NC Department of Public Safety takes immediate action to improve safety after employee deaths

Justin Smith, left, and Veronica Darden, were killed in an incident Oct. 12 at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution. Officials said inmates started a fire in a sewing plant. Several inmates tried to escape after the fire was started, but were unsuccessful.

 (WAVY) — The Department of Public Safety announced they will take immediate action to make prisons safer following the attempted escape Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City that killed two prison employees and injured others Thursday.

Secretary Erik A. Hooks and state prison leaders met with Governor Roy Cooper Friday, who told them to improve prison safety in the wake of the attack.

RELATED: No escapes from Pasquotank prison; 3 employees still in hospital

“We owe it to the public and to our employees to keep state prisons secure, and we owe it to these fallen employees and their families to learn all we can about what happened and take steps to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again,” Hooks said.

The release said the Department has begun an assessment of the incident, and would take the following immediate steps:

  • Suspending Correction Enterprises operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution while a thorough review of the program’s safety and security is completed
  • Reviewing the safety of all Corrections Enterprises operations at all state prisons
  • Increasing the number of correctional officers who provide security in Correction Enterprises areas and increasing the number of rounds by the officer in charge within those areas
  • Reviewing emergency procedures at all facilities
  • Conducting a complete facility search at Pasquotank Correctional Institution by 100 Prison Emergency Response Team members for controband or other .

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department, along with the State Bureau of Investigation, are conducting a criminal investigation into the attack and attempted escape.