Pandemic prompts Department of Public Safety to transition some offenders to supervision in the community

North Carolina

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) –  In response to the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety today announced it is taking an extra measures to help reduce the spread of the virus in prison facilities.

The Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice last week transitioned the first individuals who will continue to serve their sentences in the community.  

“The department has been reviewing all options to protect public safety as well as our employees and those in the state’s custody,” Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said. “Many of those options were implemented quickly, providing immediate impact, while others have required more preparation.” 

In an effort to keep staff and those in our custody safe, DPS has taken numerous steps over the last several weeks to help reduce the spread of the virus into facilities. Some of the actions include:

  • Suspending visitation, volunteers, work release, and other programs to limit the exposure to the public and avoiding mass gathering situations;
  • Providing extra soap and disinfecting supplies and requiring additional cleaning regimens;
  • Pre-entrance medical screenings for staff;
  • Pre-intake medical screenings for new offenders and a 14-day quarantine period;
  • Suspending acceptance of transfers of offenders from county jails for 14 days; and
  • Dramatically reducing the movement of offenders within the prison system.

More than 35 offenders among six separate facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, necessitating the use of stronger measures.

Twenty staff at 10 facilities have also self-reported positive test results for COVID-19.

Adult Correction is reviewing additional offenders for possible transition to the community to complete their sentence under supervision.

All offenders under consideration must meet strict criteria and all legal requirements, such as victim notification in certain cases, before a transfer to the community is approved.

The approximately 500 offenders being considered cannot have been convicted of a violent crime against a person and must fall within one of the following categories: 

  • Pregnant offenders
  • Offenders age 65 and older with underlying health conditions 
  • Female offenders age 50 and older with health conditions and a release date in 2020
  • Offenders age 65 and older with a release date in 2020
  • Offenders already on home leave with a release date in 2020
  • Offenders on work release with a release date in 2020

“This is an ongoing process. We will continue to work diligently to monitor best practices and offender risk, while coordinating any future releases to community supervision, as well as adjusting to this ever-evolving situation to protect our staff, the incarcerated community and the community at large,” Moose added.

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