North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women
Dedication ceremonies
November 19, 1997

Comments by Secretary Mack Jarvis

I’m glad to be with you today. This is an important day for the North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women and the North Carolina Department of Correction.

We are here to dedicate this building and to take heart in what it symbolizes. Some will see this facility as a place to work. Some will see it as a place of punishment. Some will see it as a classroom. For others, it will be a place to visit mothers, wives or daughters. I hope all of us will come to see this building as a place where lives can change.

We will have 44 employees working here. They are professionals doing an important job for our state. Each day they will work to make a difference in people’s lives. As correction employees you will work together day-after-day and you will be more than co-workers. Through your shared experiences, you will build strong ties. You will become a team, almost a family.

This prison will house 140 inmates. They will be separated from their families. They will dress in the clothes we provide, eat the food we select and follow the schedule we make for them. Inmates will be required to work. They will be put to work in this prison and in this community. The inmates will work in the prison kitchen as bakers, cooks, food preparers and dish washers. They will keep the buildings and the grounds clean. They will be put to work in other jobs that help us efficiently run this prison.

This prison will have two community work squads. We now have more than 1,000 inmates working in this program across the state. Correctional officers supervise inmate crews in short term, manual labor jobs for local governments and public agencies. They may paint buildings, pick up litter, clean up illegal tire dumps--tasks we can safely accomplish for city or county governments. This work force can extend local government’s ability to brighten and clean up communities.

As a minimum security prison, this facility will be working to prepare offenders for their return to the community. Work release is an important partnership between businesses and the prison. It provides inmates the opportunity to develop job skills and build a work history. Businesses that meet our requirements may be asked to provide work release employment for inmates. More than 1,000 inmates are on work release each work day in our state. In 1957, North Carolina businesses teamed up with the Department of Correction to become the first state in the nation to offer work release. We have had a successful partnership for 40 years.

While these women are imprisoned here, they are separated from their families. Maintaining family ties can be a strong incentive for offenders to turn their lives around. At Black Mountain Correctional Center, inmate mothers have had weekend retreats with their children under the supervision of staff and religious volunteers. At Fountain Correctional Center, mothers and their daughters meet regularly as a Girl Scout troop. At the Correctional Institution for Women, we have Mother Read and MATCH. In Mother Read, illiterate mothers are taught to read and write so they can communicate with their children. The MATCH program teaches inmates parenting skills and provides a supervised place for mother and child to visit.

One simple benefit of putting this prison here is that it may reduce travel time for families visiting inmates. This is the only prison for female offenders between Raleigh and Black Mountain. By housing offenders from this region here, visitors’ travel time will be reduced.

Superintendent Anne Harvey and her staff have already begun to forge relationships that will benefit this facility. Five training classes have been held to prepare 120 people to serve as volunteers. People have stepped forward to lead Bible studies and worship services. Davidson Community College instructors have led a six-week parenting class. And I understand, the prison has launched a project that should make a number of little girls happy over the holidays. A Charlotte business has donated a number of dolls that inmates will clothe and then provide to social services and a children’s home.

I think the hard work of Superintendent Harvey and her staff and the tremendous support they’re receiving within our department and from the community shows a great deal of faith. One of my favorite stories of faith comes from the first "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book. It is the story of an earthquake and a parent’s love.

In 1989, an earthquake shook Armenia killing over 30,000 people. In one community, a father rushed to his son’s school only to find it flattened. He remembered a promise he had made to his son: no matter what, I’ll always be there for you. He made his way through the rubble to where his son’s classroom had been and removed one stone and then another. Emergency workers offered no hope and tried to convince him to return home. But all by himself, the man continued to dig into the rubble. He worked 8 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours. Then in the 38th hour, he rolled back a stone and heard his son’s voice.

"Is that you son?" he called out.

"Yes," called back the boy. "I knew you would save us. You promised no matter what, you would always be there for me. You did it, Dad!"

"How is it?" the father asked.

"There are 14 out of 33 of us left. We’re scared, hungry and thirsty," the son said.

"Come on out," the father called.

"Take the others out first," the son said. "Because I know that no matter what you’ll be there for me."

"Take the others out first." What a statement of faith. Thirty-eight hours of back breaking work after all others had given up hope. That is faith in action.

The people sent to this prison made decisions that buried their lives in rubble every bit as deep as this man’s son. We need people with the faith of this father to dig through that rubble and reach them. They need a life-changing experience.

As we dedicate this building today, let’s think of the many hopes and expectations that people bring to this place. Let us work together to make this a place of new beginnings.

Thank you.

NC DOC Correction News- December 1997
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