COVID-19, News

NC prisons will ‘shelter in place’ to combat COVID-19; agency not tracking staff cases

To combat the spread of COVID-19, the North Carolina Division of Prisons will stop accepting incarcerated people from county jails into its facilities and will dramatically reduce transfers within the system for 14 days starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“We must deny this virus the opportunity to spread,” said Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons. “It has gotten into three of our prisons and we must contain it there to the greatest degree possible. This is imperative for the health and safety of our staff and the men and women who are in our care.”

The plan is in effect a “stay at home order” but for incarcerated people, and it is supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. The order will apply to the majority of the 34,400 incarcerated people in the state prison system. It is valid from April 7 to 21, at which point the plan will be reassessed, according to a news release.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Division of Prisons, is reporting seven incarcerated people who have tested positive for COVID-19; they are in Johnston, Caledonia and Neuse correctional institutions. Over the weekend, face masks were distributed to all staff and offenders at those prisons, according to DPS.

DPS spokesman John Bull said Monday that the agency cannot and will have an accurate count of the number of staff who have self-reported testing positive for COVID-19.

“These tests are done in consultation with their primary care physicians and they do not have to tell us the results,” he added.

Bull did not immediately respond to follow-up questions, including about how DPS will ensure that anyone else (incarcerated or not) in direct contact with a sick staffer is tested — as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends — if they don’t report it.

The 14-day moratorium on the acceptance of new people from the county jails, and the suspension of the vast majority of offender transportation between the prisons, is in keeping with the spirit of the CDC’s guidance to the country to shelter in place, according to the news release.

Incarcerated people will continue to be transferred over the next two weeks for several reasons:

• To comply with court orders;
• For medical or mental health reasons;
• For security purposes to address critical incidents within the prisons;
• To release offenders who have completed their prison sentences.

Efforts are also underway to transfer incarcerated people who are scheduled for release over the next two weeks to areas close to their homes. There, they will be released in accordance with their individual release plans, according to DPS. No incarcerated person will remain in detention past their scheduled release date.

Correction Enterprises is producing face shields, hospital-style gowns and washable face masks. All staff and every incarcerated person will get a face mask once enough are manufactured, according to DPS. The entity is also producing large quantities of alcohol-free sanitizer and hand lotion to be used in all the prisons.

For the past month, incarcerated people throughout the prison system with fevers, coughs and symptoms of respiratory illness have been isolated in the prisons from the prison general population. Testing for COVID-19 is being done per CDC recommendations. The results are usually obtained within 48 hours, according to DPS.

17 Comments


  1. Stephanie

    April 6, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    My husband is in prison in NC. There has NOT been facemasks haded out to prisoners. And how the heck are you to keep the prisoners safe from the guards bringing it into the prison. Release inmates who are nonviolent and have less than a year.

  2. Lya Alvarez

    April 7, 2020 at 6:11 am

    How are the prisons getting results within 48 hours?The rest of the state is waiting 7 to 10 days for results from State lab, Labcorp and Mako labs.

  3. Deaon

    April 7, 2020 at 11:10 am

    How many inmates and staff have to be infected before you do early releases? It blows my mind how NC is always the last to act on anything that would help the entire state. I wonder if they’d would still be dragging their feet if it was one of their loved ones behind bars? Also i see only three prison names on here but i guess they forgot to mention Foothills Correctional and Piedmont Correctional both minimum and maximum. All have had positive cases and all are still transferring inmates in and out. If they’re non violent with I’d say 18 months or less RELEASE THEM IMMEDIATELY. These are all people that can simply be placed on probation. Let’s get a grip on this and stop the spread. If a guard is infected they stand the risk of infecting inmates, their children, parents, a stranger at the grocery store or even at a gas pump. Mr Cooper you need to uae the power bestowed upon you and do early releases.

  4. Tapanga

    April 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Staff members are NOT wearing masks either! They are the ones transmitting the virus inside the prison. Transfers are still going on as usual. Nothing has changed except in front of the media.

  5. Mary

    April 7, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    My husband is a correction officer you think he enjoys going to a prison everyday. Inmates can also be positive with the virus also he has to be around people everyday his heath is also being affected. No masks no Extra pay and no place in the facility to quarantine an inmate

  6. Jackie

    April 7, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    My brother is in prison at caledonia and no they havent been given face mask or anything and the ones who tested positive for the covid19 were threw right back into the same dorm in which my brother and several other inmates are housed in. The guards have made comments about if they start getting it they might as well pile up inn the corner and die because thats what would happen because there is nothing they can do and they arent getting the shit. Now thats something real good to tell the inmates who are already in fear for their life enough because of the infected inmates being put back in there with all of them. Please everyone if u would say a prayer that the inmates get back home safe. That they dont die from the covid19

  7. Lisa Spruill

    April 7, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    It would be great to release nonviolent inmates who have been through or started the process of being released into society but it must be probation and parole officers to work with them also. For some reason, I feel that they’re safer in there than out here, especially if they have not a place to lay their head or food to eat. Just pray for my daughter and all other workers who put their life on the line on a daily basis.

