One of North Carolina’s largest and most troubled prisons, Lanesboro Correctional Institution, will be turned into a prison for women in an effort to improve safety and security. Two prisons in Montgomery and Greene counties that currently hold women will be converted to maximum security prisons for men.
Those prisons have smaller housing blocks than those in Lanesboro. Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter says that will make it easier to manage these inmates.
“We are converting the facilities to enhance safety and security and improve management of close custody male inmates who require greater supervision by moving them into smaller facilities and smaller housing units,” says Lassiter.
Lanesboro Correctional Institution opened in 2004 and is about 40 miles southeast of Charlotte. It houses about 1,800 inmates. A Charlotte Observer investigation found that at least eight Lanesboro officers were caught bringing in contraband for inmates from early 2013 to early 2017. Several officers and inmates have been attacked there since the prison opened.
The state’s prison system has long been dealing with a staffing shortage throughout the 55 prisons it runs. The state needs to hire 1,300 correctional officers in addition to filling hundreds of vacant positions to adequately supervise inmates, said Lassiter.
“We believe that the changes will help us be more successful at recruiting and retaining staff for custody, program, medical, and mental health work at Lanesboro,” said Judge Reuben Young, Interim Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice.
Five North Carolina prison employees were killed in attacks by inmates last year. A justice department report found that Pasquotank Correctional Institute in Elizabeth City was so understaffed that workers cut corners which contributed to an attack in October where four employees lost their lives.
Prison officials say it will take a year to make the changes.