Since Lanesboro Correctional Institution initiated a lockdown on Nov. 15, there have been conflicting reports about conditions inside the prison.
Pamela Walker, the N.C. Department of Safety communications director, said that she could not elaborate on the reason for the lockdown but that lockdowns are for everybody’s safety and security. She confirmed that a corrections officer was attacked and injured with an improvised weapon on Nov. 15 before the lockdown and that the guard, whose identity has not been released, has since returned to work. Medium custody inmates are in a separate part of the prison and only close custody inmates are on lockdown, Walker said.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Division of Prisons spokesman Keith Acree said that searches after the attack revealed prisoner contraband including “numerous cellphones, improvised weapons and marijuana.” Acree would not elaborate to the Observer on how the prisoners were able to acquire the contraband and was unavailable when this reporter called.
One Lanesboro inmate wrote a letter to his sister begging for help. The letter, dated Nov. 19, was then sent to this reporter. “This is all because one inmate took it upon himself to cut an officer, but that’s on him,” he wrote. “I’m not sweating the lockdown part so much, but our rights are being violated in other areas, which is the point of my letter to you. We need voices from out there to make things right.”
He asked his sister to contact the N.C. Department of Corrections, the media and the governor.
The prisoner had two major points of concern. “One, we haven’t been allowed to take showers since Nov. 14,” he wrote. “Two, we haven’t been allowed canteen trips to purchase stamps or hygiene items.” He stressed that the situation resulted from one inmate’s actions. “Remember, this situation isn’t our fault! There’s no justification for their actions,” he wrote. “How are we going to be denied an opportunity to send out mail, buy toothpaste, or take showers??” He sent this letter with his last stamp.
Walker maintained that the inmate’s report is untrue. “While on lockdown, it’s possible that we will do a step-down where we will slowly release some of the lockdown procedures,” she said. “The close custody inmates are still on lockdown and are allowed several showers a week and non-contact visits.” Acree corroborated Walker’s claims of multiple showers when he told the Observer that prisoners are allowed three showers per week. Acree also said that the inmates in lockdown are denied telephone access.
As for hygiene items, Walker said inmates are provided with the necessities. “We provide inmates hygiene items but if they wish to purchase something additional they can go to the canteen,” she said. “But if they’re on lockdown, I’m not sure if the canteen is available right now.”
This is far from the first time that inmates have complained of mistreatment while incarcerated. Lanesboro only opened in 2004 but its reputation has been tarnished with reports of both prisoner and employee misconduct over the years. In January, three inmates were indicted by an Anson County Grand Jury for the Sept. 28, 2012 murder of a fellow inmate and assault using a deadly weapon (homemade shank) with intent to kill a second inmate.
In 2011, Richard Neely was removed as the administrator after he was charged with a felony count of obstructing justice after he ordered the destruction of video surveillance related to an investigation. The charges were later dismissed. In 2010, the N.C. Department of Correction agreed to pay one inmate $10,000 following a 2009 incident in which he was pepper sprayed multiple times — twice while he was naked — and his bed doused with the liquid after he requested medical help from guards. Then-administrator Rick Jackson retired soon after the incident and six other prison employees were disciplined.
Lanesboro, a high-security prison facility, is adjacent to Brown Creek Correctional Institution and Anson Correctional Center in Polkton.