James B. Hunt, Governor
Joe Hamilton, Secretary
Patty McQuillan, Public Information Director

Correction News
November 1998

Department of Correction
214 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27603
(919) 733-4926

Joe Hamilton named acting secretary

Probation officer patrols town by bike

Spotlight on New Hanover Community Corrections

Moore selected to head Catawba

Osteen new superintendent at Henderson

Officers respond to mock disaster

Death Sentence,
a new book by Jerry Bledsoe

Special Olympics needs volunteers

JDM retires after long career in the west

Two superintendents retire

Personnel Corner

News briefs


Brown Creek uses worms to reduce waste
Recycling program affects everything from coffee cups to clothes

POLKTON — Slithering through coffee grounds, kitchen waste and shredded paper, thousands of redworms are "doing time" at Brown Creek Correctional Institution. Confined in steel bins located on the prison grounds, the worms spend their days and nights eating their way through the prison’s garbage, transforming the waste into fertilizer that will later be used to grow vegetables and flowers.

Officer Ted Sedberry explains how
reusable items are baled and sold to

Composting with worms, known as vermicomposting, is just one of many ways Brown Creek has found to turn its garbage into goodness. Since the implementation of an all-encompassing recycling program in October 1997, the prison has managed to decrease the amount of garbage it sends to the landfill by 110 tons, making it one of the most environmentally-friendly prisons in the state.

Through composting alone, both with and without worms, Brown Creek was able to keep more than 42 tons of organic matter out of the landfill during the first eight months of its recycling program.

Superintendent Rick Jackson said he decided to start the recycling program after taking a close look at just how much garbage was being sent to the landfill on an annual basis.

"In 1996-97, we didn’t do a good job of recycling," Jackson said. "That year we disposed of 333 tons of garbage, so we got together and started planning ways to reduce that amount. This year we only disposed of 223 tons of garbage and managed to save the state more than $4,000 in disposal fees."

As soon as the first-shift officers arrive for work in the morning, recycling plays a part in their day. Gone are the Styrofoam cups once used for coffee. Now staff must bring their own mugs from home if they want that extra caffeine boost to help them get through the day. Jackson said the inmates also have their own mugs – gifts provided to them by the staff at Christmas.

In addition to eliminating Styrofoam, staff at Brown Creek have also eliminated milk cartons by switching to a milk dispensing system and replaced paper towels in the restrooms with hand dryers. Plastic soft drink bottles were replaced with aluminum cans because they are more easily recycled, and 55-gallon drums of cleaning detergent have replaced the conventional five-gallon containers which used to be quickly emptied and added to the trash pile.

"We are constantly looking for ways to reduce the amount of items that end up being hauled off to the landfill," Jackson said. "Before we started all this, our Dumpster had to be emptied twice a week. Now we can go more than a month before it has to be emptied."

Brown Creek uses inmate labor to sort all the garbage produced at the prison by hand. Ten inmates make 70 cents a day sorting the trash into piles of paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic and steel. The sorted piles are then baled and sold to area vendors. From October 1997 to June 1998, Brown Creek made more than $5,000 for the state by selling reusable items to vendors.

Sgt. Don Edwards said an unexpected benefit to sorting all the trash by hand is that the prison finally found out what was happening to a lot of the inmates’ clothing.

"We felt like we were losing a lot of clothes, but we didn’t know where they were going," he said. "Recycling solved that problem for us. By sorting all of our trash, we found out that the inmates were throwing away their clothes, so they could get new ones."

Edwards said within the first month of the recycling program, $10,000 worth of inmate clothing was recovered, laundered and redistributed.

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