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Groups Call on Court to Enforce Protections for People Incarcerated During Pandemic

August 19, 2020

Contact: Brittany Cheatham, 984-260-6632,

RALEIGH, N.C. - Plaintiffs who won an emergency motion in June have notified the Wake County Superior Court that the state of North Carolina is not meeting its obligations under the Court’s orders to protect the close to 32,000 people who are incarcerated during the pandemic. Among the issues raised in the filing, plaintiffs and their attorneys assert that despite the court’s orders to do so:

The state has not expanded population reduction efforts to address overcrowding in state prisons;
Incarcerated people who are placed in “medical isolation” are confined in punitive solitary confinement-like conditions; and,
The state is engaging in dangerous transfer practices that put incarcerated people and prison staff at risk of another outbreak of COVID-19 in a state prison.

A hearing on the Motion to Enforce the Injunction, or in the Alternative, Motion to Show Cause has been scheduled for Friday, August 28, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. via Webex.

Organizational plaintiffs and attorneys in the case issued the following statement after filing the motion:

“The state of North Carolina is under the court’s orders to take steps to protect the lives of incarcerated people in their custody and is failing to comply with those orders and with their constitutional obligations. This is a matter of law and the state’s refusal to abide by a court’s order, but this is also a moral issue for all North Carolinians who value people’s lives.”

To date, at least ten people have died from COVID-19 while incarcerated in North Carolina state prisons, and over 1,500 others have been infected with the disease, which can cause serious illness and have long-term debilitating health consequences. Large-scale outbreaks resulting in the spread of hundreds of COVID-19 cases have already swept through at least four North Carolina state prisons.

The ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights North Carolina, Emancipate NC, Forward Justice, and the National Juvenile Justice Network initially filed the lawsuit in April, and plaintiffs in the case include three people who are currently incarcerated, a spouse of an incarcerated person, and organizational plaintiffs including NC NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina, and the ACLU of North Carolina.