• 59°

Editorial: Terror at Pasquotank

Died Monday

Corrections Officer Wendy Shannon died Monday from injuries she suffered during a deadly inmate escape attempt. Shannon is the third person killed in the Oct. 12 incident at Pasquotank Correctional Institution. (North Carolina Department of Public Safety via AP.)

Four prison officers have now died as a result of an escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Unit in Elizabeth City last month — a brutal reminder of the risks faced by the more than 17,000 people who work in North Carolina prisons.

A state prison employee is assaulted an average of every eight hours, estimates Stanley Drewery, president of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. No one has challenged the statistic. Instead, prompted by blood that should not have been shed, a needed spotlight is finally shining on understaffing in the prison system.

The Pasquotank attack on Oct. 12 was especially vicious. Four inmates working in the prison’s sewing plant started a fire and went after prison employees with hammers and scissors. Ultimately, the would-be escapees got caught in the razor wire atop the prison’s fences. By the time the outbreak ended, the inmates had killed two officers and injured several more.

Now the dead from Pasquotank number four — Veronica Darden, who ran the sewing operation;  correctional officer Justin Smith; correctional officer Wendy Shannon; and, as of Thursday, maintenance mechanic Geoffrey Howe.

The four inmates face first-degree murder charges and have been moved to Butner.

The prison system is having a terrible year. An inmate fatally attacked another officer, Meggan Callahan, at the Bertie County Correctional Institution in April. That brings to eight the number of prison employees killed by inmates in the history of the state’s prison system.

Prison safety hits home in Rowan, where Piedmont Correctional Institution employs more than 400 people. With capacity for 952 inmates, Piedmont is among the state’s largest prisons, and houses minimum-, medium- and close-security inmates.

Pasquotank is a high or close-security unit with a capacity of 896 and roughly the same size staff as Piedmont.

Gov. Roy Cooper directed state prison officials to improve safety. Erik Hooks, secretary of public safety, took several steps, including a review of inmates assigned to correction enterprises like Pasquotank’s sewing plant — and Piedmont’s reupolstery plant. Legislators have also called for a review. Reform may be needed, but the first order of business is making sure prisons are fully and adequately staffed.

Study later. Staff now.

Comments

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Nation/World

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

News

Lawyers: Black man didn’t drive into deputies who shot him

Nation/World

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges