Prison Population Evacuation Required Precision Operation

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 5:44pm
Storm Response Series: While North Carolina braced for Hurricane Florence, numerous NC Public Safety agencies joined in the storm preparations, response and recovery. Today's blog provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the efforts of employees of the state prison system.   

For the first time in state prison history, the mass evacuation that took place before Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina last month saw close to a tenth of the offender population moved from harm’s way.

This move of nearly 3,000 offenders from  six prisons took incredible planning, coordination and execution not only from the various entities within Prisons Administration but communication with outside agencies. The planning began on Sept. 7 and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) was activated from Sept. 11 through Sept. 24. A command post was set up in the Randall Building in Raleigh and a 24-hour staffing rotation was established at the division and regional levels.

Prisons worked with the State Emergency Planning team to review flood projections, as well as the projected path, rainfall amounts, storm surge potential and historical data of each facility in the immediate track of the storm. It was determined that either full or partial evacuations (Hoke Correctional Institution) needed to take place. A total of 2,910 offenders from Neuse CI, New Hanover Correctional Center, Hyde CI, Pamlico CI, Tyrrell Prison Work Farm and Carteret CC all were evacuated between Sept. 11-13 and moved to as far west as Mountain View CI in Spruce Pine.

Prisons also moved 150 people from DART Cherry in Goldsboro to Rocky Mount, as well as 694 offenders housed in county jails to other facilities.  A total of 17 sites and 4,084 people were moved by Prisons’ personnel by buses across the state. And that doesn’t include the number of citizens moved by Prisons’ personnel from one shelter (New Bern) to another (Cherry Point). And they assisted in moving National Guardsmen from one facility to another.

Former Ohio Director of Corrections Gary Mohr, who is a senior executive advisor to NCDPS for the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, told the Prisons Region Directors at their monthly meeting, “It was remarkable. In my 44 years in the business, I’ve never seen this. The self-discipline and commitment from staff who may have lost their homes … this does not happen in a poorly run correctional system.”

Think about the logistics involved in moving the following items and entities in 55 state prisons:Beds set up in prison gymnasium

  • Food services (moving food so it wouldn’t spoil, providing food to facilities with extra offenders)
  • Medical and mental health services
  • Population management
  • Providing bedding for offenders and staff that stayed at the facilities (Correction Enterprises)
  • Safety and security
  • Transportation
  • Engineering and maintenance of evacuated facilities, as well as getting them ready for returns

The list is endless. And the cooperative spirit within Prisons made the process go smoothly without any injuries or incidents.

“No one was ‘volun-told. Everyone volunteered,” said Deputy Director of Prisons Annie Harvey. “Staff helped others who were away from home with hot meals and whatever else they needed. If there was a problem in one place, others would say they’d help out.”

Jerry Higgins, Communications Officer