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North Carolina Temporarily Closes Three Prisons for Lack of Guards; Final One Reopens During COVID-19 Pandemic

DPS and DACJJ administrators decided to close three of their minimum-security facilities, on a temporary basis, to allow them to operate their remaining prisons at a constitutionally acceptable level. Yet prisoner Scott Whitmeyer was stabbed to death on the evening of September 28, 2019. He was assigned to Whiteville’s Columbus Correctional Institution and was living in a dormitory within the medium-security prison.

Republican state Senator Bob Steinburg questioned the closing of the three prisons. One of them is in Steinburg’s district and another is not far away, which would no doubt cause an economic slowdown for his constituents. Steinburg issued a statement saying that “Secretary Moose and senior staff at the Division of Adult Corrections have agreed to appear before the Senate Select Committee of Prison Safety so that other Senators may ask questions.”

There were multiple delays. However, by August 2020 all three prisons had been reopened. On August 10, State Treasurer Dale Folwell stated that more than 100 prisoners would be sent to the Tyrrell Prison Work Farm. “Not only will it help the economy of the area, but it will help alleviate the overcrowding in other prisons that could help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to inmates and employees of the prisons,” he said. He thanked Steinburg and other senators for pushing for the three prisons to be reopened. 


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