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New Polk Facility Equipped to Handle Violent Juvenile Offenders to the Max

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BUTNER — We are often shocked by news of violent crimes committed by young people. As those offenders are tried and convicted, the prison system has to deal with a more violent prison population.

Polk Youth Institutionin Butner is now better equipped than most other prisons in the country to handle the most violent inmates.

"The inmates coming in now are a lot more violent," says superintendent George Currie.

Currie has seen that violent trend increase over the last seven years working as assistant superintendent at the "Old Polk" facility in Raleigh. Now he is the man in charge at the new, ultramodern prison in Butner.

"The inmates coming in now seem to have the attitude that, regardless of where I'm at, you still owe me," he says.

When the inmates take that attitude to the extreme, a trip to the 8-month-old Supermax facility is their reward. Here they have no contact with other inmates and very little contact with guards.

Supermax inmates spend one hour each day in the recreation area and then return to their cell. They are fed through an opening in the cell door. If a guard opens the door, the toilet is automatically flushed.

The facility at Butner also has lower levels of security. Good behavior is rewarded with privileges, open spaces and opportunity.

"In this facility we have amodern school. We have full-time teachers, we have well-equipped classrooms. We have program space where we can offer various programs that we didn't have in the old prison," says Currie.

Dorm rooms have large open areas visible to guards and cameras. Between here and Supermax is another level of control for uncooperative inmates.

"One advantage we have here that we did not have at the 'Old Polk' are single cells," says Currie.

Currie says other youth prisons around the country will follow Polk's high-tech, high security example. He says each news report of violent crime committed by youths confirms the need.

"It's definitely putting us on notice that life as we know it, even prison life as we have known it, is not the same anymore," Currie says.

Polk Youth Institution houses inmates ages 19 to 21.

The "Old Polk" Youth Institution which closed in November 1997 was designed to hold 350 inmates. The new facility in Butner houses up to 1,076.


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