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home : opinion : opinion November 21, 2017

8/20/2017 12:01:00 AM
Prison Isn't Always What We Think It Is

Paulette Ballard
Guest Columnist


Tony Dellinger recently retired from the prison known as the Lincolnton Correctional Center. After his 25 years there he was ready to leave. He began his employment there as a correctional officer and then began working in maintenance where he stayed.

I asked Tony what was the most challenging part of his work at the LCC. His comment was, “The people I had to work with had different ways of doing things and had different work ethics. Jealousy was a problem among the working staff and some were more lenient than others. It didn’t appear that everyone was following the same policy.”

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As we continued to talk, I asked him if he had ever had to defend himself among the inmates and he said that happened twice. He fired one inmate and the inmate accused him of touching him inappropriately. “They pretty much get away with things like that because if we tried to punish them, mommy and daddy would call the prison and tell us they were going to call their senator or congressman. The powers that be in Raleigh are afraid of this, therefore no punishment is issued.” Tony suggested the people in Raleigh should have to work there for a month and see just what goes on instead of sugarcoating it for the public.

The LCC holds 236 inmates. Tony said most of the inmates are respectful if respect is shown to them. For instance, he asked an inmate to pick up some paper on the floor and the inmate did as asked. However, there are also those who don’t care and whether they are shown respect or not, they rebel and threaten to have their family get involved. There was one inmate who followed Tony’s directions and as Tony continued to watch him, this inmate was a good worker. Tony went to the staff and told the female staff member that he would like to have that young man on his squad. The woman’s response was, “No you can’t have him because I don’t like him.”

It had always been my assumption (I guess from watching TV), that they were there to be punished for committing a crime. After listening to Tony, they have it made there. Free rent and three meals a day and can take any number of classes to help them learn and apply for employment when they are released. Most of them are in school during the day. Some of the classes they can take are welding, carpentry, plumbing, and learning to be an electrician. They can also get their GED while in the LCC. Other inmates cook and some do laundry. There is a variety of things for them to do.

Tony told me he tried to get along with all of them and for the most part it worked. I asked him what would make it better and his response was, “The pay needs to go up and maybe more officers would follow the policy. Also, it is a 4-week class to become a correctional officer and learn how to shoot a gun. There needs to be more training than 4-weeks. I’m afraid someone is really going to get hurt badly someday. I can say that in all my years there I never had to use my personal pepper spray on anyone.”

I know Tony from church and he is a go-getter in the neighborhood and church. He works with The Grace Team at church. They go out and do odd jobs for the elderly people who need it, mow lawns, clean out twigs and leaves that have accumulated in yards and other yard work older people can’t do for themselves. They help clean out buildings also. Tony is a father and a grandfather and an all-round good man. He umpires baseball and soccer and likes to watch his grandsons play.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2017
Article comment by: Gilbert Cook

I have worked with Tony for 16 plus years. After reading the article it appears he has sugar coated his story for you. He is indeed a good man. He is still friends with several staff members still employed at Lincoln correctional center. I am still employed there and I could tell you some things that would blow your mind. He was very truthful about the jealousy and back stabbing among staff. And officer and upper management do fudge on policy. It's said to be black and white but there are a lot of grey areas that are used. The prison has no cameras and no accountability among staff. I have been employed with the prison over 19 years and it is getting worse as the days go by. Staff shortage, low pay, sorry training, and many more problems. I used to try and get people to apply for a prison job. Not anymore. I don't even like to tell people where I work if they ask.



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