William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 26 Aug 2005 09:38:37 -0400


Posted on Fri, Aug. 26, 2005

Inmates say they were put on leash

Prison ordered to stop using tether


Staff Writer

The Alexander Correctional Institution has been ordered to stop using a
leash-like tether on its inmates until the device is tested and evaluated by
the state.
The maximum security prison in Taylorsville has been using the nylon tether
on some inmates since about the time it opened last year. But prison
officials never received the required approval from the N.C. Department of
Correction's security review committee, spokesman Keith Acree said Thursday.
The director of prisons didn't know the tether was being used until the
Observer inquired this week, after receiving letters from two inmates who
said they were put on a "dog leash."
Acree said prisons director Boyd Bennett told Alexander officials Thursday
to halt use of the tether because proper procedure hadn't been followed.
Acree said he does not believe the device was being used at any other N.C.
Alexander Correctional, about 65 miles northwest of Charlotte, houses 959
inmates who are serving long sentences or convicted of violent crimes.
Administrator Reggie Weisner said the tether was used when moving inmates
considered especially dangerous to the showers or recreation area.
Acree said 57 inmates are in that category.
The tether is about 2 1/2 feet long and made of nylon webbing with a loop
handle at one end and a clip at the other.
Weisner said corrections officers attached the clip to the waist chain on
inmates who would also have their legs shackled and their arms handcuffed
behind their back. The officers, he said, would always walk behind the
inmate allowing them to hold the tether loop instead of putting hands on the
A man serving a life sentence for murder wrote in his letter that inmates
who want to shower "have to wear a dog leash around a chain as if we are
really dogs or animals."
Weisner said the tether protects corrections officers and inmates from
He said officers can control an inmate by lifting up on the tether; they
also have a better chance of stopping a man trying to get away by grabbing
it with both hands.
He said it's a useful tool -- and said his staff was using it exactly as it
was intended.
"Once in full restraint is adding a tether more demeaning? To me, certainly
the safety factor outweighs any perceived image on the part of an inmate,"
Weisner said. "It's not like they are paraded in front of other people."
Stacy Schultz, general manager of tether-maker Humane Restraint, said the
product has been available for about 10 years. He said he did not know how
many prisons were using them or how many had been sold. They sell for $12
Weisner said that he will demonstrate the tether for the safety committee
next month and that he hopes to get permission to use it again.

Melissa Manware: (704) 358-5041; mmanware@charlotteobserver.com