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February 21, 2014

Travel, security infractions found at Albemarle Correctional Institute

Probe nets personnel changes at prison

Friday, February 21, 2014 — Albemarle Correctional Institution has been guilty of taxpayer waste, resulting in personnel changes at the prison.

State prison officials acknowledged Wednesday that an internal probe revealed that the Albemarle facility has been practicing waste by allowing transport guards to drive unauthorized bus routes, netting excessive and unnecessary miles. Bus drivers were found to take longer and more time-consuming routes before returning to the Albemarle prison as dictated by policy.

“The investigation found that some drivers were not following policy which requires drivers to take direct routes to their designated stops and final destination —making no other stops unless there is an emergency,” Keith Acree, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, said via email.  

“Bus travel logs were signed by supervisors who should have been aware of these violations.”

WBTV News first broke the story Feb. 10 after it followed an inmate transport bus last fall. One particular route found that the prison bus left Albemarle for High Point whereby the 70-mile, 90-minute one-way trip took three hours and 115 miles, WBTV reported.

Drivers were making unscheduled stops at truck stops, restaurants and rest areas, according to the probe and confirmed by prison officials.

Acree said state policy requires prison drivers take direct routes to their destinations and make only designated and emergency stops. Drivers may vary routes for security reasons, but routes should still be direct in nature.

The investigation also found that guards were not wearing prison-issued handguns as required.

“Some officers were violating policy that requires them to wear their sidearm,” Acree said.

Drivers said they were simply following orders from supervisors so there would be more personnel present to handle the prisoner intake process, since many were also away with road crews. Supervisors dispute the account, according to WBTV.

“There were additional people at the facility that knew what was going on, or they should have known what was going on,” Director of N.C. Prisons George Soloman told WBTV’s Jamie Boll earlier this month.

As a result of the probe, there have been administrative changes at Albemarle Correctional Institution. However, no one was terminated as a result of the findings.

Administrator Lewis Smith will  retire effective March 1. Gregory Rush, lead correctional officer, retired Jan. 1. Correctional officer John Kruis  resigned effective Dec. 6, 2013. James Hunsucker, assistant superintendent, was  demoted and transferred effective Jan. 21.

Two other prison officers received written warnings, however, laws pertaining to personnel confidentiality prohibit the release of their names, Acree said.

Prison officials insist these problems of waste are limited to the Albemarle Correctional Institute and that state officials are working to implement safeguards to prevent violations in the future.

“These issues appear to be confined to Albemarle,” Acree said.

“They were not found at other state prisons. The division is reviewing its policies and reinforcing them with staff involved in inmate transportation.”

The medium-security Albemarle Correctional Institution has an inmate capacity of 816, a staff of 301 and an annual operating budget of more than $13 million.

An all-male prison, at 44150 Airport Road in New London, the facility  maintains road squads used to pick up trash and debris along state highways. Others work inside the prison in various capacities.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email ritchie@stanlynewspress.com.

 

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