Harnett Correctional Institution
by Tracy Little 

LILLINGTON _ Take a walk through the 30 acres of the Harnett Correctional Institution compound and one thing is clear: this is a facility that keeps inmates busy. From processing meat products to computer repair classrooms, staff and inmates are involved in a multitude of work assignments and programs.

Harnett is a medium-custody institution that houses 850 adult male inmates. Superintendent Martin McDade and staff operate the facility with confidence in themselves and in what they do. "We try to do a lot of things, but not spread ourselves too thin," said McDade, a 32-year DOC veteran who began his career as a nurse at Central Prison. "I think the taxpayers are getting their money's worth here. The staff produces a lot of good work."

The vocational and educational programs at Harnett are operated by Central Carolina Community College. The education school offers ABE and GED preparation courses. Vocational training includes courses in masonry, electrical wiring, auto mechanics, small engine repair, welding, computer repair, facility maintenance and food service. The programs are as diverse as one will find at any other prison in the state, said Bill Tyson, who heads the education program for Central Carolina. Several of the programs have been cited for excellence. For example, welding students have won national awards for their projects, Tyson said. Harnett is currently participating in a cooperative venture with other state agencies to construct bluebird nest boxes to be distributed to fifth graders across North Carolina. "We try to look for projects that not only teach the inmates the skills, but also give something back to the community," Tyson said.

Harnett is home to the Division of Prisons' sex offender treatment program known as SOAR (Sex Offender Accountability and Responsibility) which began in 1991. SOAR is designed to keep inmates from re-offending. The program usually has about 35 inmates in the program at any one time, and gets about 100 referrals for those slots. Program Director Robert Carbo says the support from Harnett has helped make the program a success. "Ours is a program that might not be wanted at some other facilities. But we have good support from the management here in what we're trying to accomplish."

Touring the prison compound from building to building, there are few inmates in the dorms or on the exercise yard. Everyone who can participate in some type of activity does. 

Correction Enterprises operates two plants at Harnett -- meat processing and janitorial products. The meat processing plant produces about 200,000 pounds of meat products each month. The products are stored in a freezer, then later shipped to prison units throughout the state. The janitorial products plant produces and packages, among other products, glass cleaner, floor waxes and bar soap bearing the NCCE logo.

Over in the chapel, clinical chaplain J. Stancil Baucom is busy preparing for religious services and volunteer programs. The freestanding chapel was constructed with donations received from the Community Resource Council and local churches. Inside, Baucom takes a minute to show off the altar furniture that was built by inmates in the woodworking program. He quickly points out that churches can also have the inmates build furniture for them as well, if they provide the materials. There are about 70 religious meetings representing 10 to 12 religious affiliations each month. About 75 religious volunteers donate time at the facility each month, he said.

Harnett opened in 1936 as a one-dormitory unit that was built adjacent to the state highway department, which operated prisons at the time. In 1965, an expansion of the unit increased capacity to 450 and soon afterward Harnett became a facility for male inmates under 21. In 1985, Harnett was converted to a medium security prison for adult males and was designated as a comprehensive education facility. Today approximately one-third of the inmate population are serving life sentences.

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