• 43°

Editorial: Tighten up prison security

State prison in Rowan County

Piedmont Correctional Institution of Rowan County is a medium security unit.
Post file photo

Lawmakers who hold the purse strings should be paying close attention to the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s efforts to ramp up prison security. The deaths of five prison officers this year point to the need for more staffing and security measures — something that should win bipartisan support.

Violence was too easy to carry out when inmates in Bertie and Pasquotank correctional facilities decided to go on the attack. In Bertie, an inmate beat Sgt. Meggan Lee Callahan to death with a fire extinguisher she had brought to put out a trash-can fire. In Pasquotank, inmates trying to escape killed the head of the prison’s sewing operation and four other people, beating them with hammers and stabbing them with scissors. It was a horrible, horrible scene.

Officers at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Rowan County have followed these tragedies and the changes that the state has made since then, to see how they’ll be affected.

The state immediately shut down the Pasquotank sewing operation. Yet where safety can be ensured, prisons should  keep inmates involved in productive activities that teach skills. Fortunately, there are no plans to close the reupholstery plant at Piedmont, according to Jerry Higgins, a communications officer for the Department of Public Safety. “However, DPS continues to conduct a thorough review of all inmate work assignments in Correction Enterprises operations since the Pasquotank CI incident of Oct. 12,” Higgins said.

Staffing was an issue at Bertie and Pasquotank, as it is at virtually every prison in the state. As of November, Higgins said, the Piedmont prison had 268 correction officer positions, but 40 were vacant. Another 18 employees were on leave of absence some time during the month. The state needs to figure out a way to keep these positions filled more consistently.

The state Department of Public Safety has listed more than a dozen steps they are taking to improve prison safety, including frisking everyone who enters the prisons, arming officers in medium-security prisons like Piedmont with batons, upgrading security cameras and improving fences. Perhaps most important, the department is creating a new security unit to develop safety training and ensure regular safety audits at all prisons.

A study conducted by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy recommends steps that are more far-reaching and very valid. Lawmakers should pay heed.



Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021


$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row


China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program


Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome


State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions


Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it


Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting


Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits


Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker


Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank


North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys


Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools


Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house


Quotes of the week


Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid


When will gas situation return to normal?


Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart


GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire


Black high school softball player told to cut hair


State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan


CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors


One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday