North Carolina Department of Correction news release

JANUARY 30, 1998

Prisoners clean up after snow storm in Western North Carolina

Answering Gov. Hunt’s call to put more inmates to work helping Western North Carolina communities clear snow, more than 250 inmates are helping today to dig out areas hardest hit by Tuesday’s snow storm.

During his tour of Western North Carolina yesterday, Gov. Hunt called State Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis directing that more be done to help mountain communities blanketed by up to three feet of snow. The snowstorm knocked out power and shut down highways in mountain counties. As roadways were cleared yesterday, state prisons put more than 75 inmates to work assisting in snow removal.

Today correction and forestry officers are leading 57 inmates from the Blue Ridge Youth Center and other Western North Carolina prisons. They’re using chain saws to help clear downed trees. The men have been divided into ten teams working primarily in Madison and Yancey counties.

"They clear out a stretch of trees, plow it and go on to the next stretch," said Keith Osteen, superintendent of the Blue Ridge unit near Newland. "They’re just continuing today what they began Tuesday." The work crews put in a twelve-hour day yesterday assisting the Department of Transportation in clearing roads.

Another 24 inmate work crews from nine Western North Carolina prisons are working in Avery, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties. Prison managers are coordinating with Emergency Management and the Department of Transportation to provide assistance where needed.

Three squads of inmate workers were sent from Caldwell Correctional Center to Avery County and another squad went to Bakersville. "They’ve asked us to clear snow from around public buildings and schools," said Sgt. Dale Stevens of the Caldwell prison. "We sent them out with shovels to help insure schools would be ready to re-open Monday."

As road conditions improve, prison managers are making plans to offer further inmate labor assistance through the weekend.

"These men are doing a great job helping communities suffering through the winter storm," Secretary Jarvis said. "They’ve accomplished a lot and endured a lot in getting the job done."