Petitioning Durham County Board of Commissioners

Stop Video Visitation in Durham County Jail!

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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.  The County Commissioners also have the power to act to defend visitation.  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:

1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.”
4) 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.
5) 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.  For a fuller account, please see the full version of this petition on our website: https://amplifyvoices.com/2017/08/06/full-text-of-our-petition-to-the-county-commissioners/


Therefore, we the undersigned demand that the Commissioners, and the Sheriff’s department, do all that is necessary to ensure:

1) That there is no reduction in in-person visitation in favor of video “visitation.”
2) That glorified phone calls do not come to replace in-person visitation in any way.
3) That all video visitation equipment currently installed in the lobby of the jail be removed and no new equipment be added.

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Durham County Board of Commissioners

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