Local News

Inmates running state DOT hotline for weather calls

Posted January 29, 2010 7:03 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2010 4:59 p.m. EST

— Got questions this weekend about the condition of the state's roads, closures and detours?

Call the North Carolina Department of Transportation's customer service line at 877-DOT4YOU, and more than likely, you'll be talking with an inmate at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women.

The DOT service line is usually run by three employees from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but because of winter weather, it will be open 24 hours over the weekend.

The calls will be forwarded to the prison, where trained inmate operators, who usually take calls for the North Carolina Division of Travel and Tourism, use DOT resources to answer calls.

Susan Leonard, who is serving a prison sentence for a second-degree murder conviction, says the job is the most coveted in the prison. Qualified inmates can earn up to $3 a day.

"You're away from the compound," Leonard said. "You're away a lot of the day. It's peaceful, usually quiet here."

The state has used the prison call center before for weather-related emergencies, including a snowfall in 2000 when the Triangle received 20 inches of snow.