’s just unfortunate how little these people know about our belief and respect it. I pray Allah accepts my fast being that they only brought my morning tray to me in a timely manner once! Even the non-Muslims in here participating in the fast have noticed and complained. It makes no sense to me how other religions, cultures and races are treated. Continue reading

What We Believe. What We Want.

What We Believe. What We Want. / Lo que creemos. Lo que queremos.

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 A statement from Inside-Outside Alliance and friends & family members with loved ones locked inside the Durham County Jail

To sign on in support of this statement, go here.

 

In early March of 2015, Sheriff Michael Andrews implemented an ongoing lockback inside the Durham County Jail, with prisoners held in their cells for 24-48 hours at a time. Prisoners used to be allowed out of their cells for at least six and a half hours per day, but under the lockback they have been allowed out of their cells first for 6, then for 8 hours per week, drastically reducing their time for exercise, showers, socializing, and contacting their loved ones and lawyers. There have been multiple, unreported suicide attempts since the lockback began. On May 18th, in direct response to weekly protests outside the jail, and continued resistance inside, the Sheriff announced that the jail would begin enforcing a daily “detainee walk schedule.” This piecemeal rollback of what are decidedly inhumane punishment practices is unacceptable. Sheriff Andrews professes that his “primary concern” is for the “safety of staff and detainees.” He claims that the lockback measures “were implemented for the safety of all.”

 

We reject Sheriff Andrews’ understanding and practice of safety, and we invite others to do so with us. Safety does not look like extreme isolation; poor nutrition; medical neglect; unsanitary cells; restricted contact with loved ones; denial of reading materials; or lack of educational and vocational opportunities. These “safety measures” implemented by Sheriff Andrews and jail staff do not reduce violence. They create violence.

 

We believe safety comes from having meaningful connections to loved ones. We believe safety is generated when people are treated with dignity. We desire a Durham where safety looks like joy, interdependence, and mutual care, rather than walls, cages, and banishment. We dream of, and dare to struggle for a Durham where no one is treated as a criminal and no one person’s safety is dependent upon the exile of another, and we invite others to do so with us.

 

Toward that end:

 

  1. We demand an immediate end to the lockback: restore full recreational time for all inmates to at least what it was before March 6. Under no circumstances shall such collective punishment be meted out in the future.
  2. We want an independent investigation of the jail led by a team of doctors, lawyers, mental health providers, nutritionists, and Durham residents. These individuals should in no way be affiliated with the Sheriff’s office, the County, or the City, and they should be guided in their investigation by their fields of expertise, by grievances filed by people inside, letters written by inmates about their conditions, and the demands stated here. Inquiry shall include, but not be limited to the following: e coli and other foodborne hazards; temperatures throughout the jail; nutritional value of food served; price gouging by contractors (Paytel and Aramark); and stolen property. The full findings of this group shall be published widely.
  3. We want an end to medical abuse and neglect: all prisoners should have free, meaningful access to health care. This includes a timely response to health-related concerns, mental health services, and access to all prescribed medications.
  4. We demand that inmates have full access to writing and reading materials at all times. All prisoners should have access to pens, pencils, and paper, and a well-stocked library. They should be able to receive books mailed in by authorized publishers and book distributors.
  5. We want jail officials to uphold the right to religious freedom. All prisoners, regardless of their faith practices, have a constitutional right to religious freedom. Jail officials should in no way interfere with or limit this practice.
  6. We want all mail to be delivered to prisoners or properly returned. If a piece of mail is rejected, jail officials are required by law to return the mail to sender with a stated reason for return. Further, the intended recipient should be notified of the mail being returned to the sender, to allow the inmate to appeal the censorship.
  7. We demand an end to the extraction of fees from inmates and their families and friends. Prisoners should not have to pay for medical care or phone calls, nor should their loved ones be charged a convenience fee for paytel services or for adding money to prisoners’ canteen accounts.
  8. We want visitation to be flexible, accessible, and in person. Prisoners and their loved ones should be allowed face-to-face visits multiple times a week for at least thirty minutes. Loved ones should be able to schedule a visit via phone, in person, or online. We reject outright the planned implementation of video visitation at the jail.
  9. We want prisoners to have access to meaningful educational and vocational opportunities while in the jail. In order to avoid perpetuating a cycle of violence, the jail needs transformative activities for prisoners.
  10. We demand that inmates be spoken to and listened to with respect and that they take part in decision making as it relates to the conditions of their confinement. Inmates must be fully informed of all matters that affect them, both individually (e.g. court dates, visits, and transfers) and collectively (e.g. changes to policy) in a timely, consistent manner and in their native language. Further, pod councils should be formed in order so that inmates can play a part in decision making and the dissemination of information in the jail.

Further, with the clear goal of drastically reducing the jail population immediately, we make these demands:

 

  1. Abolish bail. Most of the 500+ people locked inside the jail are pre-trial detainees and pose little to no flight risk. They, their families, and the community benefit from their being home, not in jail. Bail is a regressive penalty that disproportionately impacts people of color, low-income people, and people with mental illness.