  8. Krystal betts

    April 8, 2020 at 11:13 am

    I know someone who has less then a year an is incarcerated in neuse correctional. He’s said since his transfer it’s a disgusting facility. Recently he added sick people were transferred in since the initial outbreak as well as majority of this location is old and sick anyway…. Not only are there no masks but no cleaning supplies AT ALL….. He is scared for his life after doing a 7 year bid that he may not survive his last year due to coronavirus.

  9. Tammy martin

    April 8, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    It’s in mor prisons than they r reporting too. Also let the non violent ones out on house arrest they do federal drug dealers

  10. S. Hall

    April 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Staff are not tracked. Are you F’n insane? There is an obligation to disclose when you jeopardize the lives of others with a communicable disease. Personal identity does not need to be disclosed. But, how are you going to follow CDC guidelines by keeping this quiet & not quarantining those they have come in contact with? Huge human rights violations! No wonder you don’t allow citizens access to your email addresses. The secrecy & lies must stop.

  11. Audrey

    April 8, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    To the lady that said her husband is a correctional officer. NO ONE asked him to be a CO, he chose that job. He has a choice to go out and find a new job. Inmates have no damn choice to be moved out. They’re stuck. Don’t go giving me s*** about them commiting crimes and blah blah blah. My kid is in there and he’s innocent. We have a CORRUPT system. Yeah there are inmates in there that deserve to be there but they don’t deserve to be treated like animals. They’re still human beings. Let’s lock your ass in a cage and see if you like it with this s*** going around. I hate so bad to hear, my spouse is a CO, or I’m a CO. So freaking what you chose to work there. Make a new choice if you don’t like your job. Give me a break. ????????????

  12. Sabra Hall

    April 8, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    This is NOT following CDC Guidelines! There is a duty to disclose when one has a communicable disease that can endanger the lives of others. No one need to disclose personal identity, however, there’s an obligation to notify those who may have been exposed. The secrecy in the Dept of Prisons must stop! The truth in these statements would be greatly appreciated. This is a HUGE Human Rights Violation. The measures are likely “Too little, too late” for some. Dorm settings need masks & supplies NOW! Not after it’s in there. Remember, CDC guidelines call for social distancing, which is impossible in those areas. NC DPS, you’ve failed again.

  13. Owen Berkebile

    April 8, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    Does not meet CDC guidelines. Human rights violations. Big fail, Prison Division! Don’t make the mistake of thinking the public is not watching how you handle offenders on every level.

  14. Kee

    April 9, 2020 at 8:06 am

    I hear staff don’t have a mask at all facilities. I also hear there are more cases than active than the State is reporting. The sad thing is they are waiting until it gets out of control. Don’t keep it private until you have to make it public. Do what’s right now. Those staff members are people’s families as well as inmates. The truth is out there even though the governor and DPS are trying to curve it with low numbers. It’s bad in NC prisons just like prisons around the world. Governor Cooper is going to cause this to get out of hand and it doesn’t have to be this way. Seem like they would have more intrest in the staff lives as well. The shortage of staff is ridiculous. Decrease prison ration.

  15. Gail kiker

    April 9, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Let nonviolent prisoners related to drug addiction Out!!! Regardless of time left. Follow the federal guidelines from last year

  16. Hbeare

    April 9, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Caswell basically has everyone on lockdown. Each unit moves separately to chow, rec and canteen. Rec is 20 minutes a day, canteen is twice a week, 15 item limit.

    Up until today, guards were moving freely around all the units, unmasked.

    Come on folks, this isn’t rocket science. Prisons are a petri dish. Covid 19 is carried into the facilities. Everyone entering should be made to wear masks and gloves upon entering and sprayed down with Lysol.

  17. Lexi

    April 11, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    Wow!!! I am not believing this. My wife is incarcerated at Swannanoa Correctional center for women and so far no cases that they are speaking of and will we know. The offenders have steadily been asking for masks due to staff coming and going. As of Today Saturday April 11th at 1:00 the LT decides to pass out mask and says the staff doesnt have to wear them. WHAT??? They are the ones to bring this virus in. The offenders are safe otherwise. Something must be done to stop the spread and noone seems to care. Nothing is being done about this except press conferences stating what will be done in the event of!! Well it seems we are in the event. NCCIW in Raleigh apparently has 2 cases and you transfer to this location. No transfers were suppose to be happening but what about the transfer that just happened on Tuesday from Raleigh. Was there sick on that bus?? The DPS website states 152 cases this far what are you waiting for and also what do you mean the staff doesn’t have to report if they have the virus or not????. That’s a death sentence and they will get away with that??? Please allow these women to be released and dont allow this virus in just because deviant officers dont want to follow protocol. They sure follow it if an offender acts out…. What about their lives???? They are more than just an OPUS!!!! STAFF PLACE YOURSELF IN THE SHOES OF THESE MEN AND WOMEN AND THEN SAY YOUR NOT GOING TO REPORT IF YOU ARE INFECTED AND SAY YOUR NOT WEARING THE PROPER PPE. THIS IS A DISGRACE!!!! Definitely NOT following the CDC guidelines as the posters you have posted throughout the prison walls. GET IT TOGETHER AND THINK ABOUT YOUR ACTIONS. Governor Cooper please allow these women a chance . It’s already to late for some please dont make it for all.

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