Battling The Gang Problem Behind Bars

While lawmen battle gang activity in communities across the east, they're also doing it behind bars when gang members get locked up.

The Pitt County Detention Center currently has about 500 inmates. Officials say about 20 of them are known gang members, and that can present additional problems.

Jail Captain Jeff Phillips says, "There are problems with gangs, then sometimes some want to start their own small gang inside a facility. They want to try and run a housing unit or dorm, or try to monopolize those that are inside a housing unit."

So, from the moment an inmate walks into the jail, classification is key. That's where sergeant Jerry Allen comes in. He looks into the arrest report and background history as he tries to pin down what type of threat the inmate may be inside the jail. That information goes into a program called "Guard Tracker." If an inmate is known to be in a gang, officers know to keep a close eye on them and to try and keep them separate from opposing gangs or other gang members.

Phillips says separating inmates isn't always possible because of limited space, so they rely on block sergeants who check on the dorms inside the jail often.

There are also plenty of security cameras in many cells, dorms, and hallways, watching what is going on with the inmates inside.

Officers must also pay close attention to gang members making contact with the outside. Phillips says, "There's been known cases throughout North Carolina, as well as Pitt County and in the nation, where criminal activity behind confinement facilities happen. There are such things as mail, telephone, so the communication does not stop just because they are incarcerated, it continues."

Officers have certain plans in place to try and stop inmates from directing or influencing criminal activity outside the bars. They say the "Guard Tracker" program has been a big help. They say they continually work to combat gang activity inside the jail and are looking for new ways to stop it.

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