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Learn About North Carolina's Prison System

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Source: North Carolina Department of Corrections

In 1868, North Carolina adopted a new State Constitution that provided for building a state penitentiary.

Inmates began building the state's first prison, Central Prison, in 1870 and moved into the completed castle-like structure in December 1884.

In 1881, the state leased two tracts of land near Raleigh for inmates to farm.

State law 379 enacted in 1885 provided for the allowance of good time as an incentive for inmate cooperation.

As early as 1875, private employers could lease inmates as laborers. Under the lease, businesses had complete responsibility for the inmates. Many worked in rock quarries and built railways.

In 1901, lawmakers changed the system to provide for contract inmate labor. Inmates worked for private employers, but prison officials retained responsibility for the inmates' custody.

About 1930, prison industries,today known as Correction Enterprises, began. At a plant near Central Prison, inmates made concrete pipe for the state highway commission. The plant operated until federal highway funding restrictions put an end to the use of inmate labor for such operations in 1936. Over the years, other prison industries developed to meet prison needs, like farming operations to provide food and tailoring operations to provide clothing.

In 1935, women inmates from Central Prison moved to a south Raleigh prison camp, the site of today's Correctional Institution for Women. Women from the Caledonia Prison Farm moved to the Raleigh facility permanently in 1956.

In 1957, the General Assembly separated the state prison department from the State Highway and Public Works Commission.

As part of this change, the Council of State recommended consolidation of prison operations that resulted in the closing of prisons in Ashe, Beaufort, Brunswick, Chatham, Cherokee, Craven, Edgecombe, Hertford, Jackson, Macon, Perquimans, Pitt, Surry, Transylvania and Wilson counties.

The prison properties were reassigned to other state and local governments or sold, except for two units that continued to be used by the Division of Prisons. The Pitt county facility became the Eastern Area Office and the Surry county facility became the Dobson training center.

Source: North Carolina Department of Corrections


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