North Carolina study suggests best ways to protect prison workers from inmates attacks

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina officials are looking for solutions to protect the people who put their lives on the line every day.

Prison personnel deal with some of the state's most dangerous people. But state officials said they're not protected.

"I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was this bad," said Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Pasquotank.

The I-Team did its own digging last year and found at least four attacks happen every day in North Carolina prisons.

Since 2018, the State Employees Association of North Carolina interviewed and surveyed prison personnel from across the state, identifying the main causes for concern that put correctional officers in harm's way.

"Our report illuminates those very real dangers that they face day-to-day," said Robert Broome, SEANC Executive Director. "It's now up to all of us to work toward true change."

They've come up with solutions like addressing understaffing, increasing penalties for inmates who assault officers, and providing law enforcement benefits for correctional officers.

"We're in the prison with the same person who the highway patrol, the police officer arrested," said corrections officer Sgt. Deborah Harney. "And we don't get the same respect as the highway patrol or the police officer."

On average, corrections officers only live to be 58, and in a 20-year career, they will be assaulted by an inmate at least twice.

Now they're counting on legislators to make changes that will protect them in the future.

Steinburg said these changes will be a priority for the General Assembly and he expects to see changes sometime in 2019.
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