Public Safety Secretary Embarks on Listening Tour in Prison Reform Efforts National Institute of Corrections Team Starts Safety Review

ELIZABETH CITY

Secretary Erik A. Hooks today met with employees at Pasquotank Correctional Institution to listen to ideas, observations and concerns following the violent attack Oct. 12 that resulted in the deaths of four employees. As part of his visit to the prison, he also took a tour of the facility and met with staff at all levels.

The Secretary had a brief message for employees, but his primary goal was to listen to them and hear what was on their minds.

“First and foremost I want to do everything in my power to help ensure your safety,” Secretary Hooks emphasized. “Part of that is hearing from each of you, the ones who are walking the halls and housing areas in the prisons. It does not matter your role, your rank or how much experience you have, all of you matter. To make a change, we have to all work together and look at every aspect of the job.”

At the Secretary’s request, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has started its independent and comprehensive review of the safety and security operations at Pasquotank CI, as well as all aspects of Correction Enterprises’ safety protocols to include staffing patterns, inmate worker placement assessments, training and operational procedures. The NIC team will be in North Carolina all this week. Today, they were at Pasquotank CI and they plan to conduct reviews at several other prisons while here.

“We will be looking at everything from top to bottom reviewing policies, how they are written and how they are being interpreted,” Secretary Hooks added. “I do not take for granted that all of you in the criminal justice family have some risk and potentially walk into dangerous situations every day. I will continue to investigate ways to make prisons safer and to take action to reduce those risks.”

Employees brought up numerous topics including changes to policy; changing shift hours; frequency of paychecks; the need for more training; and wanting more support from supervisors. Some also expressed concerns about inmates who take advantage of current disciplinary policy and those who file false reports.

Tomorrow, the Secretary, along with some of his executive team, will meet with employees at Bertie Correctional Institution. More facility visits are planned for the coming days.

In the past few weeks, Secretary Hooks took several actions to make North Carolina prisons safer. Immediately after the tragedy at Pasquotank, the Department began a thorough assessment of the incident. As part of that, the Secretary has been looking at a variety of areas to include personnel, policies, procedures and safety measures. Based upon the ongoing review of the incident, Secretary Hooks has initiated the following actions to date:

  • Shut down operations at the Pasquotank sewing plant permanently.
  • Conduct a thorough review of all inmates currently assigned to work in Correction Enterprises operations.
  • Pending that review, a specific set of inmates with convictions for assaultive crimes will be suspended from participation in Correction Enterprises operations that involve the use of cutting and/or impact tools until further risk assessments can be completed.
  • Those with convictions of a violent crime against a government official and/or law enforcement are ineligible for assignment to any work station utilizing or providing access to cutting and/or impact tools without expressed approval of the Director of Prisons Office.
  • Organize an advisory committee to consider and recommend additional technology and individual devices to enhance the safety and security of prison and Correction Enterprises staff, prison facilities and plant operations. (Committee to include representation from Prisons operations, Adult Correction Special Operations and Intelligence, Legal, State Highway Patrol and Emergency Management).
  • Review the safety of all Corrections Enterprises operations at all state prisons.
  • Increase 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.
  • Review emergency procedures at all facilities to enhance safety and security.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Secretary Erik A. Hooks (seated) and Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter listen to Pasquotank Correctional Institution correctional officers during today's meeting.

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