03/24/13 — County prison also included for closure in budget

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County prison also included for closure in budget

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 24, 2013 1:50 AM

Among the cuts proposed in Gov. Pat McCrory's $20.6 billion budget this year, $20.3 million would come from the closure of prisons in five counties, including Wayne.

On the chopping block is Wayne Correctional Center, located at 700 Stevens Mill Road.

The facility, which opened in 1978, is a medium security prison with an inmate capacity of 428 and an average daily census of about 400. It employs 150 workers.

The decision to close it, said Pamela Walker, spokeswoman of the N.C. Department of Public Safety, came about after a careful examination of all the state's prisons.

"It was a very carefully measured response to a prison population that is on the decline," she said. "There were many, many factors that were taken into consideration."

Among those, she said, were the age of the facilities, their custody level, what facilities existed around it and more. The other facilities slated for closure are the adult male minimum security Bladen Correctional Center, the adult male minimum security Duplin Correctional Center and the adult male medium security Lumberton Correctional Institution, as well as the Western Youth Institution in Morganton.

"All of them are older facilities and are more costly to run," she said. "So it's about efficiencies as well."

If it remains in the budget, the closure of Wayne Correctional would occur on Feb. 1, 2014, creating a savings of about $3 million this fiscal year and $7.2 million in 2014-15.

The inmates, Ms. Walker explained, would be sent to other facilities across the state based on their sentences -- minimum, medium and close security prisons are based on the lengths of sentences and behaviors while in prison -- as well as any treatment or special program or education needs.

The employees, she said, also would be given the option for employment at other facilities. Among those nearby are Neuse Correctional Institution, which is an adult male minimum security prison across the street from Wayne Correctional, as well as the adult male medium security Johnston Correctional Institution, the adult male minimum security Greene Correctional Institution and the adult male medium/minimum security Sampson Correctional Institution.

"It's what the state calls a reduction in force," Ms. Walker said. "We will definitely endeavor to help them to be placed in other positions should they want it, though usually some will retire and some will decide to make a career change."

As for the facility itself, she said, once closed, the first option will be to see if it can be used by the department in any way. If not, the county would likely have the option to take it over, possibly for use as a new jail. Or if the city decides it could use the property, it also would have that option. If both refuse the property, she said, then the state would likely declare it as surplus and put it on the market.