Correctional Officers Protect and Save Lives Inside Prisons

Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 8:29am

Normally, a correctional officer focuses on performing duties that protect prison employees, the public, and even inmates when the situation arises. But there are situations that call on the officers to take the additional steps to save an inmate’s life.

This year, correctional officers at Lumberton Correctional Institution and Caledonia Correctional Institution have had to take extra steps to prevent inmate deaths, but not for what you may normally think. 

On March 15 at Lumberton CI, Sgt. Robert Currier was supervising the dining hall during the evening meal when the inmates alerted him to one of the elderly inmates. Ira Thomas was choking and some of the inmates attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the 78-year-old without success.

“He was choking on a piece of meat and was not breathing,” Currier said. “I didn’t think it was a situation where the other inmates were trying to hurt him. I told them to move out of the way because they weren’t doing it right. I did two squeezes and the piece of meat popped out.”

Thomas was escorted to the medical unit, where he was assessed and released to go back to his dorm, where he could recover. It just happened to be his birthday.

Lumberton Administrator Harvey Clay said, “When I heard about it, all I could say is ‘Wow.’ That was so amazing to me. I spoke with the inmate afterward and he was so, so grateful. He told me, ‘Sgt. Currier saved my life. He is my hero.’ This shows we’re really doing some positive things in our prisons.”

Currier used the training he received last summer to save Thomas, who received the ultimate birthday present. He said he was just performing what he learned in his training.

“We all come to work to do our jobs,” Currier said.  “I don’t try to condemn these guys. We’re here to do a job and help them if they need it.”

Caledonia CI had a situation earlier this year where two correctional officers sprang into action to save an inmate. 

On Jan. 27, correctional officer Latisha Dickens was notified that inmate Michael Rich was unresponsive in his unit only a couple of weeks prior to his release from prison. Dickens observed Rich was blue in the face and immediately checked for a pulse. Rich did not have one and was not breathing.

Dickens immediately began chest compressions.  While doing the chest compressions, Rich took one deep breath. Dickens asked Rich if he was OK, but Rich did not respond. Dickens continued to do chest compressions until Sgt. David Scott entered the building.  

Scott assisted Dickens with chest compressions until Rich began breathing. However, on the way to the medical unit, Rich stopped breathing and turned blue again. Scott checked for a pulse and began chest compressions on Rich until he started breathing again.

Scott and responding staff continued to provide medical assistance to Rich. The medical staff took over when they reached the unit and began CPR, chest compressions, and other techniques before Rich regained his pulse.

“If it was not for the quick actions of Officer Latisha Dickens and Sergeant David Scott, the offender could have died,” said Caledonia CI Administrator James Vaughan.

These are just two examples of the great work our correctional officers perform daily.


Jerry Higgins, Communications Officer