5 N.C. prison facilities with names tied to racism, white supremacy will soon be renamed

According to DPS, the staff at each facility shared their input for new names


By Laura Brache
The News & Observer 
        
RALEIGH, N.C. — Five prisons with names tied to racism and white supremacy will get new names to "update them to 21st century cultural standards," the N.C. Department of Public Safety said Thursday.

The changes, which will take effect Oct. 4, came after DPS conducted an in-depth review of its facilities' names. They found five had racist or white supremacist ties, DPS said in a release.

"These changes are being made to better reflect the diversity of modern-day society," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons, in a statement. "In this day and age, it is unacceptable to maintain facility names with negative historical connotations."

Caledonia Correctional Institution's name stems from the property's use as an antebellum plantation; since 1890, inmates have worked on the operating prison farm.
Caledonia Correctional Institution's name stems from the property's use as an antebellum plantation; since 1890, inmates have worked on the operating prison farm. (Flickr/Government & Heritage Library)

The facilities are:

  • Caledonia Correctional Institution in Tillery, about 80 miles northeast of Raleigh;
  • Morrison Correctional Institution in Hoffman, 80 miles southwest of Raleigh;
  • Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, just north of Raleigh in Granville County;
  • Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women in Black Mountain, near Asheville; and
  • the DART Cherry residential treatment facility in Goldsboro, about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh.

Caledonia will become Roanoke River Correctional Institution. DPS says the facility's name stems from the property's use as an antebellum plantation, where crops were grown and harvested with enslaved African-Americans' labor. Since 1890, inmates have worked on the operating prison farm and cannery.

Swannanoa Correctional will be the Western Correctional Center for Women. The name was found to be tied to the construction of the Swannanoa Tunnel in Asheville. DPS researchers found that the construction possibly resulted in the deaths of numerous Black offender-laborers in the late 1800s.

DPS says the Polk, Morrison and DART Cherry facilities were flagged when their research showed they were named after historical figures who practiced slavery and white supremacy.

Polk Correctional will become Granville Correctional Institution. It was initially named for William Polk, a Revolutionary War officer and slaveholder.

Morrison Correctional will become Richmond Correctional Institution. It was named for former Gov. Cameron Morrison, who was a leader of the "Red Shirts," a violent, post-Civil War organization that promoted white supremacy.

The DART Cherry facility will now be known as the DART Center. It was named for former Gov. Gregg Cherry, who advocated to drop civil rights from the Democratic party platform in the 1940s.

According to DPS, the staff at each facility shared their input for new names.

"It was important to me that the staff have a say in the names of the places they work, and they preferred names with local community significance," Ishee said. "I strongly believe they should not have to work in facilities named to honor those who may have oppressed their ancestors."

The Department of Public Safety looked into the historical context for the names of 1,893 buildings that are part of 240 complexes owned or operated by DPS.

As of Dec. 31, North Carolina's total prison population was 30,058 people. More than half, or 51%, are Black, followed by whites, Hispanics and Asians. The majority of inmates are male, while only 8% are female.

NC DPS joins several other entities reexamining their names because of connections to racism, including universities, schools, Army bases, shopping centers and neighborhoods.
    
(c)2021 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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