RALEIGH, N.C. - Governor Roy Cooper has commuted the sentences of six people in North Carolina prisons and granted pardons of forgiveness to four others. Two of the commutations resulted from recommendations by the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, which the Governor established in 2021 through an Executive Order.
“We have been standing vigil and in solidarity with our community members who are languishing in our state’s jails and prisons,” said Kristie Puckett Williams, the Deputy Director for Engagement and Mobilization and Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This exercise of clemency is joyous, powerful, and necessary, especially for those who are now returning to their families and communities. But it is just a fraction of what we need to create a more just North Carolina. We will continue to demand that North Carolina stop using imprisonment as a catch-all response to societal issues.”
Since 2020, community members and advocates have gathered for an ongoing Vigil for Freedom and Racial Justice, led by Decarcerate Now NC, demanding that Governor Cooper use his executive authority to grant clemency, pardons, and sentence commutations to people who are currently incarcerated. The movement also advocates for people who were formerly incarcerated, calling attention to the lingering impacts of the criminal legal system on our communities.
The Vigil drafted a letter to Governor Cooper that declared that the recently re-constituted Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice’s (TREC) recommendations have not been prioritized by the state agencies under Cooper’s leadership. The letter also asked the Governor to release those who are ill, the elderly, those in prison for technical violations of parole, and those who were incarcerated as children, as well as to commute the death sentences of those on death row.
The Vigil will continue to advocate for justice, fairness and second chances for people incarcerated in state prisons and encourage Governor Cooper to make further use of his clemency powers to end mass incarceration in North Carolina.
The beneficiaries of these acts of clemency include Donnie Parker, Benjamin Williams, Kolanda Wooten, Joey Graham, TiShekka Cain, Janet Danahey, Stefany Lewis, Cathy Grimes, Eric Colburn, and Brenda French.
Community members will continue to stand vigil outside the Governor’s Mansion every day until January 1, 2023. Event details can be found at decarceratenownc.com.