Raleigh, NC: In the wake of the tragic death of Michael Anthony Kerr, a prisoner at Alexander Correctional Institution, Disability Rights NC calls on Gov. Pat McCrory to take immediate action to authorize the NC Department of Public Safety (DPS) to implement an emergency hiring process to fill longstanding mental health vacancies. The vacant positions have created understaffed facilities where humane care and treatment of inmates with mental illness is jeopardized. Immediate hiring is necessary to assist DPS with its dedicated effort to improve the provision of care for prisoners with mental illness.
“We applaud the Department for announcing several reform measures yesterday,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC. “However, they will not achieve their goals until the crisis in staff vacancies is addressed. Staff vacancies are a fundamental and crucial barrier to the Department’s success. Currently the bureaucratic and protected hiring process cripples its ability to adequately care for prisoners with mental illness.”
Staffing vacancies have been identified as a critical issue for the Department. In 2012, consulting experts found that staffing vacancies in the NC prison system had “a very negative impact on mental health services in the facilities.” At that time, the consultants said necessary reforms would “not be accomplished unless the vacancy rate is significantly reduced.”