A Glorified Phone Call

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Still being held hostage from the sun!’

April 6, 2017

IOA–

What’s good IOA? Ain’t shit changed in this hell hole but the date. “Still being held hostage from the sun!” The jail still refuses to treat us like human beings. You know it’s been a whole thirty one days since I wrote my last letter and they still haven’t fixed the damn kiosk in our pod. They come on and look at it like everything is just normal. They’re making it hard on themselves and us because we have to ask for paper sick calls and canteen sheets, then they want to bitch and complain. The medical people take forever to check the medical box and when they do it’s still a wait. But they want that 20 dollars on command.

As far as canteen goes, Pam is cool she tries to get her job done the best she can but wherever they found (the other) girl they need to send her back because she always fucking some shit up and eating all the chips and shit. That high-ass canteen is meant for us. To those that protest for us and was willing to get locked up on March 13 to stand up on our behalf about this visitation thing, I say thank you.

Until next time–

Ghost

‘Face-to-face visits are the only time we feel human’

Hi,

It was good to get a letter from you in this dark place. How are you? I’m doing about as good as I can in here, you know. I read the magazine (feedback). It’s nice, very informative and REAL!  I feel that the video visitation is a horrible idea because it’s the one time for twenty minutes to be free again and be a father and talk to and catch up with your children’s life, to be a husband/boyfriend and speak with your significant other and feel human again. I am for face-to-face visits. It’s the only time we as detainees feel human and are actually connected to our real lives outside of this filthy, overcrowded hell on Earth. Continue reading

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.

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

Feb 21 2017

IOA

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

‘Sucked into the system because I fit a description’

Hey–

My name is —, but everyone knows me as 700. This is my first time getting charged with anything in my life. I’ve been here 8 months and have only been to court once (after first appearance) to have my $650,000 bond reduced to $150,000, which is still too much even after I told the judge I was working at Kroger and attending — High and living on my own. I mean, I only just turned 18 while I’ve been in here. He still gave me an out the roof bond, it’s like one day I’m up, the next I get sucked into the system because I fit a description–”pssh” yeah mufucking right. And don’t get me started on this new video visitation shit. It don’t make sense why our peoples got to come down here just to “face time” their loved ones for 20 minutes. It’s already bad enough with the scarce amount of time we get, now I gotta talk to my people through a camera, ain’t that what cell phones are for? But this money hungry jail couldn’t care less what the kings and queens in this jail go through. It’s like the one thing you look forward to after being here so long is getting took away. And could someone tell me why co’s are wearing three layers, a uniform and a jacket and we in here freezing our asses off and get put on lockback for having too many jumpsuits? That shit’s crazy.

–700

‘It’s about to be rough all over’

February 16, 2017

2:20 PM

Hello,

How are you doing? Well I would like to start off by saying that I am so sorry for taking so long to write you guys (IOA) back. This letter is well overdue, but I hope I’m not too late. I hope you all (IOA) are doing well and this letter gets to you quickly.

Well I have been doing ok, given the circumstances I’m in. I have been having a lot on my mind these past few months, but other than that and trying to stay out of trouble, I have been ok. What’s been going on with me? Well, not too long ago I had a talk with my lawyer and found out that after almost two years (22 months) the D.A. is just now getting the autopsy back. Which should have been back, but as you already know Durham County justice system is messed up and they will do anything as well as whatever they want to do to you. Continue reading

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

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

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

‘It’s cold and there’s nothing to do in here’

Hey,

It”s cold and there’s nothing to do in here…I don’t want the new visitation thing. My family comes from an hour and 30 minutes away. Crazy, rite?

You can put this poem in.

 

My friend, I stand in judgment now

And feel that you’re to blame somehow

On Earth I walked with you day to day

And never did you point the way Continue reading

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

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

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

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