Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Prison Reform Advisory Board Brings Fresh Perspective

The first meeting of the North Carolina Prison Reform Advisory Board on March 20 was another important step in the endeavor towards improving operations and making prisons safer for employees, the inmates, visitors and ultimately the public.
The meeting brought together the eight-member Board predominantly consisting of experts in the field of corrections — North Carolina, Ohio and the federal system. The Board members will provide ongoing expert advice on best practices for maintaining and improving prison safety. They will look at various topics including operations, training, staffing, technology, facility design, and inmate work and program assignments.
“We never want to be blind to our own blindness,” Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. “We hear about a lot of things that we do well, but you (Board) will bring a fresh perspective and fresh set of eyes to our practices.”
The Board, chaired by retired Army Maj. Gen. Beth Austin, heard from Hooks, Michelle Hall and John Madler of the N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission on state sentencing laws, Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter on an overview of the state’s 55 facilities, and Chief Deputy Secretary Pam Cashwell on actions taken following receipt of reports from the National Institute of Corrections and the Governor’s Crime Commission report from the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy.
During the presentation, the Board members raised issues, as well as shared best practices from their own correctional experiences. Austin said she is honored to be the chair and is looking forward to seeing where the Board will go regarding suggestions for state prisons.
“This has been very informative for me,” Austin said after the presentations, “especially for someone outside the prison system. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at where do we go from here.”
Secretary Hooks said he chose Austin to chair the Board for her proven track record of leadership and advisory abilities based on many years of service with the National Guard. In her role as assistant adjutant general, she advised the Adjutant General on plans and policies, as well as recruiting, retention, training, budget issues and personnel readiness.
The other Board members are:
  • Art Beeler, Retired Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  • Stanley Drewery, Retired Office of Staff Development and Training; President SEANC;
  • James French, Retired NCDPS; Former Deputy Secretary Adult Correction and former Department of Correction Prisons Director;
  • Stephanie Hollembaek, Retired Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  • Mike Killmer, Retired Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  • Dorothy Holmes Ledford, Retired former N.C. Department of Correction; and
  • Gary Mohr, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Mohr told the group, “I appreciate the candor and transparency here today. We have to look at what happened here through the eyes of North Carolina.”
“I am here representing the men and women in the gray and black uniforms,” added Beeler, a retired Federal Bureau of Prisons warden, who pointed toward a North Carolina correctional officer seated in the room. “We want them to go home safely after their shift. I want to do whatever I can do to keep our correctional officers who work for very little money safe.”



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