In some of North Carolina’s most dangerous prisons, officers have been skipping a crucial part of their job for years by failing to perform their required 30-minute security checks. Instead, officers falsified prison records to indicate they had made their rounds, reports the Charlotte Observer. State leaders are partly to blame. They’ve allowed many prisons to become dangerously understaffed. The shortages – caused partly by the low pay and dangers of prison work – leave some employees hard-pressed to complete all their duties. Negligence or inaction on the part of prison staff may have contributed to the deaths of at least eight North Carolina inmates since 2009, records and interviews suggest. Prison officers found the bodies of some of those inmates stiff in their cells hours after they died.
Prison leaders say they don’t track how much the state has paid to injured inmates or to the families of those who died. But it’s a costly problem. In one case, the state agreed to pay $2.5 million to the family of Michael Anthony Kerr, an inmate who died of dehydration in 2014 after lying for days in his own feces and urine. Kerr, a habitual felon with mental health problems, died while being transported between prisons. After his death, the state disciplined or fired about 25 employees. Prison mental health officials were aware of Kerr’s deteriorating condition but did not transfer him to a facility that could have provided better care.