“Are we all inmates and we just don’t know it?”

When we go down to the Durham Country jail, I am asking myself who is the inmate? I didn’t know I had a number till they scheduled a visit for me. I thought I was a visitor, but they assigned me a number. I haven’t committed a crime but they treat me like an inmate and prevent me from seeing my son. By having that website down, and having to go to the desk to schedule a visit, it is all a part of the control. That’s why there have been less and less visits.

 

How do they control visitation? By limiting access to the person that needs to come and visit the inmate. The weak will get frustrated, and act out. That limits them and they can’t come back for 30 days. They get eliminated. Then it makes room for the next person to have access to their person.

 

The jail is eliminating those who won’t fit in the system. If you can’t fit in the system you’re eliminated. Only those who know how to act and work the system get access. Those who don’t get systematically eliminated from frustrations: not knowing how to get a visit started, or keep a visit going. So that circle of visitation gets smaller. Because there are barriers, unless you know how to get around or through the barriers you are eliminated.

 

I know this because my son was on one pod and all the visitation spaces were taken. If you pay attention you learn how the jail eliminates access to visitations: through times, through the vehicle of access (ie. scheduling appointments), the number of appointments that can be taken at one time, the number of visits that can be taken. So you don’t get one.

 

On four separate occasions, I have gone down to the Durham Country Jail and scheduled a visit to see my son through the desk only to be told when I returned for my appointment that “no appointment existed.”

 

It isn’t easy because I am disabled. You don’t have anywhere to park. Sometimes its really far, especially if DPAC is having something. I have to sit down before I get there and sit down before I leave — just to have them tell me that I don’t have an appointment.

 

I am glad I am strong otherwise it would have wrecked me. I have seen other people act ugly because it has happened. I don’t say anything because I know they have my number. I know they are watching me on camera. They want me to act ugly. Un ugh, I just remain strong and go back and try it again. Next visit, I hope that it will come through, and I will get to do the actual visit.

 

But I am asking myself who is the inmate? Are we all inmates and we just don’t know it?

 

– Visitor at Durham County Jail

“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.

“This is just another hint to the new age of high tech slavery.”

Peace,

How are you doing G___? I hope all is well with you and your team. I received your letter on the 21 of March, but I had received the books two days before, which I am truly grateful. I am still waiting for the WEB DuBois “Souls of Black Folks,” and yes, you can send me more books by similar authors that deal with the struggle of liberation and the fight against oppression. My mind has a thirst for knowledge, so please, keep the well running.

On another note, the video visitation is another form of control and the further removal of privacy. The whole point of an in-person-visit is to be able to converse with your people about your well-being (that can be seen with the eyes) if you are being mistreated, and most importantly things about your case that can’t be said on the regular phones.

Its bad enough having to keep your loved ones in the blind about your fate with the Criminal Justice System because the phones is recording. Also, every single moment we are being recorded and watched and now they want to watch our visit. This is just another hint to the new age of high tech slavery. Also, its psychological warfare, the conditions of the mind to be more passive and non-rebellious. It is to imply we know what you’re planning before you do, I see your every move and its these very thoughts that become embedded, subconsciously, in our mind that causes the majority to be timid or content when it comes to checking the powers that be.

So, all in all, its just another infringement upon our privacy and to insert the county dominance over the convict. Also, to take every little things away that can bring joy to a convict soul.

Sincerely,

Black Holocaust

‘I can’t stand another minute!’

ESCAPE!

Mayor : Hey, Sheriff Andrews, aren’t you supposed to be raising money for charity by being locked up in the Durham County Jail? Where are you going? The Muscular Dystrophy Association needs you here collecting money for your bail!

Sheriff: Change of plans, Mayor Bell! I can’t stand another minute in the Durham County Jail! The ABL food is horrible, the cells are freezing, and many of the officers are just plain jackasses. Plus, they gave me such an excessive bond, there’s no way they’re going to raise enough money for me to get out. And I better escape now, because with my office bringing in video visitation, the community might just pay money to keep me in jail!

Durham Democrats Oppose Video Visitation

On Saturday, April 1, the Durham County Democratic Party met for its annual county convention. The following is the text of a resolution that they passed opposing video visitation at the Durham County Jail.

A RESOLUTION CALLING FOR OUR COUNTY DETENTION CENTER TO WITHDRAW ITS PLAN TO ADD VIDEO VISITATION

Whereas; Eliminating, or even minimizing, in-person visits (visits behind plexi-glass in Durham County) can affect recidivism rates. Allowing inmates to see friends, family and loved ones face-to-face (even when behind plexi-glass as in Durham County) can reduce their chances of re-offending once they get out of jail, according to a 2015 study called “Screening out Family Time,” conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative. More personal communication improves an inmate’s well-being, while video visits make the contact less personal. (Screening out Family Time,” conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative.)

Whereas; Prison and jail visitation policies should recognize that family support is crucial to maintaining the relationships between those incarcerated and those who love them, especially as it pertains to developing and maintaining bonds between parents and children. Every available study agrees: Best practices for developing those bonds involve in-person visitation.(This would include current plexi-glass visitation as in Durham Detention Center.)
(www.grassrootsleadership.org/videosvisitation)

Whereas; Using video visitation technology requires computer literacy, which becomes a barrier for many desiring to use the service. Even those with a firm grasp of computer technology report frustration dealing with the many glitches and interruptions of service. Given the demographics of those in American jails and prisons – poor, mostly minority, a significant portion of whom speak Spanish as a first language – this technology may prevent any meaningful communication. (Public Policy Center, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition)

Whereas; The Durham County Detention Facility detains people who have not been convicted of any crime at the time of detainment, may only be unable to pay a few hundred dollars to be released while awaiting trial, may only suffer from mental illness, does not warrant the hardship of video visitation to the detainee and/or their family.

Whereas; Currently our Sheriff says he has no plans to make video visitation the only method of visitation, he, nor any county official, has any way of guaranteeing that in the future. We do know it will be expensive to implement and maintain for the county and potentially for the citizens trying to visit detainees, (ie: Wake County charges visitors $1.50 a minute) (http://wunc.org/post/advocates-question-plans-video-visitations-durham-jail#stream/0)

Therefore; be it resolved that the Durham County Democratic Party requests that the Durham County Detention Center NOT incorporate video visitation as a means of visiting persons detained in the county jail.

Be it further resolved that the Durham County Democratic Party requests the Durham County (Commissioners) and City (Council) and all Durham County elected officials not support, nor budget for any video visitation at the Durham County Detention Facility.

Why would someone facing prison time quit TROSA?

Just short of two months in the TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) Program, I walked out the door. I’m facing 30-48 months with three years probation. I took time in TROSA. Now, we’ve all got our reasons why we’re looking for a solution and answers to our drug addictions, alcoholism and other habits that cause us harm. I’m a drunk and I was looking for help. Continue reading

“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.

– ____