Local News

State prison back to normal after Sunday bedtime disturbance

Posted August 4, 2014 12:58 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2014 6:55 p.m. EDT

— Operations at a state prison in Granville County were back to normal Monday after a group of inmates caused a disturbance Sunday night because they did not want to go to bed.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said the newly admitted prisoners were in a dormitory of about 120 inmates at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner when they began throwing items and ripped a television off a wall and hurled it through a window.

It happened around 10 p.m., Acree said, about an hour before lights-out. No one was injured.

Acree said the inmates also put furniture, chairs and bulletin boards against doors and windows to prevent detention officers from entering the area.

He wasn't sure Monday morning how many inmates were involved in the disturbance but said prison officials isolated the instigators. Other inmates in the dormitory were placed in single cells for monitoring, he said.

Despite initial reports of a riot in which employees were being held hostage, Acree said there was no riot.

Two employees who were in the area at the time were able to get away, he said.

"We have disturbances from time to time. I'm not aware of anything like this at Polk in recent memory," Acree said. "It's part of the nature of the prison environment."

According to the Department of Public Safety, Polk Correctional Institution is a close-custody men's prison with a capacity of 904 inmates.

Sunday's disturbance came a week after a correctional officer, Lamarque Lee, was arrested for attempting to take marijuana into the prison. Lee has resigned.

Acree said there's no known connection between the arrest and what happened Sunday.

Polk Correctional Institution also came under scrutiny in April when Frank Janssen, the father of a Wake County prosecutor, was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home and held hostage for five days in Atlanta.

Investigators say Kelvin Melton, an inmate serving a life sentence, masterminded the kidnapping from his cell using a smuggled cellphone.

Acree said the smuggling of phones, drugs and other contraband is something all prisons in the state are "constantly battling against."