North Carolina Department of Correction news release

End of Federal Court Supervision of NC Prisons Another Sign of Gov. Hunt's Success

FEBRUARY 27, 1997

RALEIGH -- An order ending federal court jurisdiction over North Carolina prisons is another sign of the changes Gov. Jim Hunt's administration has made in the state's criminal justice system.

The Department of Correction has received a court order from U.S. District Judge Earl Britt ending federal court jurisdiction over state prisons. Inmates sued the state in the 1980s asking for an end to triple bunking and improved conditions in 49 prisons.

"We are glad to see the end of federal court oversight," said state Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis. "But even more important has been the leadership of Gov. Hunt and Franklin Freeman and the hard work of correction professionals in re-establishing public trust in our system."

Gov. Hunt and former Correction Secretary Freeman pushed the prison population from 20,351 at the end of 1992 to 30,775 at the end of 1996. They sped up planned construction, pushed through legislation for additional construction and leased space in county jails and out-of-state prisons to immediately meet the state's needs and bring an end to the policy of using early parole to free up prison space. Paroles decreased from a high of 26,784 in 1993 to 12,461 in 1996.

Since 1993, eight new prisons have opened, dormitories or new housing units have been added at 38 prisons and space at state boot camps has quadrupled. This year, Craven Correctional Institution, Dan River Prison Work Farm, Hyde Correctional Center, North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women, Polk Youth Institution and Warren Correctional Institution are opening.

The new prisons provide prison managers many secure prison cells and new facilities where inmates can be put to work. Facilities such as the Dan River Prison Work Farm were designed to work inmates on a new farm and in new work programs.

The Hunt Administration successfully pursued arguments in court and passage of Structured Sentencing in the legislature. In 1994, the court agreed to relax housing standards, allowing prison managers to house 136 inmates in new dormitories that had been rated for 104. Appropriate management of prisons showed the federal court more offenders could be housed in dormitories. Passage of structured sentencing brought truth-in-sentencing and emphasized keeping violent and repeat offenders in prison longer.

The federal court order required state prisons to increase staffing while reducing the number of inmates housed in dormitories at the 49 prisons, most of which were built 60 years ago. In 1996, five minimum security prisons housing 36 to 52 inmates and costing $60 to $121 per offender per day to operate were closed. The average cost of operating a minimum security prison is $47.87. In additional cost saving action, three medium security prisons were converted to minimum security.

"We will continue to build on the sound footing Gov. Hunt and Mr. Freeman established," said Jarvis. "We will work towards the goals of returning out-of-state inmates to North Carolina by the end of this year, operating prisons efficiently, keeping violent offenders in prison longer and putting inmates to work."