An inmate serving 24 years for second-degree murder reportedly killed himself Tuesday at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Anson County.
Terry Poole was found unresponsive in his cell at about 6:20 p.m., according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Prison medical staff and local paramedics tried to resuscitate him, the department said.
Poole’s death appears to be the year’s fifth inmate suicide in North Carolina.
Over the past two years, an unusually large number of North Carolina inmates have killed themselves. Last year, seven N.C. inmates reportedly committed suicide – compared to just three in 2015.
North Carolina prison leaders last year initiated a plan to prevent more inmates from taking their own lives. Among other things, the plan requires that all prison staff be trained to recognize whether inmates are at risk of committing suicide, and that every prison conduct three mock drills each year to prepare staff on how to handle an attempted suicide in progress.
Historically, state officials say, the suicide rate among North Carolina inmates has been lower than that for state prison populations nationally – and lower than the rate for the U.S. population as a whole.
But critics have questioned whether state prison officials are doing enough to treat and monitor inmates who might be at risk of committing suicide.
It has also been a deadly year for prison workers. Five employees have been killed in attacks at Pasquotank Correctional Institution and Bertie Correctional Institution.
Better staffing might have saved the lives of those employees, experts and officers told the Observer. Staff shortages in the state’s prisons have climbed to dangerous levels over the past two years, the newspaper found.
A dangerous prison
State officials have not said how Poole committed suicide. The DPS web site says he was in restrictive housing – the term generally used to describe solitary confinement.
Poole was sentenced in Lee County, southwest of Raleigh, in 2005 and was scheduled to be released in October 2023.
Located in Polkton, about 45 miles east of Charlotte, Lanesboro houses some of the state’s most violent criminals. Of Lanesboro’s roughly 1,800 inmates, more than 350 were convicted of murder.
It’s so dangerous that some officers begin their work days by asking those coming off the previous shift how many assaults they’ve just seen, The Charlotte Observer reported this year as part of an investigation of the state prison system.
The Observer’s investigation found that state prison policies and management failures allow corruption to thrive. Officers and staff have orchestrated illegal smuggling operations, beaten shackled inmates and engaged in sex with prisoners.