Governor’s Crime Commission Looks at Ways to Improve Prison Security Update on Raise the Age Implementation Plans Also Provided

Raleigh

Today during its quarterly meeting, the Governor’s Crime Commission discussed  prison management practices and efforts to improve safety at North Carolina prisons.

"We're continuing to work to identify proven safety and security practices we can implement to make North Carolina's prisons safer, with many improvements already put in place," Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. "We're looking at all options for making our prisons and those who work in them as safe as possible, and I look forward to receiving the commission's full report and recommendations."

As part of the discussion, the Commission heard about a study of best practices from across the country requested by Secretary Hooks.

Ensuring the safety of Public Safety employees, visitors and inmates within prison facilities is a top priority for Secretary Hooks. Under his leadership the Department of Public Safety has already taken a number of steps to make prisons safer. Those measures include:

  • Removed inmates meeting a certain violent offender profile from work assignments that use or have access to cutting and/or impact tools while assignment policies and procedures are under review.  This resulted in more than 250 inmates being immediately removed from Correction Enterprises work assignments.
  • Permanently made offenders convicted of a violent crime against a government official and/or law enforcement ineligible for assignment to any work station or environment where cutting and/or impact tools are available except in rare cases where approved by the Director of Prison’s Office.
  • Requested the National Institute of Corrections to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the safety and security operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, 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 was on site from Nov. 6-10 and we anticipate receiving its report with recommendations later this month.
  • Permanently shut down operations at the Pasquotank Sewing Plant.
  • Suspended operations at the Lanesboro Correctional Institution Metal Products Plant and Caledonia Correctional Institution Cannery to conduct a safety, security and accountability review. (See complete list of action items below.)

In June, Secretary Hooks asked the GCC to coordinate a study to identify best practices for improving safety and security in prisons. The GCC engaged the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University to conduct the study, which included talking with nationally recognized organizations such as the American Correctional Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the Vera Institute.  The study also included interviews with corrections professionals from seven other states, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oregon.   

Areas of focus of the study include:

  • Hiring practices for correctional officers, including screening of candidates;
  • Training of correctional officers and all prison staff;
  • Staffing at the facilities;
  • Security procedures to interdict contraband; and
  • Measures to detect and address staff misconduct;

“The subcommittee will work with the department to identify priorities going forward and options for implementation of the commission’s recommendations,” said Cal Cunningham, GCC vice chairman and chairman of the Prison study task force. 

Also during today’s meeting, William Lassiter, deputy secretary for Juvenile Justice, provided an overview on the department’s planning and implementation of “Raise the Age,” part of the Juvenile Reinvestment Act passed in S257/S.L. 2017-57. Lassiter discussed why North Carolina lawmakers voted to increase the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 effective Dec. 1, 2019; the specifics of this change and its impacts on juvenile justice system processes; and how planning and implementation of this law will take place, through input of the newly formed Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee.

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2017 Action Items to Improve Safety at State Prisons

  • Created a Security Accountability Unit within Prisons. Working with the National Institute of Corrections, this unit will help develop new safety audit training, policy and procedures and ensure regular and thorough safety audits occur at all prison facilities.
  • Enhanced the Entry/Exit procedures by implementing a new Pat-Frisk policy at almost all facilities requiring every person entering a facility undergo a Pat-Frisk procedure.
  • Shut down operations at the Pasquotank sewing plant permanently.
  • Working with the National Institute of Corrections conducting a thorough review of the inmate assessment policies utilized to assign offenders to Correction Enterprises and other work 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 workstation utilizing or providing access to cutting and/or impact tools without expressed approval of the Director of Prisons Office.
  • Requested National Institute of Corrections to review the department’s inmate classification protocols. NIC agreed and will begin that assessment early 2018.
  • Organized 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 includes representation from Prisons operations, Adult Correction Special Operations and Intelligence, Legal, State Highway Patrol and Emergency Management).
  • Reviewing the safety of all Correction Enterprises operations at all state prisons.
  • Reviewed emergency procedures at all facilities to enhance safety and security.
  • Requested the National Institute of Corrections conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the safety and security operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, as well as all aspects of Correction Enterprises’ safety protocols to include staffing patterns, inmate worker placement assessments, training and operational procedures.
  • Instituted a new correctional officer training approach, where they get basic training at the start of their second week on the job, following one week of orientation at their work location. By attending basic training within the first couple of weeks of employment, correctional officers learn the policies, procedures, skills and abilities to help them be successful. This new approach to training better equips newly-hired correctional officers so they excel at keeping order in the prisons for the safety of staff, inmates and, ultimately, the public.
  • Enhanced intelligence information gathering and sharing of intelligence amongst internal stakeholders and external law enforcement agencies including district attorneys and federal prosecutors to address criminal activities within Prisons.
  • Begun the process of planning and installing additional fencing around facilities to increase the perimeter from exterior to interior areas where people can retrieve items (contraband) thrown over the fence.
  • Increasing prison perimeter patrols by the State Highway Patrol and prison security aimed at preventing contraband throw-overs.
  • Directed funds to equip all facilities with Cell Sense (electronic cell phone detection devices) by Feb. 1, 2018. We have ordered the additional Cell Sense monitors and are installing as they arrive.
  • Upgrading security cameras in several facilities. We have also developed a long-range strategic plan for purchasing and installing additional or replacement video cameras in all facilities and will seek funding to do so.
  • Redirected funding for the purchase of personal protective equipment, specifically batons, to equip correctional officers in medium custody facilities. Batons are already deployed in close custody facilities.

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