Correctional employees call for reforms to make prisons safer
Jan 30, 2019
RALEIGH – The State Employees Association of North Carolina today called for several reforms meant to make our prisons safer.
SEANC unveiled its report, “From the Inside: A SEANC Examination of N.C. Correctional Issues,” at a press conference with Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-Pasquotank). The report, compiled from interviews, forums and a survey of Department of Public Safety employees, gives lawmakers the truth on the problems plaguing our prisons from those who know it best – the workers on the inside.
“We cannot and will not forget the lives we lost,” said SEANC President Jimmy Davis, a retired correctional officer. “We will carry their memory forward, as we seek not only justice for their families, but also as we work to protect the men and women who work every day in unsafe working conditions, and endure the daily assaults that come with working in our prisons.”
Following the deadliest year in history for North Carolina corrections, SEANC created a committee of corrections members in 2018 to give state employees a voice in ongoing efforts to reform our prisons. The committee’s report recommends changes needed from the legislature, the department and the employees themselves.
“Our report takes a hard look at all areas of prison operations, from pay, to staffing, to safety equipment, training and benefits provided to correctional personnel,” said Sgt. Deborah Harney, a correctional officer at Harnett Correctional Institution, who chaired the committee.
Among the recommendations:
- Address understaffing – Invest in correctional officer salaries to recruit new officers and retain veteran officers.
- Restore the Department of Corrections – Enable leadership to prioritize Adult Correction.
- Provide law enforcement benefits for certified correctional personnel
- Increase penalties for assault on personnel – Implement mandatory minimum sentencing for assaults on corrections staff.
- Insist that district attorneys prosecute inmates who attack officers – The legislature, the governor and the attorney general should pressure district attorneys to prosecute inmates who attack officers.
- Revise the formula for staffing needs – Consider the unique needs at each prison.
- Implement streamlined, consistent policies – Rethink everything from employee evaluations to disciplinary policies.
- Inform officers of mental health resources – Better inform employees of the resources available to them to deal with stress.
- Re-evaluate the hiring process – Return hiring to each facility or make an effort to place new hires closer to home.
- Invest in facilities and updated equipment
- Offer comprehensive training – Prohibit new hires from work until they are sufficiently trained. Establish mentoring and ongoing training programs for veterans.
- Take pride in the profession – Commit to rooting out corruption.
- Be loyal to each other – Work with department to improve morale and teamwork at the prisons.
- Take care of equipment – Maintain equipment and ensure it works properly.
- Engage in positive self-care – Practice techniques to alleviate stress.