 

  1. Prioritize the employment of  formerly incarcerated and convicted people. Formerly incarcerated and convicted people face many barriers to employment. Durham County can take one meaningful step to alleviate this barrier by passing a policy that gives preference in county contracts to business that employ formerly incarcerated and convicted people.

 

We offer the above statement as a grouping of people who have come together around the lockback, but who understand the problems with the jail run deeper. Some of us are abolitionists, and make no bones about it. As such, we stand humbly in the great tradition of such people as Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips and John Brown. We also are family members of people in jail, and simply want better for our people. We are also community folks and formerly incarcerated people. We make the above statement in the context of the present lockback conditions, and as a way to give voice to the desires expressed by people inside and outside frustrated with a system that provides little liberty or justice. The articulation of these desires is made for the here and now, and should not be taken to be the sum total of what we want, now or in the future. Rather, we put them forward as merely a starting point, recognizing that a movement of many more people (especially including inmates themselves) will carry this statement well beyond what it is and perhaps into the realm of a truly emancipatory project. We embrace that prospect fully.

Lo que creemos. Lo que queremos.

Un comunicado del Inside-Outside Alianza y amigos y familias con sus seres queridos encerrados en la cárcel del condado de Durham

A principios de marzo de 2015, el Sheriff Michael Andrews implementó un encierro, o “lockback”, dentro de la cárcel del condado de Durham, con los prisioneros detenidos en sus celdas durante 24-48 horas a la vez. Antes, permitían a los presos salir de sus celdas para seis y media horas cada día, pero bajo el lockback, primero, les permitieron salir de sus celdas para 6 horas, y ahora les permite salir 8 horas por semana, lo que reduce drásticamente su tiempo para hacer ejercicio, duchas, socializar, y ponerse en contacto con sus seres queridos y abogados. Ha habido varios intentos de suicidio que no han denunciado, desde que comenzó el lockback. El 18 de mayo, como consecuencia de las protestas semanales fuera de la cárcel, y la continuación de la resistencia en el interior, el Sheriff anunció que la cárcel se iniciaría la aplicación de un diario “horario de paseo para los detenidos.” Esta reducción fragmentada de estas prácticas de castigo que son decididamente inhumanas es inaceptable. Sheriff Andrews declara que su “principal preocupación” es la “seguridad del personal y los detenidos. “Declara que “se llevaron a cabo el lockback por la seguridad de todos.”

Rechazamos la comprensión y la práctica de la seguridad de sheriff Andrews, e invitamos a otros a hacer lo mismo con nosotros. Seguridad no se parece a un aislamiento extremo; la mala alimentación; t descuido médico; células insalubres; contactos restringidos con seres queridos; negación de materiales de lectura; o la falta de oportunidades educativas y vocacionales. Estas “medidas de seguridad”, implementado por el Sheriff Andrews y el personal de la cárcel no disminuyen la violencia. Crean la violencia.

Creemos que la seguridad viene de tener conexiones significativas a sus seres queridos. Creemos que la seguridad se genera cuando las personas estén tratadas con dignidad. Deseamos un Durham donde la seguridad se ve como la alegría, la interdependencia, y el cuidado mutuo, en lugar de paredes, jaulas, y el rechazo. Soñamos con, y se atreven a luchar por un Durham donde se trata a nadie como un criminal y la seguridad de ninguna persona depende del exilio de otro, e invitamos a otros a hacer lo mismo con nosotros.

Con ese fin:

