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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 12, 2017 6:40 pm

Attempted North Carolina prison break injures at least 14

Associated Press

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – An attempted breakout by inmates from a North Carolina prison sent at least 14 people to hospitals Thursday, authorities said.
The disturbance involved fires set in the prison's sewing plant, the state Department of Public Safety posted on its Twitter account. A spokesman for the state prison system said he couldn't provide immediate details of what had happened, how many sought to escape or how many were injured overall.

But state correction authorities said the injured included several employees at the prison, the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, near the coast. The extent of those injuries wasn't immediately disclosed.

No inmates managed to clamber beyond the prison walls, state prison spokesman Keith Acree said.

Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City received nine people requiring treatment, hospital spokesman Peter Sengenberger said. He added two of those patients were transferred and five other patients were being taken to a sister hospital about 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the north in Norfolk, Virginia.

The prison can house nearly 900 adult, male felons in both high-security and minimum-custody buildings but the inmate population on Thursday was 729, the state correction agency said. Minimum-security prisoners work outside the walls on road gangs for the county recycling department and perform other community labor.

The public school district locked doors at three nearby schools after getting word about 3:30 p.m. of the escape attempt. The notice came as students at one of the facilities, Pasquotank High School, were just to be released for the day and after dismissal times for the elementary and middle schools, said Tammy Sawyer, a spokeswoman for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. Buses were ordered back to their schools with any students still in transit.

"We didn't want kids home alone or in transport with the potential situation that was unfolding," Sawyer said. Local emergency management officials said about 5 p.m. it was again safe for students to return home.

The prison has reported other incidents this year. In April, an argument between two inmates at the prison led to one prisoner stabbing the other several times in the upper torso. Two months earlier, a guard was charged with trying to smuggle illegal drugs, phones and cigarettes behind prison walls.