SEPTEMBER 29, 1997
Burgaw - Separated by hundreds of miles, prison managers in Raleigh
and Troy questioned a prison inmate in Burgaw, as the North Carolina information
highway brought them face-to-face to decide where to house the prison rules
||The inmate and the prison managers were conducting a classification
hearing and at the same time were pioneering the use of computer
and television communications technology at Pender and Southern correctional
institutions, the state's first prisons linked to the information highway.
"We're learning how to use this equipment to help employees work efficiently and safely," said Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis. "We eliminate transportation costs and provide employees's time for other duties when they walk to the information highway classroom, instead of driving one or two hours to a hearing. Our operations are safer any time we can reduce the need to move high security inmates."
There were four prison managers who took part in the hearing for the Pender Correctional Institution inmate. It would have been a three-and-a-half-hour drive for the three managers from Southern Correctional Institution in Troy to Pender and a 90-minute drive for the Raleigh prison manager. Figuring round trips for all four, the prison managers saved 24 hours of travel time they could devote to other duties.
At the hearing, the inmate looked into a television with four pictures on the screen showing the inmate, the hearing officers in Troy and a hearing officer in Raleigh. They were able to clearly see and hear each other.
Prison managers explained to the inmate their concerns about his behavior. In less than two months, he had nine infractions, including an assault on a correctional officer. They talked with the inmate about his infractions and then discussed housing options, deciding to place him in intensive control where he would remain in a cell 23 hours a day. During the other hour he could shower or exercise in the cellblock or an exterior cage.
The inmate's hearing took about 20 minutes. Nine more hearings were conducted that afternoon. The prisons have held monthly hearings over the information highway since May.
Prison managers have used the information highway to provide medical information and education classes for inmates and training for employees.
Hyde Correctional Center at Swan Quarter is being equipped to become the next prison linked to the state's information highway.