Local News

Bertie County inmates build their own prison

Posted January 19, 2011 4:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2011 6:51 p.m. EST

— Inmates are building space for an additional 500 beds in the already filled-to-capacity Bertie County Correctional facility.

Correction Administrator Renoice Stancil said the project is critical and cost effective.

“(It) saves the state a lot of money. It benefits the inmates especially with overcrowding,” Stancil said.

Everything from masonry to electrical work is being done by those serving prison sentences, like Andrew Parish.

“It’s the best thing in the world to come out here and work. It takes me away from that environment,” Parish said.

Stancil said the work also keeps inmates “out of trouble” and helps them be more productive.

The construction program is designed to help complete necessary expansion projects in tough budget times. The program currentlys employ 590 inmates to build minimum and medium-security dorms across the state.

It is estimated that the inmate construction project will save the state nearly $27 million. The first seven projects will add 2,700 prison beds in the state by 2012.

Inmates can earn up to $3 a day, which is significantly cheaper than the $25 an hour some contractors charge.

“This is where you can see a significant amount of cost savings to the taxpayers,” said Dale Aiken, director of construction for the North Carolina Department of Correction.

Participants can also earn a Department of Labor Certification to help transition this experience to good jobs on the outside when their sentence is done.

“It gives them a tremendously better shot at making it once they get out,” Aiken said.

Parrish said he hopes the program will help him avoid ever going back to prison. 

“It makes me feel good that at least I have accomplished something,” he said. “I can take this trade with me. I have three children that it will help me take care of them when I get out.”