N.C. Department of Correction--News Release

Warren Correctional Institution Dedication
June 20, 1997

I’m glad to be with you as we gather to dedicate our state’s newest prison. I appreciate the chance to offer thanks to a number of people who made today possible.

First of all, I’d like to thank Gov. Jim Hunt. You may remember that back in 1993, Gov. Hunt directed the Department of Correction to find prison space to meet the state’s needs. We worked with the governor to speed up planned construction, push through legislation for additional construction and lease space in county jails and out-of-state prisons. In short order, we created space for another 10,000 prisoners.

In 1994, Gov. Hunt called a special session of the legislature to combat crime. During that session, he led the effort to fund new prison construction, including the funding for Warren Correctional Institution.

Warren is one of six new prisons we’re opening. When we finish the currently funded construction, our prison system will hold 35,000 offenders. Opening these new prisons will allow us to return all prisoners from out-of-state by the end of this calendar year.

Gov. Hunt’s leadership helped us regain control of the correction system and restore public faith in it. The federal courts recognized these accomplishments. Just a few months ago, I received an order signed by a federal judge ending the twelve years of federal court supervision of the North Carolina prison system.

Secondly, I would like to thank our correction staff. It is through their hard work that we’ve been able to accomplish so much so quickly. That order ending federal court supervision of our prisons is a result of your efforts in providing the state a safe and effective prison system.

I would also like to thank Bob Parrott and Ted Smiley and the Division of Prison managers that worked to open this prison. We’ve never opened a prison like this before.

When the legislature provided funds to build Warren, lawmakers asked that we consolidate the operations of five nearby prisons. So Parrott and Smiley opened a new prison, helped staff from the five old prisons find work at Warren or other units and then helped close the five old units. It was a tall order and they did a good job.

Many correction employees have spent their entire careers working at one prison and felt comfortable in those surroundings. Parrott and Smiley realized many of our staff were comfortable working at Granville, Halifax, Person, Vance and Warren correctional centers and they’ve worked hard to provide a similar environment at this facility. The new prison’s five dorms will be named after the five correctional centers.

Warren Correctional Institution will serve as a medium security unit for adult male offenders. The prison opens with space for 400. We are adding room for another 400. This new prison space will help us keep violent offenders in prison longer.

Opening Warren will allow us to put more prisoners to work. You will soon see squads of prisoners clearing brush from ditches and roadsides in Warren and nearby counties making highways safer and roadsides cleaner. We’ll put others to work inside the prison cooking meals, keeping the prison and grounds clean and helping with maintenance.

Warren will also have an impact on the community. The current prison staff numbers 160. By the time we reach full operation with about 300 employees, our payroll will bring more than $8 million into the community annually.

We’ve worked hard to address the state’s crime problems and improve our correction system. This year Gov. Hunt asked for our support of his education proposals.

I’m happy to report to you that our General Assembly has approved The Governor’s Excellent Schools education package and Gov. Hunt will sign it into law next week. It will help children start school healthy and ready to learn, will provide safe and orderly classrooms and will help us get and keep the best teachers in our classrooms.

Strengthening our state’s schools benefits our correction system. Of the people who entered our prisons last year, 80 percent could not read at a twelfth grade level. Twelve percent were functionally illiterate. Quality education that prepares students for successful careers will make our state a better place to live and may be the best crime prevention tool around.

That’s why we should support the expansion of Smart Start to all 100 counties, volunteer for Support our Students to reach at-risk youth in middle school and back increased teacher pay and performance. I want my grandchildren and all of our children to have better schools.

Finally, I want to say a few words about our next speaker. You all know Senator Frank Ballance. Senator Ballance is a leader in this community and in the state senate. He is serving his fifth term for the 2nd District.

Senator Ballance is Chairman of the Select Committee on The Future of the Courts, Vice Chairman of Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety and serves on a number of other legislative panels.

Senator Ballance has been a supporter of our department and an ally in getting this prison built. We are able to dedicate this prison today because of Senator Ballance’s leadership. Thank you, Senator!

Would you please welcome Senator Frank Ballance.....

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