- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The mother of a guard who authorities say was killed by an inmate in a North Carolina prison hopes her daughter’s death shows the need for more guards and better training.

Meggan Callahan was beaten by an inmate with the fire extinguisher she was trying to use to put out a trash can fire on April 26 at Bertie Correctional Institution.

“Maybe there’s a purpose to Meggan’s death. It’s for people to understand they need more help there,” Wendy Callahan told The Charlotte Observer (https://bit.ly/2qpnwMS).

Statewide, about 16 percent of prison officer jobs are vacant. Rural prisons like Bertie Correctional Institution have even more trouble staying fully staffed. About one in five positions at that prison are empty.

“I’m not going to let Meggan die in vain,” her mother said. “Hopefully people will realize there really is an issue here. There is a problem. And we need to fix it.”

Two officers were nearby when Meggan Callahan was attacked by inmate Craig Wissink. One fell and hurt her knee as she tried to help. About 60 inmates were also in the area, said Anthony Jernigan, who heads the State Bureau of Investigation office in northeastern North Carolina.

State prison workers were attacked 1,160 times by inmates in 2016, according to state figures.

Callahan’s mother said she was a funny person - once wrapping her car in Saran wrap - and wanted to help others. She chose to be a prison guard in 2012 instead of a soldier or police officer because it seemed safer.

But Callahan would tell her mother that officers were put with inmates before completing their training and were often vastly outnumbered. She was once beaten with a broomstick.

“Putting someone on the floor with 80 inmates when you haven’t had the proper training - that’s putting that person in danger,” Callahan’s mother said. “And it’s putting the inmates in danger.”

Callahan’s mother said she doesn’t want to share details about what happened to her daughter because it might jeopardize the criminal case against Wissink. But she said the inmate also heated water in a microwave and threw it at her daughter before attacking her with the fire extinguisher.

Wissink is charged with first-degree murder. He was already serving a life sentence for a fatal shooting during an attempted robbery in Fayetteville in 2000.

Wendy Callahan teaches classes on faith at a Catholic church in Edenton and said she doesn’t want Wissink to get the death penalty for killing her daughter.

“I don’t have the right to take his life for what he did. It’s not my choice,” she said. “It’s God’s decision.”


Information from: The Charlotte Observer, https://www.charlotteobserver.com

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