  • Exigimos el fin inmediato del lockback: una restauración completa del tiempo de ocio para todos los presos al nivel que se solían tener antes del 6 de Marzo. En ningún caso, no se debe repetir este tipo de castigo colectivo en la cárcel en el futuro.
  • Queremos una investigación independiente de la cárcel dirigida por un equipo de médicos, abogados, proveedores de salud mental, nutricionistas, y los residentes de Durham. Estas personas no deben estar afiliadas a la oficina del sheriff, el Condado o la Ciudad de ninguna manera, y ellos deben usar sus áreas de práctica, los reclamos presentados por personas en el interior, cartas escritas por presos sobre sus condiciones, y las exigencias declaradas aquí, para guiar su investigación. Su interrogación debe incluir, pero no limitarse a los siguientes: riesgos de E-coli y otras enfermedades transmitidas por los alimentos; las temperaturas por toda la cárcel; el valor nutricional de los alimentos que se sirven; la escalada de precios por parte de contratistas (Paytel y Aramark); y el robo de propiedad. Los resultados completos de esta investigación se publicarán ampliamente.
  • Queremos terminar con el abuso y la negligencia médica: todos los presos deben tener acceso libre y significativa a atención médica. Esto incluye una respuesta oportuna a las inquietudes relacionadas con la salud, servicios de salud mental, y el acceso a todos los medicamentos recetados.
  • Exigimos que los presos tengan pleno acceso a materiales de escritura y lectura en todo momento. Todos los presos deben tener acceso a las plumas, lápices y papel, y una biblioteca bien surtida. Se debe permitir a los presos recibir libros enviados por los editores y distribuidores de libros autorizados.
  • Queremos que los funcionarios de la cárcel respeten el derecho a la libertad religiosa. Todos los presos, independientemente de sus prácticas religiosas, tienen el derecho constitucional a la libertad religiosa. Funcionarios de la cárcel no deben interferir o limitar esta práctica de ninguna manera.
  • Queremos que todo el correo sea entregado a los presos o debidamente devuelto. Si una carta está rechazada, la ley requiere que funcionarios de la cárcel devuelvan el correo al remitente con una razón explicita para el regreso. Además, se debe notificar al destinatario que se devolvieron su correspondencia al remitente, para permitir que el preso pueda apelar la censura.
  • Exigimos el fin de la extracción de pagos de los presos y sus familias y amigos. Los presos no deberían tener que pagar por la atención médica o de teléfono, ni si sus seres queridos se cobrará una cuota de conveniencia para los servicios de Paytel o para añadir dinero a las cuentas de cantina de los presos.
  • Queremos que la visita sea flexible, accesible, y en persona. Se debe permitir que los presos y sus seres queridos tengan visitas cara a cara varias veces a la semana que duran al menos treinta minutos. Los seres queridos deben ser capaces de programar una visita a través del teléfono, en persona o en línea. chazamos de plano la aplicación prevista de la visita por vídeo en la cárcel.
  • Queremos que los presos tengan acceso a las oportunidades educativas y vocacionales significativas, mientras que estén en la cárcel. Para evitar la perpetuación de un ciclo de violencia, la cárcel debe ofrecer actividades transformadoras para los presos.
  • Exigimos que todo el personal de la cárcel hablara y escuchara con respeto a los presos y que ellos participen en el proceso de decidir cuándo se relaciona a las condiciones de su confinamiento. Se debe informar a los presos de todos los asuntos que les afectan, tanto a nivel individual (por ejemplo, fechas de corte, visitas y traslados) y colectiva (por ejemplo, cambios en la política) de una manera oportuna, consistente y en su idioma nativo. Además, se debe formar un consejo para cada pod, para que los presos pueden desempeñar un papel en la toma de decisiones y la difusión de información en la cárcel.

Además, con el claro objetivo de reducir drásticamente la población presa de inmediato, hacemos estas exigencias:

  1. La abolición de lafianza.La mayor parte de las más de 500 personas encerradas dentro de la cárcel son detenidos en espera de juicio que no constituyen ningún riesgo de fuga. Ellos, sus familias, y la comunidad se benefician de su ser en casa, no en la cárcel. La fianza es un impuesto regresivo que afecta de manera desproporcionada a las personas de color, las personas con bajos ingresos, y personas con enfermedad mental.
  1. Dar prioridad a la contratación de personas previamente encarcelados y condenados.Las personas anteriormente encarceladas se enfrentan a muchos obstáculos para el empleo. Condado de Durham puede dar un paso significativo para paliar esta barrera al pasar de una política que da preferencia en los contratos del condado a los negocios que emplean ex encarcelados y condenados personas.

Ofrecemos la declaración anterior como un grupo de personas que se han unido en terminar el lockback, pero que entienden los problemas con la cárcel son más profundos. Algunos de nosotros somos abolicionistas, y no andamos con rodeos en esto. Como tal, estamos humildemente en la gran tradición de la gente como Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, y John Brown. También somos miembros de las familias de personas en la cárcel, y simplemente queremos mejor para nuestro pueblo. También somos la gente de la comunidad y las personas previamente encarceladas. Hacemos la declaración anterior en el contexto de las presentes condiciones de lockback, y como una forma de dar voz a los deseos expresados por las personas al dentro y afuera que están frustrados con un sistema que proporciona poca libertad ni la justicia. La articulación de estos deseos se hace para el aquí y ahora, y no debe tomarse como la suma total de lo que queremos, ahora o en el futuro. Más bien, les presenta como un mero punto de partida, reconociendo que un movimiento de muchas más personas (especialmente incluyendo los presos ellos mismos) llevará esta declaración mucho más allá de lo que es y tal vez en el ámbito de un proyecto verdaderamente emancipador. Recibimos esa perspectiva con los brazos abiertos.

For ongoing information on how to support: www.amplifyvoices.com / Facebook: Inside-Outside Alliance

‘One can never have too many books’

August 5, 2014

Dear —

How are you doing? I’m doing alright myself. I’m really glad to receive your letter, and quite surprised when you sent me those three fantasy books. I wasn’t really making a request, but I really appreciate that one can never have too many books. I just went to court today, but the judge refused to unsecure my bond because of my status, but they say they got all the discoveries, so hopefully I’ll go to the trial and be out in a few months. Continue reading

‘A lot of contradictions–shows us really what justice is’

July 26, 2014

Dear —-,

How are you doing my brother? Still standing strong (in here), maybe not quite as numbered though. I asked a gentleman today if he wanted to join an I.O.A. meeting. When he told me no I asked him why and he said because the C.O.s don’t give a shit. Yet I can’t help but feel my lack of experience as a speaker holds some responsibility.

EPSON MFP image

this comic accompanied the letter

Continue reading