State Prisons Take Immediate Steps to Assess and Improve Prison Safety Following Attack on Employees at Pasquotank Correctional Institution

Raleigh

The Department of Public Safety is taking immediate steps to make prisons safer following a violent attack at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City that claimed the lives of two prison employees this week.

On Friday, Secretary Erik A. Hooks and state prison leaders met with Governor Roy Cooper, who directed them to improve prison safety in the wake of the attack.

“We owe it to the public and to our employees to keep state prisons secure, and we owe it to these fallen employees and their families to learn all we can about what happened and take steps to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again,” Sec. Hooks said.

The Department has begun a thorough assessment of the incident to determine where changes to policies, procedures or safety measures are necessary. Among the steps Sec. Hooks implemented today:

  • Suspending Correction Enterprises operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution while a thorough review of the program’s safety and security is completed.
  • Reviewing the safety of all Corrections Enterprises operations at all state prisons.
  • Increasing the number of correctional officers who provide security in Correction Enterprises areas, and increasing the number of rounds by the officer in charge within those areas until such time as we are able to conduct a security review to ensure the safety of employees.
  • Reviewing emergency procedures at all facilities to enhance safety and security.
  • Conducting a complete facility search at Pasquotank Correctional Institution by 100 trained and well-equipped Prison Emergency Response Team members. The search began this morning to look for evidence as well as unrelated contraband that may be in the facility.

Correction Enterprises employs about 2,500 inmates statewide, teaching job skills in 17 different industries, while producing goods and providing services for government agencies.

Two prison employees were killed and several others injured Thursday at Pasquotank Correctional Institution when a group of inmates working in a Correction Enterprises program tried to escape.

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, inmates started a fire in the prison's specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work producing embroidered logo items, safety vests and other sewn items. The fire was extinguished. After the fire was set, several inmates attempted to escape but were not successful.

Correctional Officer Justin Smith and Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden were killed by inmates in the escape attempt. Ten other prison employees were injured. Correctional Officers Wendy Shannon, Correctional Officer George Midgett, and maintenance worker Geoffrey Howe remain hospitalized for their injuries.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff's Department, along with the State Bureau of Investigation, are conducting a criminal investigation into the attack and attempted escape.

Pasquotank Correctional Institution currently houses 725 male inmates in close, medium and minimum custody.

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