Changes are coming to North Carolina’s prisons after five fatal assaults on prison workers and a Charlotte Observer investigation highlighting widespread dangers and corruption, the Observer reports. Among other measures, the state is building fences, buying batons and frisking employees. It is also installing new equipment to detect cellphones, which inmates have used to plot crimes and orchestrate attacks. A new Duke University study confirms much of what the Observer found and recommends that the state take additional steps to improve prison staffing and security.
The state Department of Public Safety listed more than a dozen steps to improve prison safety. They include frisking almost everyone who enters prisons, providing batons to officers in medium-security prisons, upgrading security cameras, installing more fencing around some prisons so that it’s harder for inmates to retrieve contraband, and creating a new security unit that will develop safety training and ensure regular safety audits at all prisons. Rep. Bob Steinburg, who serves on a legislative committee that oversees prisons, said state leaders do not appear to be addressing one of officers’ key concerns: Many feel they are getting no respect or support from their supervisors. “They’re not getting at the heart of the problem,” said Steinburg, a Republican from eastern North Carolina. “They don’t get it.” In April, Sgt. Meggan Callahan was killed at Bertie Correctional Institution, and in October, four prison workers were fatally wounded during an escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution.