The Durham County jail will let inmates out of their cells for two additional hours a week, as a recent increase in violence, including threats against guards, subsides.
In early March, the jail began confining the roughly 500 inmates at the Durham County Detention Facility to their cells for all but six hours a week. The two additional hours will bring the weekly release time to eight.
The jail is opening eight cells at a time to let small groups of inmates into a community room, where they can play cards and have access to an exercise area and showers. Each cell block or pod has 48 cells, some with bunk beds.
State law requires that inmates be released from their cells at least three hours per week. So even at two hours, three days a week, the jail was offering twice what the state requires.
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On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office announced it will add a fourth day to “the walking schedule for the general population” starting Sunday because inmates have been behaving better.
“Detainees will be walking on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,” according to the announcement. “If the Detainees at the facility continue to maintain the decreased level of incidents in the facility, then additional access time will be added to the schedule in the future.”
A group of family members and others called the Inside-Outside Alliance has criticized what it calls the jail “lock-back.”
“That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still not acceptable,” group member Cynthia Fox said Tuesday when told about the additional release time. The group plans to protest outside the jail for a second time at 6 p.m. Friday, Fox said.
Last week, Sheriff Mike Andrews issued a statement saying the situation at the jail is not a “lock-back,” but calls to jail officials for clarification were not returned.