RECENT UPDATE: On February 25, 2021, the parties reached a landmark settlement resulting in the early release of at least 3,500 people in state custody, making it among the largest prison releases in the country achieved via COVID-19 litigation efforts. Additionally, the settlement will ensure the state takes important measures to mitigate the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s prisons, including through vaccination and safe testing, cohorting, transfer protocols, as well as monitoring and complaint processes. Click or tap here for more information.
The ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights North Carolina, Emancipate NC, Forward Justice, and the National Juvenile Justice Network filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to ensure that the Governor and other public officials take further action to stop the deadly spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the NC NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina, the ACLU of North Carolina, three people who are currently incarcerated, and a spouse of an incarcerated person after the North Carolina Supreme Court denied a petition to take up the case.
From the outset of the pandemic, public health experts sounded the alarm that without swift and drastic actions, prisons and jails across the country would see severe outbreaks of COVID-19. The lawsuit sought an immediate order compelling officials to reduce the prison population in order to enable the social distancing that experts agree is necessary to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.
- On June 26, 2020, a North Carolina Superior Court judge ruled that plaintiffs were likely to win their claim that people incarcerated in North Carolina prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic are being held under unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The judge ordered the parties to return to the Court later with a plan for ensuring that people across its state prisons will be kept safe.
- On August 17, 2020, plaintiffs in the case filed a Motion to Enforce the Injunction, or in the Alternative, Motion to Show Cause, notifying the 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. Read more about that filing here.
- On December 4, 2020, Judge Vince Rozier, Jr., appointed a Special Master for this case. More information about the Special Master appointment and other order modifications issued by the court can be found in this press release.