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Thursday, April 10, 1980
From page 1
10,900. This is also 8.7 percent more than the state's
emergency capacity of 13,620.
Emergency capacity is one step beyond normal
capacity and means that the prison is using all available
space but still has no control of its inflates. North
Carolina further exceeded its emergency capacity by
more than 100 inmates during the end of February,
"Until we can make other arrangements we're
going to have to live with that (overcrowding)," said
Stuart W. Shadbolt, North Carolina's Department of
Corrections public information officer. "We'll fit in
whatever we have to," he said.
"The pressure is on medium (custody) inmates,"
Shadbolt said. Medium-custody inmates include
newly admitted felons who require less security than
maximum-custody inmates, felons returned from
escape or readmitted for parole violation and inmates
who are likely to escape.
Central Prison, the only maximum-security unit in
North Carolina, is also severely overcrowded.
Central prison houses approximately 100
inmates, two-thirds more than the emergency capacity
Many medium-custody inmates are sent to Central
before going to a medium-security institution,
Shadbolt said, which adds to the prison's
" It (Central Prison) was always overcrowded but that
wasn't a problem (in the 1968 riot)," said V.L. Bounds,
North Carolina's Commissioner of Corrections at the
But Central Prison, built in 1884, is being replaced by
a $35-million structure which should ease the
population problem, Central Prison warden Garrison
said. "It's obvious that it (Central Prison) isn't doing
what we want it to do since we're building a new one,"
The new unit will house 825 inmates and the last
phase should be completed by 1984, Garrison said.
A $14-million, 480 single-cell prison at Salisbury,
scheduled to open in early March, should also help
ease population problems in the state, Garrison said. It
will house inmates from Central Prison and medium
security units throughout the state, he said.
Construction of new units in Greene and
Montgomery counties and addition to units in
Northampton and Hoke counties should begin this
year and will also relieve other prisons of
overcrowding pressure, Garrison said.
The state recently bought 32 modular units to use at
prisons throughout the state, which should ease the
Overcrowding, a chief
cause of prison riots,
is a pervasive problem
in North Carolina's
overcrowding situation, Shadbolt said. Each unit,
comparable to a double-wide mobile home, houses
28-32 inmates, he said.
The construction and renovation of prisons and jails
on the local level is also thriving in the state. This is due
in part to complaints from community residents and
state agencies such as the jail and detention services of
the North Carolina Department of Human Resources.
County jail reform was an important issue in the
murder trial of Joan Little in 1975. Shortly after the trial,
Woodburn Williams, director of the state's jail and
detention services, said: "We're very concerned about
it (the J Can Little case) because it reflects poorly on jails
throughout the South. North Carolina's jail system
does have its inadequacies, but the jails are improving
throughout the state."
And the jail and detention services still is trying to
improve the situation. It is presently requiring Orange
Prisons turn offenders to criminals
By THOMAS JESSIMAN
We were-walking through an empty tunnel
down in the bowels of Los Angeles Central
Prison. The officer leading us had just explained
that the prison holds as many as 5,000 people at
times. Officer Milton smiled"Let me show you
one of the inner tanks," he said.
Milton led us, four college boys huddling
together, through the electronic doors and out
into a bridge in the center of a long room with
three decks of cells on either side. An officer
walked to meet us from the control tower in the
middle of the bridge; the officer introduced
himself as "the jackal-keeper" and said, making
a broad sweeping motion with his hand, "And
these, boys, are the jackals." He laughed. "Let
me show you one."
He went back to the control room and threw a
switch. A cell door opened down on the first
floor and the jackal-keeper called for the
prisoner. A tall, long-haired man dressed only in
blue jeans' walked out of the cell and crossed the
floor to the stairs next to the bridge.
"How you doing, Navajo?" the keeper asked
and then turned to us. "Navajo here thinks he's
"I am an Indian," he said and launched into a
story about officer brutality where six officers
had come into his cell and pummeled him.
"That's the way these people work. I could take
them one-on-one but they need to work in
packs." He spoke in a agitated manner, his face
twitching, his hands gesticulating.
