NC NAACP Files Second Suit Demanding Release of Nonviolent Prisoners Due to Coronavirus
By CASH MICHAELS
The NCNAACP this week filed a second suit against Gov. Roy Cooper, Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Erik Hooks, and other state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and petition for writ of mandamus.
“The over 34,000 adults and hundreds of youth incarcerated in this state live in close proximity and often unsanitary facilities. They cannot engage in the social distancing that experts and Governor Cooper have ordered the rest of us to undertake in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the April 20th suit states.
“When more mass outbreaks in North Carolina prisons occur, the people locked in those prisons will have no choice but to rely on a system that is unequipped to handle a novel, deadly virus that has overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world. Given these dire circumstances, North Carolina public health experts have urged that “reducing the prison population is a critical measure that must be acted on immediately.”
Normally. approximately 2,000 inmates are released from the state correction facilities a month, the suit maintains. Thus far in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper and Hooks have only committed to releasing 400.
Release of only approximately 400 people will not allow for the social distancing needed to ensure the people in DPS custody will be safe during the pandemic, and Governor Cooper and Secretary Hooks have not announced a plan to release significantly more.
“In the face of widespread and avoidable loss of life, Plaintiffs ask this Court for declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Defendants to comply with their obligations under Article I, Section 27 of the North Carolina Constitution to ensure that no person incarcerated in North Carolina prisons is subject to cruel or unusual punishment.”
The suit goes on to say that COVID-19 is a “death sentence, and that “due to the severe shortage in testing, the true scope of COVID-19 infections inside the DPS 52 adult prisons and 4 Youth Development Centers across the state remains unknown. Neuse Correctional Institution has seen the state’s biggest outbreak. There, DPS has confirmed 239 infections in a population of over 700.”
After citing which articles of the North Carolina Constitution the state is violating by not immediately removing nonviolent inmates from the prison population, the lawsuit petitions the court to take any and all steps necessary to prevent the continued exposure of those in prison to COVOD-19, including ensuring [the state’s] compliance with the relic ordered.”