North Carolina Department of Correction

Western Youth Institution - 25 Years of Service

--Leon Morrow, superintendent

In May 1972, a Correctional Officer's pay range was from $497 to $654 per month. Gas was 33.9 cents per gallon, and bread was four loaves for $1.00. Also in May 1992, Western Correctional Center (now known as Western Youth Institution), was new. According to an article in the Morganton News Herald, "There has never been such a unit created within North Carolina’s prison system. As its 16 stories cause it to differ structurally from the traditional . . . prisons . . . it differs in concept from the penology of a generation ago [and] . . . embodies the latest thinking in inmate care . . . " Western Youth Institution

The silver anniversary of Western Youth Institution was celebrated by 386 current employees and a host of retirees, dignitaries, and visitors May 1, 1997. Secretary Mack Jarvis provided a keynote address at a meal made available by the local state employees association chapter. He said he helped open the prison in 1972 and the lessons learned and the people he worked with at Western helped shape his view of corrections and helped him seek to shape the correctional system we’re building together today. Secretary Jarvis said that we have made important changes in our correctional system in the last four years and put an end to policies that eroded the public’s faith in corrections. It was a special honor to have Secretary Jarvis at WYI, since he was the Superintendent of the facility from January 1975 until August 1977. Other honored guests included Dan Stieneke, Director of Prisons, (a former Superintendent of WYI), and Dr. James White (retired) the prison's first superintendent.

Bob Smith, retired Assistant Superintendent of WYI, was the emcee. He had the luncheon crowd of around 160 people in stitches with his jokes and humorous anecdotes. Other speakers described the long relationships between the prison and agencies such as Western Piedmont Community College, Western Carolina Center, The Division of Forestry, and Vocational Rehabilitation. Johnnie Carswell, state employee association chapter president presented a plaque to the institution.

The current Superintendent, Leon Morrow, took time to express appreciation to Assistant superintendent Helen Harringer, for organizing the celebration. Mr. Morrow also pointed out that the facility has incarcerated about 35,000 inmates over the years. In addition to protecting the public from all of these offenders, many of them have been put to work doing jobs such as mopping, working on public roads, and fighting fires. Most inmates have been given an opportunity to become better citizens through educational and other treatment programs. Mr. Morrow concluded his comments by saying that "for 25 years this facility has done what it was asked to do by the government of N.C."

Western Youth Institution

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