DPS Dispatch

Under an innovative therapy program, offenders in Central Prison have been crafting Christmas ornaments before the holiday season. The work is therapy. The offenders are on the mental health caseload at the state’s largest prison. “I tell you, they are the most innovative people anywhere,’’ said Sue Etheridge, an art therapist at the prison. “This is good therapy. It lets them focus on something outside themselves. In confinement like this, people tend to get lost in their own thoughts.”

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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.  

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North Carolina prisons work extremely hard in balancing custody concerns with programming that teaches offenders skills to be put to use back in the community when sentences are served. This year at Lincoln Correctional Center, offenders grew so many fruits and vegetables that there wasn’t enough space at the facility. So, they donated more than 2,400 pounds to two local non-profits for their use. “This was a great way to give back to the community,” said Lincoln CC Warden Sam Dotson (center in photo on the right). “The offenders felt good about doing this.”

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The latest graduates of the Prison Emergency Response Team (PERT) basic training have joined an elite group of correctional officers in North Carolina. Prisons’ Chief of Security Kenneth Smith has often referred to PERT as, “the agency’s greatest resource due to the sheer numbers, experience and the broad scope of mission capabilities.”

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Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution licensed practical nurse Jane Smith was heading home from work on May 7 on U.S. 421 in Vilas like any other day when traffic came to a halt. “A lady was running up the road screaming and I asked if anyone was hurt,” said Smith, who will celebrate her twentieth year at the facility in January. 

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Everyone loves to eat. Now, as far as food preparation goes, that’s another story. Central Prison Food Service Manager Conell Chapman loves food. He loves to eat, and he loves the process of preparation. Chapman also loves imparting that wisdom to offenders and prison staff, not just at Central Prison in Raleigh but to other prisons, county jails and federal facilities in North Carolina, across the country and Canada.

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There’s a special kind of therapist making the rounds at Catawba Correctional Center. Her name is Lou Lou. “Good morning Lou Lou,” is echoed every day when folks encounter the friendly greeter. She’s not an official employee, but more like a volunteer who gets paid with an occasional dog treat or a pat on the head. Lou Lou is the facility mascot, a dog serving as a daily reminder of the value of the life and joy she brings as man’s best friend to many men and women inside the fence at Catawba.

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The walls are white, the counters are antiseptic and the recliners are set comfortably next to treatment stations. It looks like a typical medical outpatient clinic. But this dialysis unit sits on the other side of barbed wire and heavy, steel electronically-controlled locked doors. The waiting room is occupied by a uniformed officer. It’s in a prison. The long-planned new kidney dialysis unit at Scotland Correctional Institution opened today (April 29), and will be able to handle up to 72 male dialysis patients a week.

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On Feb. 21, Department of Public Safety leaders briefed legislators on ongoing efforts to reform the state’s prison system, stressing the safety of employees remains paramount. Much of the presentation by Tracy Little, deputy secretary for Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, to the Joint Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety focused on what is needed to make sure facilities are manned to safely supervise offenders and ensure the protection of prison staff. 

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Gary Mohr had high expectations prior to leading the two-day Prisons Leadership Development Workshop on Feb. 18-19. He knew he had an audience hungry to receive skills they could take back to their facilities, and he had the morsels to provide the nutritional needs. Following the workshop, Mohr was extremely happy not only with what he saw from the group but his vision of where the North Carolina prison system is heading.

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As part of prison reform efforts at DPS, the Office of Staff Development and Training has conducted situational awareness training for prisons’ personnel, including anyone who works in a prison environment such as Correction Enterprises’ employees. Situational awareness is described as a person’s state of knowledge or mental model of the situation around him or her, according to John Harrold and Theresa Jefferson’s “Shared Situational Awareness in Emergency Management Mitigation and Response.” 

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Whenever there are individuals or groups that need assistance, few rise to the occasion better than correctional officers. There are countless stories about their fundraising efforts to support Special Olympics of North Carolina, disaster victims or to show their love and concern during the holidays. They’re also quick to respond to helping each other during times of stress or need. Even during times where an officer doesn’t directly ask for assistance, word spreads throughout the facility and the other officers pool their resources to provide help.

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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.

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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 Community Correction Office's efforts.  PPO’s take on added duties to help North Carolinians during tragic times

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