AUGUST 6, 1996

Raleigh - More prisons, more prison work crews and tougher penalties were a few of the provisions agreed upon by state legislators during the recent 1996 session.

"Generally, I am pleased with the changes the members of the General Assembly made to the budget of the Department of Correction," Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman said. "Overall the department is in a good position to work more effectively due to the funding of new prisons and programs."

Legislators adopted many of the Gov. Jim Hunt's proposals to reduce the correction budget such as closing Polk Youth Center in Raleigh as well as Rockingham and Washington correction centers, two area offices and the reception center at Southern Correctional Institution.

New beds will be added through the purchase of $5 million worth of modular units to be located at existing prisons and the approval of 500 additional out-of-state-beds. More than $2.3 million was approved for the planning and design of new prisons in Alexander and Scotland counties and one in a metro area, and expansions at Central Prison, Warren Correctional Institution and the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women. The planning money will also be used to design a central office for the Department of Correction.

Private prison sites were chosen in Pamlico and Avery/Mitchell counties where two 500-bed single-cell prisons will be built by United States Corrections Corporation. The pilot plan to hot-bunk, or sleep inmates in shifts, was not funded.

Legislators agreed to expand the Governor's Community Work Program by 714 inmates which will increase the number of inmates working for governments and local communities in jobs such as painting, picking up trash and cutting underbrush to 1,974.

Three new probation officer positions were added to increase supervision of sex offenders. Several probation programs such as Women at Risk in Buncombe County, The John Hyman Foundation in Warren and Halifax counties to be expanded to Hertford County, and Summit House in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh received funding.

Tougher sentences were passed for some crimes such as selling handguns to minors or assaulting law enforcement officers. In addition, before inmates are released from prison, they will be tested for drugs.

Those counties which held state prisoners convicted and awaiting transfer to the Department of Correction since Jan. 1, 1996 will be reimbursed $14.50 a day through June 30, 1996. From that point on, the state will pay $40 per day.

"The state has come a long way in a few short years in housing its dangerous offenders," Freeman said. "Now that adequate prison space has been funded, keeping dangerous criminals behind bars longer, the Department of Correction plans to put more focus on community corrections."