Prison Abuse – When the Media Isn’t Watching

Reports of inmate abuse are flying fast and furious these days. 

In North Carolina, the sad saga of Timothy Helms has been unfolding for weeks in The News & Observer. It appears guards severely beat Helms, leaving him partially paralyzed. Last week we learned that guards doused the recuperating and wheelchair-bound Helms with pepper spray as he rattled a hospital room door at Central Prison.

In January, the News &Observer reported the allegations of an Anson County inmate that he was drenched with pepper spray and that guards wouldn’t allow him to wash off the burning chemicals or get prompt medical attention.  It’s enough to make one wonder what’s going on inside the prison walls when the media isn’t watching.

Even more troubling is that the state is moving in a direction that could lead to more reports of inmate abuse.  Legislators want to close several prisons and double-cell inmates to save money. At the same time, prison personnel are increasingly frustrated with pay cuts and longer hours. The elimination of popular rehabilitation programs won’t help matters.

A new coalition is organizing to help monitor prison conditions and advocate for the rights of inmates.  NC CURE, which already is looking into a plethora of letters from prisoners, is partnering with the Carolina Justice Policy Center to investigate those allegations even when the media isn’t watching.


  1. robin schoffner

    May 23, 2009 at 3:58 am

    i applaud this paper, media, for the job it is doing to show the truth of what is happening “behind the walls”. i have a few men that are also in prison in NC that are abused and or neglected, and yet to get anyone to “see” or listen to the truth.
    again, thanks for your honesty approach and helping to show the “truth” the DOC doesnt want us to see.

  2. Dumped on

    May 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Honesty approach????
    So far neither has been published by the N&O. The National Inquirer is more relivant.

  3. Angel

    September 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I have a friend who is an inmate in one of the NC Prisons. It is horrible to read what goes on in this minimum security correctional center, and it is not just one inmate that is being harassed, abused, and mistreated. It makes me sick to my stomach. I will join anyone who wants to be an advocate to help stop what is going on, and do whatever it takes to make a difference. Is anybody listening, does anyone want to join me? Even a prisoner should be treated as a human being, not a dog. We don’t kick our dogs, do you?

  4. Tender Heart

    November 24, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I was DOC and I saw it happen. Inmates placed in admin. seg (pending investigation or for safety) beaten by 2 and 3 officers inside the small cell for not saying what the officers wanted to hear, inmates told if they try to go to medical, they would be placed in seg (he was diabetic and levels had dropped to dangerous levels) and just open lying on documents when inmates complained. It is not what you say but how you say it after all. When I would not mistreat them and attempted to help, they joined ranks and forced me to resign. Some may say they deserve harsh treatment, and I do agree none are incarcerated because they didn’t go to Sunday School, but the courts punished them. DOC is only to watch over them. Part of the job description is to keep the inmate safe from himself and others.

  5. Debbie

    December 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    My son is incarcerated and had been trying to get medical help for 5 years. DENIED! He was relocated so that I may visit him. Hardship. I suffer from M.S. and can’t take the long drives nor sit in airline seats for any lenght of time. WHAT A MISTAKE! Where he is now is the most corrupt ESTABLISHMENT OF ANY KIND, let alone prison. As I write this, my sons life is in danger and with-out a doubt, before morning he will have suffered some kind of abuse, other than the usual, EVERY SINGLE DAY abuse he endures now. I have obtained an at Attorney for my son and have got medical help in motion. BUT, AT A COST TO HIM as well as MYSELF! He is now thought to have M.S. himself, but STILL suffering the extremelly painful efects from this awful condition. AND, ontop of that, the corruption, abuse, mental stress (the WORSE thing for any M.S. patient) he still is not being treated for anything outside of a mild pain killer. NO INTERFURON INJECTIONS! The only med. known to slow the progression and lessen the amount of attacks caused by M.S. I personnaly am done. I have suffered to the point of deep, deep depression brought on by the abuse in that place. Hunt me down, kill me, I don’t care anymore. I am going to take this to the top, if I have to crawl all the way there, to protect my son from anymore. This is the end as far as I am concerned. What can they do to him or me, they haven’t already done? Death could not hurt NEAR AS BAD as what we have had to deal with in just a few SHORT MONTHS since his transfer. I have another son who has spent 4 tours in Iraq and shot twice. For what? THIS???? Welcome to america, the land of what used to be the free. With-out prejudice, corruption and INMATE/INMATE FAMILY ABUSE!

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