Lawmaker warns 'more murders' if prisons aren't fixed

"It's a damning report, a shocking report."

PASQUOTANK COUNTY, N.C. (WVEC) -- 13News Now learned the feds came in just about a month after the attacks at Pasquotank prison. They interviewed staff, reviewed documents, and observed operations. The outcome is grim -- the report said if changes aren't made, officials should reduce the inmate population and suspend programs at the prison.

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There were "strong emotions" and tears shed as the National Institute of Corrections team interviewed staff at the Pasquotank prison.

“It's a damning report, a shocking report,” Rep. Bob Steinburg, who represents Northeastern North Carolina, reacted.

The 78-page report is supposed to help the Department of Public Safety address issues in the aftermath of October's tragedy, which cost the lives of four people.

North Carolina Final Report by 13News Now on Scribd

The prison is in Representative Steinburg's district. When he was asked if it is safe for corrections officers to work in North Carolina Prisons, he said no.

“It is not and I can say that without any reservation at all,” he said.

The report shows the team observed, "the gun cabinet doors were left wide open and unsecured."

“You're in a prison for heaven's sake,” Steinburg said. “What are you doing with a gun cabinet unlocked?”

The report goes into detail about inmates issuing tools to other inmates. The day before the prison break attempt one inmate distributed seven tools, including scissors and hammers. 13News Now reported 911 calls reveal prisoners beat and stabbed employees with those tools.

An absence of personal safety equipment was highlighted in the report. It claimed the prison had blind spots because of a lack of monitoring of security cameras. Correction Enterprises employees, who run the sewing plant at the heart of the escape attempt, are not required to have any basic security training.

“We need to see what are the failures, what led to this, is this a problem of management,” Steinburg asked.

Public Safety officials said they've taken action to correct the situation -- they've closed the sewing plant, suspended prison leaders, ordered stab-resistant shirts and increased training.

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But, what has caused a lot of these lapses, according to the report, is a staffing vacancy rate of 25% at the prison. That led to staff "burnout, complacency, and taking of shortcuts."

Some have suggested bringing in the National Guard to work perimeters and transports, so corrections officers can focus on the prison. More officers could lead to fewer incidents; and fewer incidents could lead to an easier time recruiting new staff, after the deadliest year in North Carolina prison history.

Steinburg believes many of these problems exist in all the state's 55 prisons. He issued a chilling warning.

“If we don't get this under control; if we don't make a serious attempt at fixing this and fixing it once and for all, there are going to be, sadly, more murders that are going to take place in these prisons,” he said.

On March 15th, one of the NIC team members will travel to the capitol to answer questions from a joint legislative public safety oversight committee, on which Steinburg sits.

A week after questions were submitted to public safety officials, 13News Now learned the two prison administrators, who were suspended, have been moved to a regional office while the investigation continues.

13News Now is working to coordinate an interview with department leaders.

DPS's Prison Safety Action Steps by 13News Now on Scribd