North Carolina Department of Correction news release

JANUARY 29, 1998

Inmate labor to help Western North Carolina communities

At the direction of Gov. Jim Hunt more than 75 North Carolina prisoners are working across Western North Carolina counties today helping to dig out from the snow that’s blanketed mountain communities for the last two days.

"We’re going to do everything we can to help our people recover from this severe winter storm," Gov. Hunt said. "I’ve directed the Department of Correction to put inmates to work with Emergency Management, the Department of Transportation and other agencies so that we can restore power and clear roads for our citizens in Western North Carolina."

Three work squads from Marion Correctional Institution were sent to Yancey County today to help with snow removal. Captain Johnny Poteat of Marion C.I. said the squads provide 30 inmates supervised by correctional officers to help clear snow.

Danny MacIntosh, Yancey County Emergency Management Coordinator, said the inmates will clear sidewalks and parking areas around public buildings and schools. Then the work squads will help with snow removal around the shelter set up at Burnsville Elementary School.

MacIntosh said there are still many roads closed in the area and a lot of people are without power, "This is the worst power outage we have ever had in the county." Emergency workers are busy today trying to get people without power to the shelters. MacIntosh said the inmates’ work is a tremendous help to the county and the public works department. "This really helps the public works center, because they really have more than they can handle right now. This is a big help to the county."

Five crews made up of correction and forestry officers and inmates from the Blue Ridge Youth Center have been working in Ashe, Avery, Madison and Watauga counties today and yesterday. Under the direction of Emergency Management, the squads have been using chain saws to remove trees from roadways so that utilities can restore power and snow plows can clear roadways.

"More than three feet of snow has fallen in parts of our county, but our crews have been able to make their way out in four-wheel-drive vehicles to provide assistance," Superintendent Keith Osteen of Blue Ridge Youth Center said. "This is another way the conversation skills forestry officers teach these young inmates can really help our community."

Two squads of inmates from Craggy Correctional Center at Asheville will be working with the Department of Transportation to clear trees from the roads in Madison County today. In Waynesville, a squad of Haywood Correctional Center inmates have been removing snow from sidewalks. Henderson Correctional Center inmates have worked to clear snow in Hendersonville and Jackson Park. Other prisons have assigned inmates to help Department of Transportation garages load salt trucks, build snow chains and attach snow ploughs to trucks.