North Carolina Department of Correction - Correction News - December 1998

General Assembly closes four prisons

Raleigh — In its closing budget, the N.C. State Legislature closed four of the nine prisons Gov. Jim Hunt recommended closing, funded 51 prison medical positions and eliminated execution by gas.

"Gov. Jim Hunt and the General Assembly continue to look after the needs of the department while correction management works to make the department a more effective and efficient agency," said Acting Secretary Joe Hamilton.

Four small prison field units, Alexander, Martin, Mecklenburg and Sandy Ridge correctional centers will close by the end of January. Those four prisons, with a combined capacity of 196 beds, were recommended for closing by a 1991 government audit committee which said the 1930-era prisons were inefficient to operate because of their small size. Stanly and Union correctional centers will be converted from medium to minimum custody prisons, and Scotland, Stokes and Alamance correctional centers will remain open.

Planning funds were provided for the design of a new 90-bed acute care hospital at Central Prison, part of the master plan for improving the state’s largest high security prison.

Thirty-nine medical positions were approved for the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women which is under a class-action lawsuit, 11 positions go to the Central Prison Hospital and one position was approved for a new physician director for the Division of Prisons.

The Department of Correction requested that death by gas be eliminated as a method of execution, citing the danger to state employees. The General Assembly approved that request, and for the next two years, executions will only be carried out by lethal injection.

Victims of crime in Wake and Craven counties will be helped by a continuing probation pilot program. Victims with concerns about restitution or knowing the whereabouts of an offender will have an advocate in those probation offices to turn to for help.

Offenders who complete the IMPACT program will receive closer supervision by probation officers as part of a pilot program that has been expanded. Legislative action will allow the program to continue in Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Nash and Edgecombe and New Hanover counties. Additional funds will allow another county to be added in 1999.

Other items in the budget include reducing the staff at the Parole Commission by eight positions, increasing the amount of personal funds an inmate can draw down weekly from $35 to $40, providing funds to upgrade Summit House facilities, adding a program assistant I at Iredell Correctional Center and adding a modular housing unit at Henderson Correctional Center.

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