PASQUOTANK, NC (WVEC) -- Lawmakers are now deepening their search for answers about what's going on inside North Carolina prisons. Specifically, they’re looking for what led to the deaths of five people last year and more than a dozen injuries so far this year.

“The system is broken,” said Representative Bob Steinburg, who sits on the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety. “The system needs to be fixed.”

A broken system led to chaos and bloodshed inside Pasquotank Correctional Institution in October. As they tried to escape, inmates took the lives of four people. Sgt. Meggan Callahan is another casualty of corrections. She was beaten to death while working inside Bertie Correctional Institution in April of last year.

So far this year, more than a dozen corrections officers have been injured on the job inside North Carolina prisons.

“My fears are already being realized because there is an escalation of violence within the prisons,” Steinburg described. “This isn't going away without a fix. It's only going to get worse and we need a real fix.”

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To get that fix, last week, lawmakers heard from several former corrections officers. Steinburg said it was a first since the deaths and it was compelling.

“The impact that this had on an individual's life that we were looking at, this is someone who has walked the mile, if you will,” he recalled.

The Northeastern North Carolina representative explained he's asked the House speaker and other committee members to find a way to have current officers give them information without risking their jobs.

“We need to be talking to the folks who have the best idea as to how to fix it and that's the folks on the inside who live behind the bars with the inmates every single day,” he told us.

Steinburg believes attacks like the one in South Carolina this week reaffirm this is an issue that requires real action.

“We find ourselves with an opportunity here in North Carolina,” he added. “If we take prison reform head on and do this thing right, we may be a beacon of light to all of these other states.”

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