Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court leaves a critical seat open. You can text “NAACP” to 40649 to receive text message updates and guidance from the North Carolina NAACP.
The prison safety issues in North Carolina are representative of a larger, national issue. Federal prisons nationwide are understaffed and have been so for some time. However, the hiring freeze at the beginning of the Trump administration and emphasis on reducing the size of both the government and the budget has intensified the problem under the Trump administration. Since the staff sizes at many federal prisons has been reduced, many support workers have had to step in as guards. This has made many prisons more vulnerable to violence, including assaults on prison staff.
In North Carolina, prison safety issues have been coming up for some time, and many prisons are overcrowded in addition to being understaffed. Reform advocates also point to the fact that much of the staff is undertrained and lacks adequate equipment. In October, there was an inmate attack in Elizabeth City at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution that left 4 staffers dead. Earlier this year, there was a stabbing at Lanesboro Correctional Institution. Inmates and a corrections officer were injured.
Read about the issue in a national context here.
The Police Accountability Community Taskforce, or PACT, is calling for the creation of an official community police oversight board in Raleigh. The Carolina Justice Policy Center and an advocacy group called Save Our Sons are also working with PACT.
This move comes in response to Rashon McNeil’s encounter with police in December 2016. Although the police were looking for a person named Lamar, McNeil was tackled and arrested, sustaining minor injuries as a result. A judge later dismissed his charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.
In addition to calling for the creation of a police accountability group, advocates have filed a complaint to the Internal Affairs Division of the Raleigh Police Department, submitted a complaint to the Department of Justice, and requested a written apology. Read more here.
From 1998 to 2017, 12 people committed suicide in the Durham County jail by hanging themselves from window bars or ventilation grates. Although public records show that Durham County officials were aware of the suicide hazards, the last updates are just now being finished to fix these hazards.
Although 144 of 576 windows were fixed after the 1999 death of Gregory Gibson, budget considerations prevented the rest of the windows from being altered. Five more people hung themselves before they were fixed for $88,900 in 2017.
Durham County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs responded to public comment about recent deaths, including 17-year-old Uniece “Niecey” Fennell in October of 2017, by asking her staff to research what caused the delays. While documents from the Sherriff’s Office seem to suggest that the office lacked the funding to make the improvements, the office does have to request funding from the commissioners in order to get it. Evidence suggests that the funding was not always requested, although county commissioners have consistently been in favor of addressing the hazards quickly.
As far as the ventilation grates go, Sherriff Mike Andrews has been working to fix them slowly since 2012. So far, 164 vents in 82 cells have been modified, and 988 vents in 494 cells remain. All of the window bars have been fixed.
Read more here.
In mid-June, the North Carolina Senate passed House Bill 774, “Amend Certificates of Relief.” Courts can issue “certificates of relief” to individuals. With this certificate, if that person is hired and commits a crime involving their job or employer, the employer is not held liable. Because the new law gives people with criminal records more opportunities to gain employment, it has the potential to reduce recidivism.