Gov. Bev Perdue said today the mistreatment of mentally ill inmates at Central Prison is "unacceptable."
The problems came to light in the Division of Prisons's own internal review of Central's hospital, where mentally ill inmates are housed.
The report, finished in August, details some shocking problems: inmates locked in tiny cells for weeks on end, pools of urine in cells, roach infestations, incorrect medication, faulty record-keeping, insufficient supervision of suicidal inmates, lack of training, understaffing, and many more issues.
The AP's Michael Biesecker had this story on the report Sunday. The report itself is even more shocking. That's here.
Asked about the report today, Perdue said prison officials are working quickly to correct all the problems the report found, and said the upcoming move of the prison's mental health patients into a newly built ward should improve the situation.
"Now let me be very direct," Perdue said. "Nobody expects any luxurious treatment for any prisoners. They’re there for a reason. But we also expect there to be very decent, humane, healthy conditions for the prison population. This is unacceptable to me."
"This kind of behavior that was documented in the article is unacceptable, it’s unacceptable to [incoming Corrections chief] Jennie Lancaster, it’s unacceptable to [current Corrections Secretary] Al Keller, and I believe you’ll see an end to it as we move into the new hospital," she added.
Unacceptable or not, the problems in the report haven't yet led to any firings. According to the Division of Prisons, "no one individual was responsible for the total health services operations at Central Prison" during the time period covered by the report, and various key positions were left unfilled for months or years.
Most recently, the report says, even positions deemed critically important were left empty till July 2011 to help the department accomplish its required budget cuts.
Perdue blamed the budget for the prison's woes.
"We’ve been in the toughest economy since the Great Depression. Everybody knows that. And one of the places that’s been cut over and over and over is the Corrections system," she said. "You cannot provide mental health services to a prison population that is not the best-behaved to start with without having staffers to do that."
"We need a larger confined space with more professionals to watch over their mental health treatment," she added. "But always, always remember that they are prisoners. They’re there for a reason."