Could National Guardsmen help in North Carolina’s prisons?

Posted at 2:33 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 18:09:36-05

PASQUOTANK COUNTY, N.C. - After five employees were killed at North Carolina prisons last year, lawmakers and prison officials are looking at ways to make changes, including possible help from the National Guard.

Efforts for safer prisons begin "with making sure that our corrections officers have the resources they need to feel that they are safe and to handle any situation that may come up," said Judge Reuben Young, the interim head of North Carolina's prisons.

In October, four employees were killed at Pasquotank Correctional Institution during an attempted prison escape. A federal report on the attack found a staff shortage at the prison. Young says increasing pay for officers would help attract qualified candidates because he says he's heard many concerns about staffing during his visits to prisons. "They're tired, physically they're tired and mentally tired," Young said.

Another officer, Meggan Calllahan, was beaten to death by an inmate with a fire extinguisher last April. Young says they have stiffened penalties for inmates who break rules after these attacks.

Despite the changes, some say reforms aren't going far enough or happening fast enough. Now, there's a proposal to let National Guard into the prisons to help patrol. North Carolina State Representative Bob Steinburg says guardsmen could help, according to WRAL. He's hoping an upcoming meeting will help expose continuing issues with the prisons. "Let's continue to peel back the onion and see what exactly is going on in our North Carolina prisons," he said in a recent Facebook video.

As the talks continue, safety at the prisons continues to be a concern. Last week, a corrections officer was hurt during an incident with an inmate at Pasquotank, a North Carolina Department of Public safety spokesman confirms. The spokesman says the officer suffered a sprained wrist.