Correctional officers should get same benefits as law enforcement

May 13, 2017

The recent death of Sgt. Meggan Callahan, a DPS employee and SEANC member who was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution on April 26, has called attention to the dangers facing the people who work in our prisons every day. Attacks on officers are routine in N.C. prisons and yet officers do not receive the benefits a law enforcement officer does. SEANC says Enough is Enough!

The Charlotte Observer reports that a correctional officer is assaulted approximately once every eight hours in this state, and there were 1,160 assaults on prison staff in 2016. Just this week another assault resulted in serious injury at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury.

All aspects of law enforcement are dangerous, but arguably, no one is at greater risk than correctional officers. Literally every second of their work day is spent having to "watch their back."

Correctional officers are the bravest of the brave, dealing not with suspected criminals, but convicted criminals for an entire 12-hour shift. Often one correctional officer can be assigned to as many as 80 inmates. And the only thing that officer has to defend his or herself is a can of mace. Worse yet, some of these inmates (such as the one who attacked Sgt. Callahan) are serving life sentences for violent crimes and have literally nothing to lose by harming an officer. 

SEANC is pressing lawmakers to support granting the exact same full benefits to correctional officers that are guaranteed by statute to officers with full arrest powers. This would provide eligibility for certain disability and death benefits, and allow them to retire earlier. This should have been done years ago, but now is the time to do it and show that Sgt. Callahan's death is not just swept under the rug and ignored. And that enough is Enough!