Local News

NC judge rules in favor of state prisoners who claim incarceration during pandemic is unconstitutional

Posted June 8, 2020 7:32 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2020 11:36 p.m. EDT

— A North Carolina Superior Court judge ruled that a coalition of civil rights groups are likely to win their claim that the incarceration of state prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic is unconstitutional.

The ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights North Carolina, Emancipate NC, Forward Justice, and the National Juvenile Justice Network filed the lawsuit in April against Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks on behalf of three prisoners, a prisoner's spouse, the NC NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina and the ACLU of North Carolina.

The plaintiffs claim the state is failing to protect prisoners from COVID-19 outbreaks.

On Monday, the judge ruled the plaintiffs were likely to win their claim and ordered all parties to reconvene later this month to make a plan to keep prisoners safe.

“This ruling affirms that state officials have a constitutional obligation to protect the health and safety of the people in their custody and combat the spread of this deadly disease,” ACLU of North Carolina attorney Leah Kang said in a statement. “The deadly outbreaks in our state prisons have already claimed six lives and continue to threaten all North Carolinians, especially communities of color which have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic."

Five state prisoners have died from COVID-19.

Since mid-April when the suit was filed, the state has released approximately 750 people, or 2%, of the 34,000 people who were in state custody.

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