The Pulse

Senate Budget requires new reports from prison system

By: - May 26, 2023 6:00 am

The Senate budget would require the Department of Adult Correction to submit reports to the legislature on nurse staffing levels at state prisons and data on crimes committed by prison employees while they’re on the job.

The provisions are located deep in the Senate budget, beginning on page 306. For the next two years the prison system would need to report by Feb. 1 to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety on the total number of permanent nursing positions allocated to the department, the number of positions that are filled, the number of jobs that have been vacant for more than six months and a breakdown of where the filled and open positions are located.

North Carolina prisons are plagued by staffing vacancies, especially among nurses. A fiscal analyst told an appropriations committee in February that there was a 41% vacancy rate of nursing positions in prisons across the state.

The Department of Adult Correction is allowed to use temporary contract services to address its nursing staff shortage. The Senate budget would require the prison system to include in its nursing staffing report “the extent to which temporary contract services are being used to staff vacant nursing positions, the method for funding the contract services, and any cost differences between the use of permanent employees versus contract employees.”

The correction department would also need to spell out its plan to reduce the use of contract services to staff nurses in its prisons, and explain how it plans to attract and retain qualified nurses in those correctional facilities.

The budget would also allow the prison system to convert its allocated funds for contractual nursing services to permanent nursing positions when doing so saves the state money, promotes prison safety and improves the quality of health care in correctional facilities.

The nursing report isn’t the only information the department would have to submit to the joint committee each February. Officials would also need to send figures detailing the number of prison system employees charged with a crime committed in a state prison during the staffer’s work hours, and the number of employees disciplined, demoted or fired because of personal misconduct. Authorities would also need to include in their report information on the prison system’s hiring and screening process.

Submitting such reports to the General Assembly is nothing new for the Department of Adult Correction. State law requires them to submit related assessments each year on county prisoners held in state prisons and the efforts they have taken to help incarcerated people who have substance abuse problems.

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Kelan Lyons
Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.