Researchers at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy released a report in December reviewing nationwide prison management practices and providing specific recommendations for the state’s prison systems. In the wake of an investigative series in the Charlotte Observer detailing serious violations within the state’s prisons, the NC Governor’s Crime Commission had tasked Duke researchers with finding potential solutions to an intransigent problem: prison staffing and security.

Lead researcher and recent Sanford graduate, Caitlin Saunders, joined Joel Rosch, senior researcher and policy liaison for the Center for Child and Family Policy, in a recent podcast summarizing their key findings. After an extensive literature review, interviews with national organizations and in-depth interviews with seven state-level prison systems, the researchers ultimately came up with three broad categories of recommendations for the state of North Carolina: invest in personnel, establish a cohesive organizational culture, and improve facility safety.

In speaking with prison administrators across the country, Caitlin and her team found that the issues North Carolina faced in hiring, screening, training and retaining correctional officers were ubiquitous. One surprising finding: hiring and retaining staff in prisons isn’t all about the money. In fact, according to Caitlin, states with the highest salaries don’t have the lowest vacancy rates precisely because employees care more about their workplace environment, professional development opportunities, and feelings of efficacy than their paycheck alone.

The report was also highlighted on January 9th on the news show Capital Tonight and will serve as a tool for policymakers as they look to reform North Carolina’s prison systems.