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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  • by Eugene Location: Greenville, NC on Feb 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM
    All, That new GuardTracker program innovation that the Pitt County Detention Center is using is excellent. It allows the staff to have realtime information on every inmate that is in the Pitt County Detention Center. Note: This is the only jail in the United States that that has a program such as this. I want to know more about it, so it can help out other jails and prisons. I have been informed that a 19 years Pitt County Sheriff Advanced Sergeant created this program. Let me know what you think.
  • by Mike Location: Enc on Feb 24, 2012 at 12:56 PM
    Wow what a surprise. Gang members outside commiting crimes,turn into gang members inside commiting crimes. I wouldve never guessed. Unfortunatly the answer isnt a simple one but the solution could be. Good ole eye for eye would help,but thatll never happen with a sheep mentality.
  • by Tom on Feb 24, 2012 at 12:55 PM
    NC has the death penality. USE IT......and rid civilized mankind from these predators.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2012 at 11:36 AM
    The answer is simply another gang: the chain gang. Work them until they can't cause problems.
  • by Pete Location: Grifton on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM
    Take a tip from the old soviet a railroad to Alaska like they did to Siberia.we already have a former military base there that will hold upwards of 1 million people,the population of Alaska is around 900,000.a few months or years in an Alaska prison would give them a different look on life in the lower 48.they might even gang up to stay warm.
  • by C/O on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM
    If you think this is a story, you guys really should make contact with the NCDOC. It's becoming a constant problem for Officers to deal with daily on an extremely sub par salary. The average Correctional Officer has a starting salary of 28300 yr and the past two or three years, your legislation has even taken money from them and replaced it with a day or two off. Keep your eyes open... It will get worse if its not already completely out of control...
  • by chill Location: enc on Feb 24, 2012 at 08:57 AM
    Let them kill each other .That will save me some money .They get free food and health care . I cant hardly afford food any more.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2012 at 06:44 AM
    Make them watch a few beheadings or hangings.That will put an end to it.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2012 at 05:42 AM
    Again publicity and sensationalism - Sheriff Elks stated in previous interviews that there was not a gang problem in Pitt County and dissolved the gang unit. I guess he only detains the gang members from the city since they have admitted that they have a problem.
  • by Vet Location: Greenville on Feb 24, 2012 at 05:27 AM
    Serious reform of the detention/penitentiary system is critically needed. In my opinion there needs to be more intervention/community work for non-violent offenders. I don't see the point of someone who has a small amount of pot being placed in lock-up on the taxpayers dime. I'm not saying that they shouldn't be punished, just punished in a different way. There have been several programs in Texas, meaning that they are not all touchy-feely,that use non-incarceration models that have saved money for the state and resulted in a lower recidivism rate. The violent or repeat offenders need to be put into a a prison where they don't have enough time to worry about gang affiliation. If they are a repeat offender or violent criminal then there is really no chance for rehabilitation. Eighteen hours a day of hard labor doing something for the society that you harmed seems like a proper end. maybe it's just me
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2012 at 07:17 AM in reply to Vet
      Vet, you are on point. I agree with you.
    • reply
      by Just My Opinion on Feb 24, 2012 at 01:00 PM in reply to Vet
      NOPE ! It's not "just you"....I agree !
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