Most incarcerated people in North Carolina have been given at least two single-ply masks and get two bars of soap per week to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Department of Public Safety officials plan to discuss in the next month how to transition back to normal operations, according to Friday court filings related to a lawsuit filed by civil rights organizations and incarcerated people.
Releasing people from facilities is not part of the agency’s 30-day plan.
Judge Vince Rozier recently asked DPS to provide more facility-specific information about its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it was keeping incarcerated people safe. His order was part of a lawsuit alleging DPS isn’t doing enough to protect incarcerated people; the lawsuit asked for the agency to release thousands of incarcerated people to make social distancing in facilities possible.
DPS responded by providing a chart with mostly yes or no answers about whether each adult corrections facility had provided residents with masks, soap and sanitizer, and if they’re following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It also provided affidavits from every facility warden to confirm the information is true.
Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee also outlined a 30-day DPS plan in his affidavit, which includes collaborating with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to move incarcerated people who have recovered from COVID-19 back to the regular population. Other parts of the plan discuss evaluating how to safely distribute alcohol-based sanitizer to the entire population.
Ishee reported as of Thursday, there were 643 incarcerated people who had tested positive for the virus. The DPS website reported 642 positive tests as of 3 p.m. Sunday.
The chart for adult corrections does not specify how each facility’s living conditions prevent the spread of COVID-19, and only states “yes” for every facility stating i does meet conditions. Individual affidavits go into more detail.
DPS also provided a chart for juvenile facilities, which is more detailed than that for adult facilities. There have not yet been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at a juvenile facility, according to court documents.
In addition to submitting more information about its COVID-19 response, Rozier ordered plaintiffs and defendants to confer and try to agree on names of potential special masters he could appoint to guide a more specific response to the pandemic. The parties were unable to agree and each submitted their own list of names.
The plaintiffs suggested four possibilities: Tom Maher and Brandon Garrett at the Duke Center for Science and Justice; Emily Coward at UNC School of Government; Noell Tin, of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen PLLC; and Asa L. Bell Jr., of the Law Offices of Asa L. Bell Jr., P.A.
The defendants named the following three possible special masters (though they oppose appointment of a special master): Reginald Wilkinson, of Columbus, Ohio, an independent consultant; Gary Mohr, of Chillicothe, Ohio, an independent consultant with the Department of Justice; and Jeffrey Beard, a professor of practice for Penn State University’s Justice Research Center.
Rozier has not yet made a ruling in the case. View some of the full documents submitted Friday in the case below, including the charts and initial responses. Note, you can zoom in on the charts.