Local News

Major: Complaints about Durham County jail are "overblown distorted lies"

Posted September 15, 2016 10:23 p.m. EDT

— During sometimes heated exchanges about conditions inside the Durham County jail Thursday night, all agreed continued dialog is key to bringing about changes.

The Durham County Detention Center houses almost 500 inmates and Vincent Paige used to be one of them.

“The Durham County jail does things to you that changes your life forever. It is a very, very intimidating situation,” Paige said.

Thursday’s Durham Human Relations Commission forum was the platform for Paige and dozens of community activists to voice their concerns about conditions inside the jail, including food quality, unclean jail cells and the high cost of some goods.

Major Paul Martin with the Durham County Detention center defended his jail and its corrections officers.

“A lot of the things that we’re hearing are overblown and distorted,” he said. “I am going to defend us because I need to. This is a bunch of overblown distorted lies that are not an accurate reflection of the jail and I’m not going to sit here and let people get away with it.”

Others on the panel disagreed with Martin’s stance.

“This is not an us versus you thing. This is a we thing, this is a people thing, this is a human thing,” said Uma Muhammad with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

The Human Relations Commission spent some time in the detention center Wednesday night and documented some improvements that need to be made. Chairman Phil Seib said food quality needs improvement but made a point to say conditions in the cells and common areas appeared clean.

“The solution is dialogue like this; informing citizens who elect county commissioners, who make decisions about the budget for the county jail and also who is going to be sheriff,” said Seib.