Federal report gives Durham jail clean bill of health; critics remain skeptical

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The Durham County Jail (WTVD)

A new federal report was released for the Durham County Jail and officials are saying it's a positive for the facility.

"I think it's a very favorable report," said Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews, as he walked ABC11 crew around an unused wing of the county jail. "I think this is one of the best run facilities in the state."

You wouldn't get that impression from watching news reports of protests about conditions at the jail

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Demonstrators hope to draw awareness to jail concerns.

Asked if it would satisfy critics, Andrews replied, "I'll be honest. We have to start somewhere."

The report offers more than two dozen recommended changes Andrews could put in effect that would make the jail a better place or bring it in line with national norms. But it also says the jail "appears to meet or exceed NC standards."

"Over the last year and a half, we've totally revamped the kitchen," Andrews said. He continued to tick off changes being made. "The boilers have been replaced here in the facility. The interior of this facility, over the last two years, has been entirely repainted."

Still, Andrews said money is a problem. There are 11 vacancies unfilled and not enough staff to open a new wing for inmates with mental illnesses.

But longtime critic and political activist Victoria Peterson says it's not just about money, it's about trust. "I'm glad that they did a report," she said, "but my concerns about the report, I really wish the community could have been more involved. As we hear from the residents, they are still complaining things are not being done right, the food is not good, the kind of trays they're eating off, trying to get medication. "We hear what the sheriff is saying but we also are dealing with the inmates and they are telling a different story. So there's something wrong here."

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