ABSTRACT

Late one fall afternoon I was touring a medium security prison in the southern Piedmont district of North Carolina. I was part of a team of potential “expert witnesses” observing the conditions at the prison on behalf of the plaintiffs in a federal law suit against the state of North Carolina. There were prisonologists, safety engineers, lawyers, and a psychologist (me) on the tour, which was being conducted by the prison administrators. The first residential area we saw consisted of two dormitory rooms, which housed over sixty men each. The beds were triple-bunked and the bunks lined each of the three walls that were solid rather than bars. In addition to the beds around the walls there was a double row of triple bunks filling most of the center of the room, leaving only a narrow walkway between the center beds and the beds along the wall. As I walked down this corridor between the beds I had to turn my shoulders at an angle to avoid bumping against the bedframes. Over 90% of the inmates were housed in these two rooms, separated by a corridor of walls of bars from which the guards could view only some of the men during their sundown to sunrise lockup.