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Students tour maximum security prison

By Abbigail Overfelt
News Editor

Students in Dr. Kim Gunter’s English 1060 class toured Central Prison on April 21 as part of the course study on the death penalty.

The tour was led by Lt. Blanks, who described the prison as the “last stop” for criminals in North Carolina.

The tour visited the lobby, where Lt. Blanks showed students the multiple weapons that have been manufactured by inmates, including a toothbrush with a razor blade melted onto the bottom.

Lt. Blanks took the class through the floors of the institution by elevators that were operated through intercom.

The elevators, as all areas of the prison, were monitored by cameras.

Central Prison allows visitation through a small booth behind glass, which had been carved with messages by prisoners.
“Boredom breeds destruction,” said Lt. Blanks.

However, for most prisoners that are considered non-threatening, boredom is not a problem.

The facility features a full courtyard, where the students walked by inmates playing basketball, handball and guitar.

The low-security, or general population prisoners, also are allowed to play pool and ping-pong and lift weights in the indoor recreational center.

“These are prisoners that have been here for 20 years or more,” Lt. Blanks said.

“They run the prison. Most of what you see was built by them,” he said.

For many students, the most disturbing part of the visit was touring the “death chamber,” where prisoners are put to death by lethal injection.

Another aspect of the high-security portion of the prison was “the yard” where prisoners are let out for an hour a day into steel cages under the watch of a guardtower.

“I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, like I was visiting a zoo and the prisoners were caged animals,” said freshman Jimmie Whirley.

“Some of the guys acted like they didn’t want to be looked at, but others were talking to us,” he said.

“I felt that going there helped me to put a picture together of what prison is really like. It’s more diverse than what you see on TV,” said freshman Andrea Matute.

“It was basically what I thought it was,” said freshman Zak Boyd.

“I didn’t know they were so free,” he said.

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Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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