Bertie prison nears completion

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WINDSOR – The countdown is on.

In less than two weeks, construction is expected to end on the new state prison located near Windsor on Cooper Hill Road (NC 308). By July, the first wave of an expected 1,000 inmates will take-up occupancy in this $93 million, close custody facility.

Last week, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners heard an update from prison administrator Anthony Hathaway. Topping his list of discussion items was a concern about filling all available positions of employment at the facility.

“Shortages remain with correctional officers and medical staff,” Hathaway said. “Of the 400 staff members, we’re a little over halfway there.”

Meanwhile, Hathaway said he was pleased to announce that hiring had increased for correctional officers, an area of major concern just a few months ago. He reported that of the 264 correctional officer positions available, 170 have been filled.

That drew a question from Commissioner Norman Cherry Sr. He wanted to know if Bertie County residents, currently working at other state-operated prisons, were offered transfers to the Windsor facility. Hathaway answered by saying some had indeed accepted transfers.

Hathaway, a 34-year veteran with the North Carolina Department of Correction, offered the Commissioners a timeline for the opening of the prison. He said final inspections were expected before the end of the month followed by extensive training for the staff in order to prepare for the July arrival of the inmates.

“The pace is picking up,” Hathaway said. “By early summer, we’ll see 1,000 inmates and over 400 staff members here at the prison. We’ll need all the prayers we can get at that point.”

Hathaway stressed that he and his staff will operate under the motto of changing lives through quality and integrity.

“We know we can’t change everybody, but we have to make the effort,” he said. “We will attempt to change or re-direct the lives of our inmates.”

He closed by saying, “We will be a good neighbor here in Bertie County where we are happy to provide jobs and benefits.”

On behalf of the board, Rick Harrell, chairman of the commissioners, bid Hathaway and his staff a warm welcome to Bertie County.

“We’re seeing a lot of new faces in and around the county,” Harrell said. “Everyone I’ve spoken with seems excited to be here and we’re excited to have you here.”

The Bertie Commissioners are scheduled for an upcoming tour of the prison prior to the inmates’ arrival.