Members of the Durham Human Relations Commission were all smiles when Wilden Acosta spoke about his experience as a detainee and his life since his release, but when the board allowed residents to weigh in on its review of the Durham County Detention Facility—and its 18-page recommended path forward for the local justice system—things got heated fairly quickly.
One exchange between Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Dave Hall and Commissioner Ricky Hart came after Hart seemed to suggest that the reason more black men are in jail (the HRC’s report indicated that the fact that nearly two-thirds of the DCDF’s detainee population is black proves there is a clear racial inequity) was because they committed the most crime.
“The reason there aren’t more [people from] Treyburn [Country Club] … in there is because there aren’t a bunch of cops out there arresting all the black folks,” a visibly upset Hall said after he was told he needed to limit his response to thirty seconds.
Hart would later be one of two commissioners to vote against formally endorsing the document—which outlined a host of changes the HRC feels present the best path forward for Durham—and forwarding it to the Durham City Council and County Board of Commissioners for review. The measure would, in fact, pass and with the exception of a few minor changes, the draft document obtained and published by the INDY Monday is what elected officials will see.
Among the highlights of the report are a call for the creation of a civilian review board to provide oversight at the DCDF and a recommendation to eliminate both the cash bail system and video-only visitation, as they, essentially, unfairly hit the wallets of minority families that simply can’t afford any additional financial hardship. In fact, the HRC argues that the vast majority of black detainees are in jail for misdemeanors and only reside at the DCDF because they cannot afford to post bail.
For those of you who missed it, here is the document in full:
The battle between Hart and Hall was not the only time tempers flared during the meeting. In fact, when a few board members expressed concerns that the report seemed to pit the HRC against the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and a resident weighed in and said, essentially, that the men and women who run the DCDF deserved the scrutiny, commission chairman Paul Seib cut her off, smacked his gavel against the table and said, in a stern tone, “Enough.”
For more on this story as it develops, follow indyweek.com