Local News

Prison Officials Defend Security Measures In Light of Recent Escape Attempts

Posted June 28, 1999

— Two inmates who survived a daylight escape attempt Monday are recovering from gunshot wounds. Another inmate was killed during the shooting atOdom Correctional Institutionin Northampton County.

The inmates weretrying to dash from a work crewweeding cotton on a prison work farm. All of them had violent criminal records, including charges of murder.

Many people are wondering why hardened criminals like these were allowed to work outside prison fences.

Bem Hollowaywas the inmate who was killed Monday, and many people are worried that an inmate like Holloway would keep running once outside a prison fence.

Holloway was facing a 76-year prison term, at a minimum.

"He has nothing to lose. He's going to run. They were asking for trouble when they put him out working like that," said Cheryl Whitfield, a former police officer.

Whitfield comes from a family with a long line of people in law enforcement. Monday's attempted escape from a state correctional institution confounds her.

There were no works crews out in the fields at the prison farm complex Tuesday when the WRAL crew arrived, but administrators did show the crew a video of how prisoners are supervised.

"You can guard on the ground like a perimeter guard, or you can guard on a horse. Or, we have mobile towers that we can take to the different quadrants out there and let the officers stand on those," said Richard Duke, prison farm assistant superintendent.

Duke suggests economics explain why people with such violent criminal records are allowed to work outside the prison fences. "For the work that we are required to do, it would be impossible for us to get that done if we did not have those men outside the fence," explained Duke.

Duke went on to explain that the complex, on a total of 10,000 acres, is one of the most secure in the state system, with only one escape attempt in the last decade until Monday.

But some people, including Whitfield, say even the possibility of someone like Holloway getting out is enough reason to ask for changes.

"I can't imagine what the victims felt, and I blame our system for that. I don't care what they are trying to do to put these people to work, certain ones should not be," said Whitfield.

The two injured inmates, Wesley Turner and Bennie Joyner, are recovering. Turner is in critical condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville with shoulder and leg wounds. Joyner has been released from the Central Prison Hospital after being treated for a leg wound.


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