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Update on Raise the Age Implementation Plans Also Provided

Raleigh – Today during its quarterly meeting, the Governor’s Crime Commission discussed  prison management practices and efforts to improve safety at North Carolina prisons.

“We’re continuing to work to identify proven safety and security practices we can implement to make North Carolina’s prisons safer, with many improvements already put in place,” Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. “We’re looking at all options for making our prisons and those who work in them as safe as possible, and I look forward to receiving the commission’s full report and recommendations.”

As part of the discussion, the Commission heard about a study of best practices from across the country requested by Secretary Hooks.

Ensuring the safety of Public Safety employees, visitors and inmates within prison facilities is a top priority for Secretary Hooks. Under his leadership the Department of Public Safety has already taken a number of steps to make prisons safer. Those measures include:

*Removed inmates meeting a certain violent offender profile from work assignments that use or have access to cutting and/or impact tools while assignment policies and procedures are under review.  This resulted in more than 250 inmates being immediately removed from Correction Enterprises work assignments.
*Permanently made offenders convicted of a violent crime against a government official and/or law enforcement ineligible for assignment to any work station or environment where cutting and/or impact tools are available except in rare cases where approved by the Director of Prison’s Office.
*Requested the National Institute of Corrections to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the safety and security operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, as well as all aspects of Correction Enterprises’ safety protocols to include staffing patterns, inmate worker placement assessments, training and operational procedures.  The NIC team was on site from Nov. 6-10 and we anticipate receiving its report with recommendations later this month.
*Permanently shut down operations at the Pasquotank Sewing Plant.
*Suspended operations at the Lanesboro Correctional Institution Metal Products Plant and Caledonia Correctional Institution Cannery to conduct a safety, security and accountability review. (See complete list of action items below.)

In June, Secretary Hooks asked the GCC to coordinate a study to identify best practices for improving safety and security in prisons. The GCC engaged the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University to conduct the study, which included talking with nationally recognized organizations such as the American Correctional Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the Vera Institute.  The study also included interviews with corrections professionals from seven other states, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Areas of focus of the study include:
*Hiring practices for correctional officers, including screening of candidates;
*Training of correctional officers and all prison staff;
*Staffing at the facilities;
*Security procedures to interdict contraband; and
*Measures to detect and address staff misconduct;

“The subcommittee will work with the department to identify priorities going forward and options for implementation of the commission’s recommendations,” said Cal Cunningham, GCC vice chairman and chairman of the Prison study task force.

Also during today’s meeting, William Lassiter, deputy secretary for Juvenile Justice, provided an overview on the department’s planning and implementation of “Raise the Age,” part of the Juvenile Reinvestment Act passed in S257/S.L. 2017-57. Lassiter discussed why North Carolina lawmakers voted to increase the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 effective Dec. 1, 2019; the specifics of this change and its impacts on juvenile justice system processes; and how planning and implementation of this law will take place, through input of the newly formed Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee.