LUMBERTON — Robeson County’s resident state senator has been chosen to serve on a committee formed to make North Carolina’s prisons safer for the people who work in them.
Sen. Danny Britt Jr. is one of the 13 lawmakers appointed Wednesday by Senate Leader Phil Berger to the Select Committee Committee on Prison Safety, according to information from Berger’s office. Britt is one of eight Republicans selected. Five Democrats were also appointed.
Sen. Bob Steinburg, a Republican, will serve as chairman. There will be no co-chairperson.
“I am very honored to be chosen to be serving on this very important committee,” Britt said.
The committee was formed in the wake of a study commission created after five prison workers were killed in 2017, Britt said. Changes have been implemented since then, and the committee’s purpose is to further improve on work conditions and safety for the thousands of correctional officers and staff in North Carolina’s prisons.
“Senate District 13, encompassing Columbus and Robeson Counties, has both the highest population of inmates as well as correctional officers and staff of any other Senate district,” Britt said. “With this large number of correctional staff and officers in Senate District 13 I think it is imperative as their representative to ensure that they are as safe as possible in their workplace. The safety of correctional officers and staff in our many correctional facilities must remain a priority until the issue is effectively addressed.”
Steinburg also represents a large number of correctional officers and has made prison safety a priority, according to Berger. Steinburg’s district includes Bertie Correctional Institution and Pasquotank Correctional Institution, where the five prison employees were killed while on duty in 2017.
“The gravity of this matter cannot be understated,” Steinburg said. “Two years ago, five very fine individuals were senselessly murdered while on duty; one in Bertie County, the other four in Pasquotank. These people, and their families, were my not just my constituents. They were my neighbors and my friends.”
After the 2017 prison deaths, the state General Assembly provided $15 million in additional funding to improve prison safety and security, according to Berger. The funding supports “man-down” technology, including emergency communication, location tracking capabilities, and duress badges that activate an alarm if a corrections officer is incapacitated. The committee is to build on those steps.
“The state is responsible for the laws that regulate our prisons, and it’s our job as legislators to institute policies that make them as safe as possible,” Berger said. “Correctional officers have a challenging position, and we need to support them.”
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]