Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The names of five North Carolina prison facilities will change effective October 4 in an effort to update them to 21st century cultural standards.
“These changes are being made to better reflect the diversity of modern-day society,” said Todd Ishee, N.C. Commissioner of Prisons. “In this day and age, it is unacceptable to maintain facility names with negative historical connotations.”
Over the past year, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) conducted an in-depth review of the historical aspects of the names of all its state-owned or operated facilities. During this review, officials determined the names of five prison facilities should be changed in sensitivity to the cultural legacy issues that have been part of the national conversation in recent years.
Effective Oct. 4, four prison facilities and a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility will be renamed as follows:
• Caledonia Correctional Institution in Tillery will become Roanoke River Correctional Institution.
• Morrison Correctional Institution in Hoffman will become Richmond Correctional Institution.
• Polk Correctional Institution in Butner will become Granville Correctional Institution.
• Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women in Black Mountain will become Western Correctional Center for Women.
• DART Cherry residential treatment facility in Goldsboro will become DART Center.
The staff at those five facilities had input into choosing the 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,” said Ishee. “I strongly believe they should not have to work in facilities named to honor those who may have oppressed their ancestors.”
In its research, DPS staff looked into the historical context for the names of 1,893 buildings that are part of 240 complexes owned or operated by DPS.
The Polk, Morrison and DART Cherry facilities were flagged when research indicated they were named for historical figures whose race-related actions do not represent DPS’s values.
Polk Correctional was named for William Polk, a Revolutionary War officer who owned slaves.
Morrison Correctional 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 was named for former Gov. Gregg Cherry, who advocated to drop civil rights from the Democratic Party platform in the 1940s.
Caledonia Correctional’s name stems from the property’s use as an antebellum plantation, where crops were grown and harvested with slave labor.
Swannanoa Correctional’s name was tied to the construction of the Swannanoa Tunnel in Asheville, which appears to have resulted in the deaths of numerous Black offender-laborers in the late 1800s.