Lanesboro Correctional Institution’s top administrator – credited for improving the troubled prison – is leaving his position to oversee 15 state prisons in Western North Carolina.
David Mitchell, 52, will become director of prisons in the state’s mountain region, a spot vacated by Todd Pinion, who is retiring. Mitchell will remain at Lanesboro until a replacement is found, the Department of Public Safety said Monday.
Mitchell’s departure makes him the fifth superintendent to leave the maximum security prison in Anson County since its opening in 2004.
“It’s going to be tough for me to leave,” said Mitchell, a 28-year corrections veteran and former U.S. Navy officer. “But (Lanesboro is) on a stronger foundation and a more stable foundation for the employees, based on the feedback that I’ve received.”
Mitchell became Lanesboro’s superintendent in February 2014. He survived three assaults by inmates – including one in which he was stabbed by a homemade dagger. He said the prison is sending inmates to solitary confinement less often and has developed a one-of-a-kind cognitive behavior program for prisoners.
Mitchell said more than 300 inmates have taken part in the program, which teaches prisoners communications skills and how to better deal with substance abuse and family problems. The goal of the year-and-a-half-long program is to reduce violence and recidivism.
Mitchell said he hopes to expand the program as head of the mountain region.
Matthew Norris, police chief in nearby Polkton, said Mitchell’s changes have had a positive effect on the prison and he hates to see him leave. Norris said he and his officers have noticed a decline in reported crimes at the prison under Mitchell’s leadership.
Norris said one reason Polkton police have visited Lanesboro was to investigate corrupt officers – a small fraction of prison staff. Norris credited Mitchell for rooting them out.
“We’ve made a lot of arrests and investigated a lot of officers out there based on internal (prison) investigations,” he said.
Mitchell said hiring qualified officers and firing bad ones has been the most difficult part of his job.
In other Department of Public Safety news, the state announced Monday that Joseph Valliere was named the new administrator of Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury.
Valliere has worked in corrections for 24 years and was the assistant superintendent for custody and operations at Piedmont Correctional since 2012.
Gavin Off: 704-358-6038