Prison Leadership Reorganized; Senior Staff Named

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - 11:21am

As the new Commissioner of Prisons, I’ve traveled the state, visited all of our prisons and listened to the concerns of the staff.

I’ve reached some conclusions.

Great things are being done by the men and women who manage our offender populations.

Prisons staff deserve an organizational structure that works better to help them in their mission.

To that end, I’ve restructured the Division of Prisons.

This new structure will help to position us for success. It will allow us to thoughtfully, with focus, tackle the challenging issues at hand.

At its essence, this reorganization is intended to provide faster and better support for the wardens and the staff members of the state’s prisons, where the day-to-day, hands-on work is done.

And I’ve appointed accomplished professionals to fill to the top positions in the restructured organizational chart. Most have deep ties to North Carolina. Some are new faces. They all bring to the table extensive experience and demonstrated leadership.

Together, their knowledge and expertise will help achieve our goals of increasing staff safety and wellness and building offender rehabilitation programs while focusing on a one team-one mission approach to the future.

Here are the men and women who will help lead us into the future:

Brandeshawn Harris is the Assistant Commissioner of Prisons. She serves as my direct assistant to oversee the operations of our complex prison system. She is a 25-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. She began her career as a correctional officer and was promoted through the ranks, serving as lieutenant, investigator, assistant warden and deputy warden. She most recently served as warden of a female reintegration center and of a large close custody men’s prison.

Loris Sutton is the Director of Operations. She oversees the operations of North Carolina’s three facilities housing female offenders in the Central, South Central and Western regions of the state in addition to providing oversight of the security and accountability section. She is a 26-year career DPS employee who most recently served as assistant director of prisons. Her career began in 1993 as a correctional officer at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women. Over the years, she has served as a sergeant, probation parole officer, program director with population management, and security specialist. Sutton also served as acting warden at Polk Correctional Institution and the chief of security for prisons.

Cynthia Thornton is the Central Region Director. She oversees the operations of 14 facilities housing male offenders in the central region of the state. She began her career in 1991 at Halifax Correctional Center as a program supervisor. Over the years, she has worked as a program supervisor at Nash Correctional Institution and as a case analyst at Fountain Correctional Center for Women. She has also served as a program director at Wayne and Neuse Correctional Institutions and as an assistant superintendent for programs at Maury Correctional Institution and Neuse Correctional Institution. In 2011, she was promoted to superintendent at Neuse CI prior to her promotion to regional director.
Larry Dail is the Eastern Region Director. He oversees the operations of 12 facilities housing male offenders in the eastern region of the state. He began his career in 1983 as a correctional officer at Eastern Correctional Institution and moved up at that facility to the rank of Captain. He transferred to Greene Correctional Institution in 1994 as a captain and was promoted to assistant superintendent of custody and operations before returning to Eastern CI in 1999 as the assistant superintendent of custody and operations. In 2005, he was promoted to assistant superintendent of custody and operations at the newly opened Maury Correctional Institution and was named superintendent at Craven Correctional Institution in 2007.
Pete Buchholtz is the South Central Region Director. He oversees the operations of 11 facilities housing male offenders in the south-central region of the state, and one facility housing female offenders. He began his career in 1992 as a K-9 officer at the South Central region office. He also worked as a sergeant at the Robeson Correctional Center, a unit manager at Scotland Correctional Institution and assistant superintendent for custody and operations at Hoke Correctional Institution. Prior to his promotion to regional director, he was the facility administrator at Morrison Correctional Institution.
LaDonna Browning is the Western Region Director. She oversees the operations of 15 facilities housing male offenders in the western region of the state. She began her career in 1995 as a program assistant at Marion Correctional Institution and was promoted to program supervisor four years later. She then transferred to Foothills Correctional Institution, where she served as unit manager for mental health and for the security threat group units. She also served there as assistant superintendent for programs and as assistant superintendent for custody and operations. In 2012, she was appointed as the facility administrator at Foothills Correctional Institution.
Robert Leon is the Director of Correction Enterprises. He oversees 32 revenue-generating operations with an offender work force. He has worked hard to create more offender job opportunities while increasing offender skills to benefit their reentry into society. He joined DPS in 1993. Prior to that, he worked 17 years in the private sector printing industry in a variety of management and production positions.
Mike Hall is the Director of Facility Management. He oversees the regional and facility level maintenance operations in the state’s prisons and two confinement in response to violation centers. He started his career in 1987 as a maintenance mechanic at Polk Correctional Institution and worked his way up the ladder, holding a number of maintenance positions. He was promoted to director of facility management in 2015. He brings 33 years of hands-on experience and a certifications in energy management. 

Sarah Cobb is the Director of Rehabilitative Services. She oversees the rehabilitative efforts in prison facilities across the state, including the operations at Charlotte’s Center for Community Transition. She began her career in 1993 as a correctional officer before moving into the programs side of Prisons, serving in a variety of roles. 

Twyla Philyaw is the Interim Director of Administrative Services. She serves in an acting role to oversee the administrative services section that provides fiscal and human resource guidance and leadership to all the prison facilities.

Gary Junker is the Interim Director of Health & Wellness. He serves in an acting role to oversee the Health Services operations in all the state’s prison facilities and the DART Cherry center.

A new leadership position, Director of Standards and Performance, has yet to be filled. This position will oversee internal and external audits, policy development, the Inmate Grievance Board and the to-be-created North Carolina Prisons Innovation Institution.

Bruce Hodges is the Interim Prisons Project Manager. He works directly with Prison’s leadership to review and initiate, where possible, the recommendations made by the Prison Reform Advisory Board and other initiatives critical to the future. Prior to taking this position, he was the director of the Robeson CRV Center in Lumberton, where he had been the assistant director since 2015. A 15-year DPS employee, he previously served in Community Corrections as a chief probation/parole officer, probation/parole officer and general instructor in Wake County. 

Josh Panter will continue as executive officer, working directly with me on division-level issues that overlap the directors’ areas of responsibility, as well as high-level policy review and information gathering and report-production for senior leaders. And Terry Jones will remain my executive assistant.

These are all excellent, dedicated and experienced prison executive leaders who will bring a collaborative approach to prison safety, reform and accountability.

They are melding into a unified team with the goal of supporting the staff, forging a balanced approach to making prisons safer while strengthening our rehabilitation programs for the benefit of all North Carolinians.


John Bull, Communications Officer