The Charlotte Observer has looked into where the blame lies in the murder of a prison guard, but the paper’s conclusion might be a surprise.
You might blame Craig Wissink, the convicted murderer who by all accounts ambushed and killed Sgt. Meggan Callahan in a brutal attack April 26 at Bertie Correctional Institution.
He apparently set a fire in a wastebasket. When Callahan rushed in with a fire extinguisher, he grabbed it and beat her to death with it. State Bureau of Investigations officials believe he targeted her, planned the attack, and hit her several times. The attack was apparently caught on surveillance cameras, so we don’t have to call in Sherlock Holmes.
You might blame him for being a savage killer who deserves no mercy. But that’s too simplistic, the paper says.
The article says that state prisons are understaffed, and suggests that played a role in Sgt. Callahan’s death.
Maybe there were other factors, however.
- Is it possible that many female guards just aren’t strong enough to protect themselves against vicious criminals?
The Observer article also mentioned that, when Callahan was attacked, two other officers were nearby, and “one of those officers fell and hurt her knee when she went to Callahan’s defense.”
Let’s stipulate women can do most jobs as well as or better than men. But is one of them guarding men who have already harmed or killed people? Remember, at a real prison, the inmates are convicted criminals, many of them mentally disturbed, all hardened by time in slammer. Wissink had been incarcerated since 2004 for murder.
Maybe a muscular woman weighing 200 pounds and trained in martial arts would be able to fend off an attack from a male inmate. But the vast majority of women are at a grave disadvantage in a fight with a man.
Prison guards are constantly around men who have already robbed, beaten or killed other human beings. Many inmates spend their time lifting weights. Life behind bars, sadly, often makes bad men worse.
This is one case where the physical differences between men and women are important. Pretending otherwise can have fatal results.
- Is it possible that a lifer like Wissink is unafraid of launching such an attack because there’s nothing else the justice system can do to him?
Right now the death penalty is “a paper tiger” in North Carolina. Capital punishment hasn’t been imposed on anyone in more than a decade, and because of legal challenges it remains in limbo today.
So what is to deter a killer like Wissink from attacking or murdering a prison guard? He’s already behind bars for life. What could have discouraged him from such an assault?
Now, after years of legal formalities, he’ll maybe be moved from one prison wing to another. Big deal.
Prison guards have a tough job. It has to be tougher because the killers around them have nothing to lose.
It will be instructive to see how the media handle this case going forward.