Deadly Escape Attempt Spotlights NC Prison Violence

Assaults on North Carolina prison personnel had increased this year even before a deadly escape attempt Oct. 12 at Pasquotank Correctional Institute. Two officers, a vocational instructor and a maintenance worker were killed, and four inmates are charged with murder.

North Carolina prisons were already a more dangerous place to work before four employees at an understaffed prison were killed during a failed breakout last month, the deadliest in state history, reports the Associated Press. Assaults on prison staff so far this year are 50 percent higher than five years ago, according to state prison data. The number of incidents have nearly doubled at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, site of last month’s failed escape. The increase in assaults occurred even though the prison system has cut the number of inmates by 3,000 since 2011. Department of Public Safety officials declined to discuss the reasons for the growing danger.

Sixty-nine assaults on employees were reported across the state’s 55 prisons as of Nov. 2, compared to an average of 55 per year between 2012 and 2016. The head of the legislative committee likely to shape prison reforms said Thursday that legislators are determined to improve safety, salaries and staffing levels in the wake of the Pasquotank deaths, and a fifth guard killed at a nearby prison earlier this year. The last time a prison worker was killed was 2010. “This is an ongoing commitment to improving,” said Rep. Ted Davis, a New Hanover County Republican who heads the unified legislative committee overseeing public safety. Two correctional officers, a vocational instructor in the prison’s sewing plant and a maintenance worker died, and four inmates are charged with murder in the Pasquotank escape attempt on Oct. 12.