RALEIGH — While 2017 was a good and productive year for many public and private institutions in North Carolina, it was a tragic year for our prison system.
Five staffers were killed by inmates, one during an April incident at a Bertie County prison and four more during an October escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institute. Five inmates committed suicide during 2017, as well.
The first and foremost duty of any government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. Law enforcement, correctional programs, and the courts are primarily responsible for performing this function. When public-safety employees err, misbehave, or fall short at their assigned task, they must be held responsible. But when they lack the tools and resources to do the job, that’s on the rest of us.
There’s enough blame to go around. You should expect to hear a lot about this issue during the 2018 and 2020 elections. In the meantime, however, policymakers in Raleigh and correction officials across the state need to pursue reforms. A new report produced for the Governor’s Crime Commission by a team of researchers at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy may serve as a useful starting point.