Two employees at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, North Carolina were killed when inmates started a fire as part of an unsuccessful escape attempt. Several others were hurt and at least ten people were taken to the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center. Inmates as well as employees were among the injured.
The prison is located near the northeast North Carolina coast and has both high-security and minimum custody buildings that can house up to 900 adult, male felons. The minimum-security prisoners are allowed outside the walls to perform community labor such as road clean-up for the county recycling department.
Local schools went into lock down after receiving word of the escape attempt. The high school students had just finished their day and were about to be released. Once all 725 prisoners had been accounted for after several head counts, local officials determined it was safe for students to leave the schools to return home.
The escape attempt marks the third incident at Pasquotank Correctional Institution this year. In February, a guard was caught entering the facility with contraband items including drugs, cigarettes, and cell phones. Then in April, a prisoner was stabbed several times in the upper body in a fight with another prisoner.
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world, more than five times than most other countries. The steady growth since the 1970s of the prison population means that some prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. This was the case in another recent prison incident in Delaware that ended in tragedy when a riot and hostage situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center left a correctional officer beaten and fatally wounded. Wilmington civil rights lawyer, Thomas C. Crumplar, is a member of the legal team representing the family of the slain officer and other JTVCC employees in a federal civil lawsuit alleging that the facility had a long history of problems that were ignored by two governors and several cabinet officials.
An investigation and review of prison conditions after the riot at JTVCC showed that the prison was dangerously overcrowded, critically understaffed, and poorly managed. Many of the problems had already been documented after a hostage situation that happened 12 years ago. In that incident, a female counselor was taken hostage and raped before guards were able shoot the inmate. The post-riot review indicated that over the following decade little was done to address the problems at JTVCC. Guards complained about a lack of quality training and adequate equipment such as surveillance cameras, while inmates suffered from overcrowding, a lack of rehabilitative programs, and inconsistent treatment from guards. Before the riot, inmates had staged peaceful protests that brought about no change in their conditions.
Both the Delaware riot and the botched escape attempt in North Carolina are tragic examples of what can happen when prisons are poorly managed and their problems neglected. Innocent people pay the price.
At Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. our Wilmington personal injury lawyers are dedicated to achieving justice and compensation for those who suffer a wrongful death due to the negligence of others. To find out more, schedule a free consultation by calling 302-656-5445 or contact us online. From our Wilmington and Georgetown offices, we serve clients throughout Delaware.