Durham County Detention Facility
Durham County Detention Facility
At least in prison you have a term limit. Even if it’s ten years down the line, there’s a date you can look at, a day you’ll be free. But here, it's like purgatory. Bail no one can make, trial dates that never come. Both places you’re a number. But in jail, you’re a number that just disappeared off the number line. My little brother when he learned to count could never remember the number four. He’d count off on his fingers, all proud – one, two, three, five, six – confused when he got to his ninth finger about what to call the tenth one. In jail, you're that number four. – Ronda, age 22
At least this jail has windows. And these open air halls with metal gridwork instead of glass. You can’t reach your hand out, but you can feel the air and sometimes even the rain if it’s coming down at a slant. You can hear the city from there, the traffic and the people, and even if you’re not a part of it, you know its there, and that’s something. There was this other place I got locked up just after I turned sixteen, back when I lived up north. Whole place was underground. Like the fucking underworld. No windows, no sun – just fluorescent lights that start to feel like bugs crawling across your skin. In a place like that, what you crave is darkness. What you crave is silence. I watched people go crazy down there. Feel sometimes like maybe I went crazy down there, too. – Trey, age 34
At least when I wake up on this metal bunk, I always know exactly where I am. When I was a kid, we moved around to so many apartments, I would open my eyes in the morning and lay there, trying to remember – had I been there before, did mama move us in the middle of the night again, was that a first or second floor window, where was the bathroom and when I got to it, would there be someone passed out next to the toilet? Usually, after blinking my eyes a few times and sitting up, I’d remember – like, yeah, this is my cousin’s place where we been six months and I’d feel like a pussy for getting scared, even though no one was around to see it. But then sometimes, you know, I’d wake up and I’d keep blinking my eyes, and I’d walk around the room and I’d have to go all the way out to the hallway or even the front door before I knew that, fuck, I’d never been to this place before in my entire life. And then the next question was, where’s my mom. When I wake up here, I still wonder about my mom, but I never wonder where I am. The bells go off for first call, and I know. - Carl, age 19
At least out there I had space. In here, everyone is up on everyone else, stacked like legos, one on top the other, so you get to know whose coming up behind you by the sound of their cough, you know whose arm that is reaching out in front of you in the shower by the tattoo on his forearm, you get to know the sound of your bunkmate’s breathing, and who he cries out for at night. It might’ve been hard out there, it might’ve been shit. But what I miss most is having the space to walk away from someone when I wanted to. Freedom is being able to just turn your back, to walk away - maybe pulling a cigarette out of your pocket as you go, lighting it so the smoke drifts back behind you. That last part would be sort of a bonus. But being able to walk away, yeah. That'd be enough for me. – R, age 19
At least my baby boy is still out there. Last time I saw him he was five years old and he asked me, did you know humans are made up of just stars and water? And I said no, I didn’t know that. But I believe it's true, I told him. And he smiled at me through the glass, and I told him I loved him, but it came out sounding so small and stupid compared to what was in my heart. I won't be there to see him turn six or seven or even eight. But I tell myself, if he’s made up of stars, he’ll last forever. Or at least long enough that I can see him again, someday. – A, age 42
At least, out there, what they mean by
a learning opportunity
isn’t some dumb ass creative writing class
with a white lady who wants you to write
How the fuck is this poem gonna help me get outta here?
What I want to know is why they canceled the GED program,
and when they gonna get it back.
– Jesus, age 21