"OK, OK," the keeper said, laughing. "You
can go back home now, Navajo."
Officer Milton thanked the keeper and led us
back down the bridge. He told us that many of
the prisoners in the building were hardened
criminals and cited instances of prisoner
brutality and rape. A special cell block existed
where younger and weaker prisoners were kept,
he said. "That's where you boys would be. For a
number of reasons, if we turned you all loose in
the prison, you wouldn't last a night in here."
I'm only an observer and have not read all the
books ortaken the sociology and criminal law
courses, but lately I have been increasingly
depressed and disillusioned with our penal
system and code. When 33 inmates were killed
and others badly mauled in a riot in an
overcrowded New Mexico state penitentiary
recently, it was a shocking but not isolated
Penitentiaries across the country are
ridiculously overcrowded and some authorities
estimate that as many as 45 percent of the
inmates in the country live in unreasonably
cramped conditions. The trend recently has
been to build more prisons, and North Carolina
is in the process of building larger and more
Larger prisons may ease the overcrowding and
enable prison officials to have tighter control
over the inmates, but the overall pernicious
effect of prisons on inmates will not be diluted.
Our penal system makes the soft
criminals hard and the hard criminals
harder; released prisoners .are mad
and bitter at their treatment and
many times commit an even more
violent crime than their first.
Three possible functions of any prison system
are to rehabilitate the prisoners, to exact revenge
or to serve as a warning or deterrent to potential
criminals on the outside. A careful study of this
country's penal system would show that revenge
is its only successful function. The trend to build
larger prisons reflects current thinking that
"criminals" should be swept off the streets,
thrown In jail and made to pay for their crime.
Our penal system makes the soft criminals
hard and the hard criminals harder; released
prisoners are mad and bitter at their treatment
and many times commit an even more violent
crime than their first. Our prisons are not serving
to protect society from violence and crime but
instead encourage such action.
Rehabilitation may no longer be in vogue as it
was 20 years ago, but it still ought to be
considered the primary function of every prison.
The reason rehabilitation programs have not had
great success in this country is that they never
really were given a chance they never got the
money. Taxpayers are far more comfortable
giving millions of dollars to build larger prisons
than to educate and improve prisoners. The
people in prisons become "criminals" and any
money spent on them would be a waste;
everyone loves to perpetrate the "us" against
"them" syndrome. We all feel comfortable
throwing the first stone.
"Why worry about the criminals, doesn't
anyone care about the victims?" people cry. Karl
Menninger adeptly diffuses this argument in The
Crime of Punishment: "Of course no victim
should be neglected. But the individual victim
has no more right to be protected than those of
us who may become victims. We all want to be
protected. And we are not being protected by a
system that attacks 'criminals' as if they were the
embodiment of evil."
Building larger prisons will not dramatically
alter a penal system where animosity, knifing and
rape are a part of life; instead, we should seek
ways to get the inmates out of the prisons. Work
release and study-release programs must be
encouraged and more programs should be
implemented like the "I Can" training program
in North Carolina where inmates gain
confidence and motivation. There is no sense in
paying $15,000 a year for the upkeep of a
prisoner if he is only going to get out and kill or
In California at a maximum-security prison, a
guard told me that all rehabilitation programs
were useless and that the only time someone
changes is when they decide to be good. "It all
starts from inside," he said. Maybe. But few
people are going to change in an environment
where being good is, if not impossible, at least a
People will say that prisons are not that bad,
but how many have actually seen them? An
increased emphasis should be placed on
educating the people about the condition of our
prisons. Perhaps if only people saw the revenge
they were exacting on the inmates, they could
better understand why recidivism is so pervasive
with released prisoners. Indeed, larger prisons
will better protect the public during the six years
an inmate is a prisoner,but, unlike rehabilitation
programs, larger prisons will do little if anything
to protect the public once that prisoner gets out.
Thomas Jessiman, an associate editor for The
DaSy Tar HeI, worked last summer as an intern
with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department