Under Fire for Negligence, North Carolina Prisons Chief Seeks New Funding for Mental Health Treatment

North Carolina corrections chief David Guice wants more than $20 million to improve the treatment of people with mental illness in the state’s prisons. His request comes on the heels of two recent reports showing neglect and abuse of prisoners with psychiatric disabilities in North Carolina, and the death in custody of one such individual, Michael Anthony Kerr. According to autopsy report findings released in September, Kerr died last March of dehydration after being held in solitary confinement for 35 days.
Guice heads up the state’s prison system as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. His request was made last Thursday at a meeting of the state’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety, held to discuss North Carolina’s treatment of prisoners suffering from mental illnesses.
At the meeting, Guice cited the difficulties in providing adequate care for 4,600 people – 12 percent of the total prison population – requiring mental health services. The prison system wants the state’s upcoming budget to include funding for more than 300 additional mental health care staff statewide, 64 more for Central Prison’s mental health unit, and 76 probation officers.
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ACLU: County Jails Are Not Compliant With Prison Rape Elimination Act

From: WUNC, May 15, 2014:

A new report from the ACLU of North Carolina suggests many of the state’s county jails are not compliant with sexual assault prevention measures. The group says of the state’s 100 counties, 58 responded to requests regarding the measures jails take to prevent the assault of prisoners. None of those 58 were in full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a 2003 federal law.

The group’s report focuses heavily on compliance involving inmates under the age of 18. Where most counties seem to be falling down is with keeping incarcerated youth (a particularly vulnerable population) separate from incarcerated adults.

“Their sleeping quarters are separated but the rest of the time they are not separated from the adult population,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. She points out that many facilities were not initially meant to house separate populations in the first place.

“The facilities never really were designed for juveniles, and therefore they were not designed to make it easy to keep the juveniles separate,” said Preston. “So we’re just kind of throwing these 16- and 17-year-olds in with the adult population. And that’s something that was a roadblock for some of these facilities that might want to comply.”

Nine of the 58 respondents looked to be attempting full-compliance, according to the report.

Read the rest here.