Local News

Hundreds of inmates transferred amid prison closings

Posted September 29, 2009

— The state Department of Correction is shifting about 950 inmates across North Carolina as it closes seven minimum-security prisons because of the state's tight budget.

Wilmington Residential Facility for Women closed this month, and Guilford Correctional Center, Gates Correctional Center and Union Correctional Center will close by Thursday. Umstead Correctional Center is slated to close by Nov. 1, with Cleveland Correctional Center closing by Dec. 1 and McCain Correctional Hospital closing by next April.

The moves will save an estimated $22.3 million and are part of the DOC's plans to eliminate 1,000 jobs as part of statewide budget cuts.

Closing prisons puts inmates on move Closing prisons puts inmates on move

Smaller prisons are more expensive to operate per inmate, so the state will focus on expanding larger facilities, DOC spokesman Keith Acree said.

"It's an economy of scale issue. It's efficiency," he said.

Some prisoners will now have to share cells, but Acree said the state won't repeat conditions from the 1980s, when prisons were so crowded that inmates sued and won. Shortly after that, the state capped the number of inmates and started building more prisons.

Following the inmate suit, the DOC has tried to operate at no more than 130 percent of standard operating capacity – one inmate in each cell or 50 square feet per inmate in dorms. Prisons were at 119 percent of capacity before the latest round of closings.

"We are in a much better position now than the state was 15 to 20 years ago," Acree said.

James Lacewell, superintendent at Guilford Correctional, said the facility has tried to rehabilitate prisoners with the community's help.

"At one time, we had close to 100 churches involved," Lacewell said.

Programs at the prison have been so successful that some inmates tried to get transferred there with good behavior.

"It ain't just like we are just locked up and they don't care. They care about us here," inmate Corey Alston said.

"God changed my life, and (prison) staff helped along with it," inmate Brian Bass said.

Lacewell said seeing the prison close is difficult.

"I guess instead of looking at it as the end, we look at it as a new beginning," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • melhanpow Sep 30, 2009

    cold hands warm heart,
    I have to agree. If living in tents are good enough for our troops then its good enough for the inmates.

  • G-man Sep 30, 2009

    Could have created 1/3 of that number of cells just by executing whats on death row.

  • scarletindurham Sep 30, 2009

    Let all the marijuana offenders go. You'd have plenty of room then.

  • heavye Sep 30, 2009

    Mr. Acree, its easy for you to say we are much better than we were 15 years ago, because you are sitting in a nice office in Raleigh telling the public what you are told to say. If you were in the dorms or on the streets trying to keep up with the mess that the legislators have created for the rank and file you wouldn't be saying that... most P/O's as you know are supervising multiple caseloads and numerous officers are even supervising more than one county..... I have worked in both the ncdoc depts. for almost 20 years and it was alot easier back then.... Lord knows what the C/o's are putting up with now? I guess Small v. Martin, didn't matter? Since these inmates have to go somewhere....

  • cold hands warm heart Sep 30, 2009

    NC needs to have a chat with Sheriff Joe from Tent City in AZ.

  • colliedave Sep 29, 2009

    so if we know someone in the system, is there any way to find out where they are? shirleyr1

    the DOC web site should provide the location of that individual

  • OpinionOnEverything Sep 29, 2009

    Don't send them to Durham! We can't even keep violent probation violater in prison due to overcrowding.

  • 3779LRRP Sep 29, 2009

    No, No, No.... Don't shut down prisons.... build more! We need them.

  • shirleyr1 Sep 29, 2009

    so if we know someone in the system, is there any way to find out where they are?