Prison Reform Advisory Board Begins Work on Recommendations

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 9:27pm

RALEIGH - On Aug. 20, the Prison Reform Advisory Board began work on composing its recommendations on best practices for maintaining prison safety to Secretary Erik A. Hooks.

The Board, appointed by Sec. Hooks last year, was created to review best practices regarding policies, programs and services to ensure the safety and security of the state’s prison system. They reviewed topics including health services, training, staffing, technology, communications and programs.  

At Tuesday’s meeting in Raleigh, they heard from Prison Reform workgroups regarding training, communications and reducing contraband, as well as an update from Human Resources regarding an initiative to identify leadership competencies that will be used to develop training to support future prison leaders. Then the Board began the task of working on its report that will be presented later in 2019.

“I want to thank you for your service,” Sec. Hooks said to the Board prior to Tuesday’s quarterly meeting. “Thinking back to when we started, the charge was to lean on your expertise and we’ve done that for the past year. I recognize this has been a long struggle in some sense … I know you will make meaningful recommendations. There’s no singular solution. I trust you and thank you for doing mighty work.”

Originally an eight-member Board (former member Gary Mohr was named Senior Executive Advisor to DPS last September), the group had experts in the field of corrections both on the state and federal level with nearly 200 combined years of experience. That does not include Chairperson Beth Austin’s military experience (39 years and retired as a major general in the U.S. Army).

“Outside eyes are important to make positive changes,” new Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee told the Board.

The three workgroup presentations on Tuesday were part of the overall five Prison Reform workgroups created in 2018. Enhancing Security and Increasing Hiring and Retention were the other workgroups heard at the May meeting. The workgroups are part of the strategic plan framework for future prison safety reforms that came out of the review of the Governor’s Crime Commission December 2017 report and the National Institute of Corrections report in January 2018 following the tragedies at Bertie and Pasquotank correctional institutions in 2017. 

Each workgroup developed several objectives, some of which have been put in place:

  • Training partnerships with community colleges;
  • More robust internal communications mechanisms with employees;
  • Security improvements in and around prisons.

To review workgroup presentations, go to the Prison Reform Advisory Board agendas



Jerry Higgins, Communications Officer