APRIL 29, 1996

RALEIGH - Even with the number of inmates having tripled in the past 25 years, the number of escapes from North Carolina prisons has dropped dramatically.

Prison managers point to a number of reasons for the decrease from 1600 escapes in 1975 to 200 escapes in 1995.

"Inmates are busier today. More inmates are working, in job training classes or treatment programs," said Lynn Phillips, director of the North Carolina Division of Prisons. "Correction officers are keeping inmates busy and program staff closely monitor inmates, counseling them through family crises and other difficult times."

Security improved with more correctional officers supervising dorms. Instead of walking from building to building, officers now stay in prison dorms at night monitoring inmates.

Technology has made escape more difficult. Motion detection systems have been built into security fences and surveillance cameras allow an officer to keep an eye on several locations. Computer information gives prison staff more detailed criminal information on inmates who are escape risks.

"Over the years, prison managers and correctional officers have made many improvements to ensure public safety," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "I'm proud of their record of progress and efforts to reduce the possibility of escapes."

In 1995, 201 inmates escaped from minimum security prisons. Half of the escapes were by minimum custody inmates away from the prison. Programs outside prison prepare inmates to make a successful return to their community by rebuilding ties with family, church and potential employers.

When escapes occur, state prisons work closely with local law enforcement to return offenders to custody. Once captured, escapees are punished. They face criminal charges of escape and administrative action for violating prison rules including a period of solitary confinement, additional prison time and demotion to a higher security prison. There were 205 total escapes last year and 196 offenders captured.

Escapes from Prison (1970-1995)
Average prison population Escapes Escapes per 1,000 inmates Captures
1970 9,678 1,338 138 1,231
1975 12,582 1,643 130 1,703
1980 15.145 690 45 783
1985 17,430 433 24 452
1990 18,420 382 20 409
1995 27,916 205 7 196