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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UPDATED: From One North Carolina Prison, Reports of an Eight-Month Lockdown

September 11, 2014 | Solitary Watch | 

UPDATE (September 18, 2014): Solitary Watch received the following statement via email from North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson Keith Acree:

The evolving lockdown situation at Scotland Correctional Institution has affected about 600 inmates in close custody regular population housing. The medium custody (~540) and minimum custody (~240) populations have not been affected nor have those on control status (~230). The entire prison population today is 1,663.

We implement lockdowns when needed to ensure the safety of inmates and staff and to prevent injuries. The December lockdown was prompted by a series of fights between large groups of inmates at Scotland that resulted in injuries to inmates and staff. Since the beginning of 2014, the institution has recorded 61 actual or attempted assaults on staff and 20 actual or attempted inmate on inmate assaults.

At this point, the lockdown for close custody regular population (RPOP) has stepped down to a point that we call “managed observation”. Close custody RPOP inmates are now allowed about 4 hours of out-of-cell time daily (compared to about 8 hours before the Dec. 28 fights that began the lockdown).

Visiting, outdoor recreation, telephone use and canteen privileges have resumed. Vocational and educational programs are in session and the prison’s two Correction Enterprises plants (a sewing plant and the Braille plant) are operating normally. Inmates continue to receive hot meals brought to their cells. All activities are occurring in small groups. Religious services have not yet resumed. A new chaplain began work this week.

Since the lockdown began Dec. 28, restrictions have been lifted in 11 progressive steps, based on inmate behavior and cooperation, to reach the point where we are today. Continue reading

Judge to hear arguments in Central Prison lawsuit

Central Prison (North Carolina)
RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday about dismissing a lawsuit that accuses guards at North Carolina’s maximum security prison of sadistically beating inmates, resulting in broken bones and wheelchair confinement.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle planned to consider whether there is enough evidence already presented in court documents to go ahead with the lawsuit on behalf of eight inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The inmates accuse 19 correctional officers of taking handcuffed and shackled inmates from solitary confinement cells where they were placed for disciplinary reasons to blind spots out of view of security cameras, then severely beating them. Former prison administrators Gerald Branker and Kenneth Lassister are accused in the lawsuit of failing in their duties for not developing policies on investigating inmate abuse complaints and to preserve video tapes that might contain evidence from being erased.

View the entire story.


Related:

Demonstration At Central Prison This Sunday March 25th 2012: Noon

From: Internationalist Prison Book Collective, Chapel Hill:
March 21, 2012

Hello Friends,

Riding on the back of the call-in day last Wednesday there is a demonstration outside of Central Prison, at 1300 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606, this Sunday, March 25th at noon. The goal of this protest is to bring attention to the “Strong 8″ and put pressure on Central prison to release these men back into general population. We encourage people to bring signs, banners, and drums and noisemaking devices of all kinds.

Some Background Information:

On December 16th, 15 prisoners working in the kitchens at Central Prison, in Raleigh, sat down on the job in protest of the hours, lack of gain time, and working conditions. Prisoners in these kitchens are made to work ten hours a day, seven days a week. The strikers refused to go back to work until questions were answered regarding their hours and gain time. Instead of addressing their concerns, the head kitchen corrections officer told the men to, “get [their] sorry asses back to work,” and called in for backup. Now these 8 men have been sentenced to I-Con status, which is essentially solitary confinement.

You can find more information here.

Support Striking Raleigh Prisoners! Announcing Demo and Call-In Day

From: Internationalist Prison Books Collective:
March 8, 2012

On December 16th, 15 prisoners working in the kitchens at Central Prison, in Raleigh, sat down on the job in protest of the hours, lack of gain time, and working conditions. Prisoners in these kitchens are made to work ten hours a day, seven days a week. The strikers refused to go back to work until questions were answered regarding their hours and gain time. Instead of addressing their concerns, the head kitchen corrections officer told the men to, “get [their] sorry asses back to work,” and called in for backup. This is the same facility where a scandalous media report on conditions in the mental health ward forced Warden Branker into early retirement.

Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, guards soon came and threatened the men into returning to work. Eight of the men, however, continued to refuse to work until their questions were asked. These men were charged with “disobeying a direct order” and “work refusal,” and placed in solitary cells. Just a few days ago, the men were given an abrupt disciplinary hearing, in which they were railroaded into I-Con (Intensive Control) as punishment. I-Con is an intensive form of segregation, typically 23 hours a day in a small solitary cell, with few if any resources available, constantly censored mail, and little recreational activity. Sentences on I-Con often last 6 months or longer. One prisoner wrote about the hearing, “I tried to plead my case to the hearing officer, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t even listen. It was already pre-arranged what the outcome would be. It amazes me what Central Prison gets away with. They don’t even care about policy. They do what they want.”

The men who refused to return to work are calling themselves the “Strong 8,” and have been in touch with outside support groups to spread news of and ask for solidarity in their struggle. It is clear that the attempt to isolate and repress these men’s strike is an effort to intimidate any efforts at organizing on the inside before they start. The struggle to get these men off of solitary is about more than just the freedom of these 8 men – it is about the use of solitary confinement as a tool for political intimidation, prisons as a form of forced labor, and the “new jim crow” of the contemporary prison-industrial complex.

Outside supporters are initially calling for several different approaches to get these men off solitary. First, there will be a mass call-in day to both the prison warden and the NC Director of Prisons on Wednesday, March 14th. This is being heavily publicized both regionally and nationally – we’re hoping that those who are too far away to attend demonstrations will help out in other ways. The contact information for these call-in days is below:

Central Prison Warden Ken Lassiter
ph:(919) 733- 0800
fax: (919) 715-2645

NC Director of Prisons Robert C. Lewis
ph: (919) 838-4000
fax: (919) 733-8272

Second, there will be a demonstration outside of Central Prison, at 13:00 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606, on Sunday March 25th at noon. We encourage people to bring signs, banners, and drums and noisemaking devices of all kinds. The prisoners have explicitly asked for some banners and signs to read, “Free the Strong 8 Kitchen Workers” and “Fire Mr. Rice.” The protest will be during visiting hours, so we hope to directly spread word of support for the strike throughout the inside via family members, as well as increase pressure on the administration to return the men to general population.

Thirdly, we are asking for people to conduct a massive media and internet outreach campaign around this strike and the subsequent punishment of the workers. Administrations get away with this kind of thing in part by sweeping news of any and all prison resistance under the rug, so that family, friends, affected communities, and other prisoners don’t hear about it. Please spread news of this struggle by any and all websites, newspapers, radio stations, and other media outlets you can think of.

The struggle to get these men off solitary won’t stop with these small actions; this is likely just a beginning. It goes without saying that any and all acts of solidarity and support are encouraged. We will continue to post and send out more information as it is available, both from the inside and outside. To see the original post of the story and find future updates, you can go to prisonbooks.info.

Until Every Cage is Empty,

Against Prisons and the Society that Builds Them,

an ad hoc coalition of groups and individuals supporting the Strong 8