Local News

Another corrections officer attacked in NC prison

Posted October 26, 2017 9:55 a.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2017 7:21 p.m. EDT

— A corrections officer at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh was assaulted Thursday morning by a female inmate, according to a prison spokesman.

The officer was treated at WakeMed for non-life-threatening injuries and released.

Authorities didn't release the names of the inmate or the officer.

Jerry Higgins, a spokesman for the state Division of Adult Corrections, said he couldn't comment on whether a weapon was involved in the assault.

An investigation is underway, Higgins said.

The attack comes two weeks after two workers at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City were killed during an escape attempt. Authorities said correctional officer Justin Smith, 35, and Correction Enterprises manager Veronica Darden were attacked with scissors and hammers reportedly obtained from a sewing shop that was part of an inmate work program.

Four inmates there have been charged with murder in their deaths.

Ten other correctional officers and prison employees were also injured in that attack, three of them seriously.

In April, Sgt. Meggan Callahan was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor. According to her autopsy, which was released Wednesday, she died of head trauma after being bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher.

Bertie Correctional was only 80 percent staffed at the time.

Attracting and retaining correctional staff has been a problem in the state prison system for years. About 15 percent of positions are currently vacant.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina says those vacancies make the job more dangerous, and the group is pushing for higher pay for corrections officers, especially those who work in high-security areas.

"A correctional officer is assaulted every eight hours in one of North Carolina's desperately understaffed prisons," said SEANC executive director Mitch Leonard in a statement. "Officers work 12- to 16-hour shifts supervising as many as 100 inmates with nothing more than a three-ounce can of pepper spray to defend themselves. And for this risk, they do not even receive law enforcement benefits. This is unjust to the employees and unsafe for the public. It's time to stop sweeping this problem under the rug before more lives are lost."

Legislative leaders have pledged to raise those salaries over the next 10 years, but SEANC says it needs to happen more quickly.

The state Department of Public Safety is reviewing procedures and possible new technology to improve security at prisons statewide.