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Western trip proves informative for Prisons leadership

Western prisons visit February 2018
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 12:13pm

On Feb. 7-9, Interim Chief Deputy Secretary Reuben Young and Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter resumed their visits to the state’s prisons by heading west. The road swing took them to Lincoln Correctional Center, Alexander Correctional Institution, Caldwell CC, Avery/Mitchell CI, Mountain View CI, Marion CI, Foothills CI and Burke CRV.

As they did in their early January visit to prisons in northeastern North Carolina, Young and Lassiter met with the facilities’ senior management to learn about the facilities, hear updates about the various programs, concerns and what is working.

Yes, the concerns out west match those voiced at other facilities: staff vacancies, safety, morale, pay. However, they heard many stories from correctional officers and staff about how much the employees enjoy working at the western prisons.

“Morale problems are the norm, but that’s not the case here,” Young said during his visit to Avery/Mitchell. “This is an example of what we want.”

Many of the facilities in the west are the largest employers in their areas. Some correctional officers span generations, and Young and Lassiter heard encouraging stories from employees who have spent as little as a couple of years in service to some who have spent nearly 30 years as a correctional officer.

Sgt. Brian Watson, a 26-year correctional officer, said the officers in his facility are like family.

“We respect each other and show the inmates respect,” Sgt. Watson said. “I know if I have a problem, we have the staff that will quickly help out.”

Young and Lassiter also participated in the Correctional Officer Basic Training Graduation at the Western Region Training Center in Valdese. They encouraged the graduates and thanked them for choosing this field.

“This is a noble profession,” said Lassiter, a former correctional officer himself. “You are our best recruiters.”

Young’s impressions with the western visit were positive.

“This was indicative of how our people work hard every day,” he said. “They are committed to the job. They understand the measures we are taking to keep the facilities safe and secure. They know it benefits the community at large and themselves, and it allows them the ability to do their jobs well.”

Jerry Higgins, Communications Officer