Cynthia Thornton Named Director of Standards and Performance for Prisons


The Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice has named Cynthia Thornton as the director of Prisons’ newly created Standards and Performance section.

Thornton has been the director of Prisons’ Central Region since February 2019, overseeing 15 correctional institutions. She will begin her new position April 6.

“Cynthia is an outstanding corrections professional with three decades of wide-ranging experiences that will help us chart a path into a successful future,” said Todd Ishee. “She is an invaluable asset to us, particularly for her ability to think forward and her commitment to improvement and excellence.”

As director of Standards and Performance, she will oversee the American Correctional Association’s accreditation of North Carolina’s prison facilities as well as internal and other external audits and policy development and review.

She will be in charge of the new Prison’s Innovation Institute that will manage strategic planning, the Back to Basics program, Prison’s key performance indicator system. And she will serve as the leader of the division’s initiative incubator to research potential evidence-informed prison improvements.

Thornton has worked in the Department of Public Safety for 29 years. Starting in 1991, she began her career as a program supervisor at Halifax Correctional Center. Since then, Thornton worked as a program supervisor at Nash Correctional Institution and as a case analyst at the former Fountain Correctional Center for Women. She also was a program director at Wayne and Neuse correctional institutions.

Thornton served as assistant superintendent for programs at Maury Correctional Institution before returning to Neuse in 2008 to be the assistant superintendent for programs.

She was promoted to superintendent of that facility in 2011 before becoming the facility administrator at Harnett Correctional Institution in 2013, where she was responsible for the overall operations at the facility, including offender custody, facility security, food service, medical, maintenance, educational services and other programs.

Thornton holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Appalachian State University. She also graduated from the DPS Correctional Leadership Development Program and is a certified instructor by the NC Criminal Justice Standards Commission.

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