WILMINGTON, N.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is speaking out against a proposal from the district attorneys of New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Columbus, and Bladen counties to seek a minimum bail amount of $1 million for anyone charged with distributing or trafficking opioids.


“Keeping people locked in jail before they have been found guilty of any crime is a misguided, ineffective, and likely unconstitutional way to combat our state’s opioid epidemic,” said Sneha Shah, a staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “As leaders and experts across the state and country have made clear, substance abuse needs to be approached as the public health issue that it is – not by throwing more people in jail before they have even had a chance to face trial. Setting high bail amounts does not deter crime, but it does harm communities, particularly people of color, and lead to overcrowded jails, wasting taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on drug treatment and intervention.”


On the same day as the district attorneys announced their proposal in Wilmington, members of North Carolina’s Opioid Sentencing Task Force met in Raleigh. The bipartisan Task Force was created in 2017 to study sentencing for opioid drug crimes and whether data supports harsh sentencing as a deterrent.


The Task Force is chaired by Rep. Gregory Murphy, MD, and Sen. Jim Davis and made up of 22 members representing district attorneys, judges, law enforcement, legislators, public health experts, criminal defense attorneys, and impacted families.