Inmates keep escaping from NC prisons

At least 17 inmates have escaped from N.C. prisons since 2016, and about a third of them came from Gaston Correctional Center

By Gavin Off, Ames Alexander and Lavendrick Smith
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An inmate serving an 11-year habitual felon sentence escaped from Gaston Correctional Center on Wednesday, making him the fourth inmate to break out of the prison since 2016.

At least two more Gaston Correctional inmates left their work release jobs during that time.

Montavious Miller, 34, was last seen in the minimum-security prison around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and was reported missing a few hours later, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

It’s unclear how he escaped. Daren Bruce, the superintendent of Gaston Correctional Center, would not comment Thursday, referring questions to state prison officials in Raleigh.

All told, at least 17 inmates have escaped from N.C. prisons since 2016. About a third of them came from Gaston Correctional. Among the Gaston escapees:

  • In March, inmate Thomas Walker escaped from the prison in Dallas. Walker, who was serving a five-year sentence for larceny, turned himself in the following day.
  • In February, inmate David Woods left his work assignment and died when the pickup truck he was driving crashed on Interstate 85. Woods was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.
  • Last June, Tony Meeks escaped. He is serving time for robbery with a dangerous weapon.
  • In March 2017, Brian Sweeting ran off from his work release job at Ruth's Salads in Charlotte. Sweeting was in prison for drug trafficking and possession of stolen goods.
  • In October 2016, Dennis Carver, serving time for larceny of a motor vehicle, left the prison while working his maintenance job outside the prison's perimeter fence.

All were caught.

Gaston Correctional is a minimum-custody prison holding about 240 inmates. As of March 31, it housed 81 habitual felons, 33 men convicted of murder, 20 convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon and four convicted of rape.

Like many of North Carolina’s prisons, Gaston Correctional has been struggling with a shortage of staff. In January, 24 percent of correctional officer positions at the prison were vacant, according to state prison data.

Dangerous staff shortages have worsened inside some of the state’s toughest prisons, despite recent state efforts to address the problem.

At Pasquotank Correctional Institution, where four employees were fatally attacked during an October escape attempt, the overall vacancy rate in January was about 37 percent.

And at Bertie Correctional, where a prison sergeant was reportedly beaten to death by an inmate wielding a fire extinguisher last spring, the overall vacancy rate in January was about 31 percent.

The staff shortages leave prison officers vastly outnumbered, experts and officers say. Some said that shortages are so severe that a single officer must occasionally supervise more than 100 inmates.

©2018 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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