Listening tour give Public Safety secretary information in prison reform efforts

Sec. Erik A Hooks (seated) and Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter (NC Department of Public Safety photo)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - After the attempted prison break in Elizabeth City, where four employees were killed, and the assault and death of a Bertie County correctional officer, Sec. Erik A. Hooks met Monday to talk about what happened.

Hooks was at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution to listen to ideas, observations and concerns following the violent attack Oct. 12 that resulted in the deaths of four employees. 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. In addition, Hooks talked about 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. Tuesday, 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.

A press release states 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, 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.

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