Courts & the Law, COVID-19, News

Judge denies help request for incarcerated people

Help is not coming for North Carolina’s incarcerated population facing growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier denied requests from incarcerated people and civil rights organizations to force Gov. Roy Cooper and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to take more precautions to allow for social distancing.

His two-page order didn’t explain why he denied their requests, citing case law that injunctions like the one the plaintiffs requested are “generally disfavored and are only appropriate where the case is urgent and where the right is clear.”

Members of the organizations who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit vowed to keep fighting but didn’t specifically state they would appeal the decision. A spokesperson said attorneys are still reviewing and evaluating all legal options.

“We are disappointed that the court denied our motion for an emergency order to address this worsening and deadly crisis, but this fight is not over,” said Kristi Graunke, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “We will continue to do everything we can to save lives and hold state officials accountable to what the Constitution requires: the protection of human beings in their custody who are imprisoned under conditions that put them at unacceptable risk of being infected with this deadly disease.”

On April 21, after the North Carolina Supreme Court denied a petition to take up the case, the ACLU of NC, Disability Rights North Carolina, Emancipate NC, Forward Justice, and the National Juvenile Justice Network filed the lawsuit in Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the NC NAACP, Disability Rights NC, the ACLU of NC, three people who are currently incarcerated and a spouse of an incarcerated person.

“This fight goes on, but we cannot ignore the real and devastating human impact this ruling will have: real people will likely die,” said Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director and attorney at Emancipate NC. “Real families will mourn the unnecessary loss of loved ones, and those families will disproportionately be people of color.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, DPS reported 644 people in prison who tested positive for COVID-19. Five people have died from the virus.

The agency submitted detailed information last week to Rozier about how it was responding to the pandemic. The documents stated that incarcerated people were provided two masks and get two bars of soap per week, but it also included plans for how prisons can begin getting back to normal operations.

The plaintiffs had hoped Rozier would appoint a special master in the case to help DPS take a more aggressive approach to releasing incarcerated people and implementing more precautions to protect their health and their lives.

“The fact remains that what’s unfolding in our state prisons is a humanitarian disaster that endangers the lives of thousands of incarcerated people, prison staff, and our entire community,” said Susan Pollitt, supervising attorney at Disability Rights NC. “Regardless of this ruling, we will continue to advocate for the safety of people with disabilities and all vulnerable people in state custody.”

Read the full order from Wednesday below.

20 CVS 500110 Order 5 13 2020 (Text)


  1. Tiffany Snipes

    May 14, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    This is sad. My husband is an inmate in Piedmont Correctional not only has he had the same 1 mask since the beginning of the pandemic but most of the staff walk around with no mask on. Last week I was afraid because he told me that he was sick and that a sergeant is who was coughing all around him with no mask. If we don’t care about our people who is. Their is no social distancing and there is 34 men to 1 phone. So many people believe in these system and say they must be punished. I do agree when you are wrong you have to accept your punishment but by death. That’s cruel and unusual punishment don’t you think. When will we start caring for one another. When will someone stand up and say enough is enough. Or when a facility tells you something you believe it. Why is no one checking for themselves?

  2. Debbie

    May 16, 2020 at 9:50 am

    If its okay for our inmates to live unprotected then it should be okay to open the state up as well. The whole face mask, hand soap deal is false. The inmates really dont have them and guards arent wearing them. The extra soap just means they can take two showers a week. They let our elderly people die in nursing homes and they will let our inmates die as well. Time to clean out Raleigh and start anew. God bless you all, you will have a serious judgement day. As in the court of law, stupidity does not count, just as it will not count when you meet your maker.

  3. Tricia

    May 16, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    As of last week, Avery Mitchell had not passed out one bar of soap or hand sanitizer. There is two dispensers in the cafeteria for use before meals. This is a joke. DPS is lying to the public and these precautions are NOT being done except on paper. Staff wears bandanas around their necks or over their mouths only, if anything. They are torturing our loved ones and may get away with murder by lying.

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