NC inmate dies after lighting fire in cell
An inmate died from “severe burns” after setting a fire in his cell on Friday at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety tweeted. Butner is northeast of Durham.
Freddie Pickett set the fire at about 3:30 p.m. and was taken to a local medical facility, prison officials said. He was pronounced dead at 4:47 p.m.
Staff extinguished the fire, and no one else was hurt, prison officials said late Friday.
The 41year-old Pickett was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 and was scheduled to be released in 2026, according to the department. He had been cited for 92 infractions inside the prisons since 1992, according to prison records. Among them: a 2017 write-up for assaulting staff with a weapon. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement and fire officials are investigating the fire.
In Mecklenburg County, a jail inmate was pronounced dead late Thursday after being taken to a hospital, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The sheriff’s office said Friday it is investigating the death of 34-year-old Jemarcus McIlwaine and that no further details were available.
“The investigation continues as the medical examiner determines the cause of death,” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
Pickett’s death at Polk Correctional Institution comes at a time when the state is wrestling with acute staff shortages in its prisons.
The shortages are particularly acute at maximum-security prisons in rural areas, such as Polk, where more than 35 percent of officer positions were vacant in January.
Pickett was being held in what the state calls “high security maximum control,” a form of isolation reserved for some of the prisons’ most dangerous offenders.
It is designed for inmates who pose “an imminent threat” to the lives or health of other inmates or staff, or a “serious threat” to prison security, according to a state policy.