New Report Describes Reform Coming to the Broken Cash Bail System

The Pretrial Justice Institute has released a report, “Where Pretrial Improvements are Happening,” about progress being made in improving pretrial practices. In an interview, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, the CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, talked about these issues within North Carolina. Burdeen pointed out the cash-bail system, the for-profit bail bond industry, and pre-trail services that vary by county and are generally underfunded. However, the report also identifies movement within the state toward reform. For example, judges have been using their power for reform within existing statutes. Ultimately, the report calls for a pretrial risk assessment tool to replace cash-bail. Burdeen noted that real reform will come from state law changes and changes from higher courts. Learn more here.

Wake County Judge Orders the Release of Law Enforcement Video in Police Beating Case

Judge A. Graham Shirley of Wake County has ordered certain video and audio recordings from the Wake County Sheriff department, Raleigh police department, and state troopers to be released. They are now available to be viewed by the public.

They are from the body and dashboard cameras of officers who responded to calls that a man was standing in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard on April 3. These officers have been accused of beating Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with flashlights and a police dog. Hinton said that he had a broken eye socket and nose, 21 bite marks and cuts on his head after the incident.

Officer Cameron Broadwell of Wake County and NC Highway Patrol Troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis have been indicted by a grand jury. The video and audio recordings are highly disturbing. Hinton has said that although he was upset at the time, he made no threats. Some of the officers’ attorneys have requested that the 9/11 calls and radio traffic between law enforcement also be made public. The Carolina Justice Policy Center continues to advocate for Mr. Hinton, and hopes that the incident will serve as a catalyst for greater police accountability. Learn more here.

Police Searches in Asheville to Face New Restrictions, Including Written Consent

The Asheville City Council has voted to make three changes to how police can search drivers or pedestrians. The most significant requires that police receive written permission before they search someone, unless they have “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed. Additionally, the grounds for valid searches were restricted, and regulatory stops like traffic stops were de-emphasized.

While advocates hope that these changes will help curb stops on innocent drivers, law enforcement advocates caution that it could limit effectiveness of police in the midst of a drug epidemic. Advocates in favor of the changes also have pointed to data that clearly shows a racial disparity in traffic stops in Asheville. The changes come in the wake of a Black pedestrian being beaten by a police officer in Asheville, an event that has caused friction locally and garnered national attention. Learn more here.

Poetry Performance to Respond to Jumpsuit Project

Join poet, writer and educator Dasan Ahanu and the Black On Black Project for a Spoken Word performance Thursday, May 10 at 7 p.m. inside Artspace in downtown Raleigh. The program will be a response to artfor(us), the latest art exhibition from Sherrill Roland. Best known for his Jumpsuit Project, in which Roland enters museum and gallery spaces in his former prison jumpsuit, this work represents a departure into object-based art making. Roland collages and paints issues of Art Forum magazine that he collected while wrongfully incarcerated, exposing the disparities in the fine art world and the American prison system. The event is free and open to the public, but click here to register.

NC Alliance for Women Reentrants and their Children May Meeting

The NC Alliance for Women Reentrants and their Children will hold their monthly meeting on May 17th from 10am to 12pm at First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. During this meeting, guest speaker Kay Sanford will be in attendance. Sanford is a former state injury epidemiologist and current NC Harm Reduction Coalition volunteer who works in NC prisons/jails. She will review the steps to help those who use drugs or know people who use drugs, the tenets of harm reduction, opioids in the body, and strategies to mitigate the collateral damage from drug use. Please RSVP to Emily Walter at ejwalte@ncsu.edu.

Correctional Facilities Rely on Videoconferencing to Provide Medical Care

When an inmate requires a visit with a medical specialist, some correctional institutions are providing care through “telemedicine,” which allows them to see a doctor by video. There are many challenges that can make it difficult to provide in person visits. Prisons are often located in rural areas that are isolated from certain medical specialists. Traveling to medical facilities can be burdensome for sick inmates. The cost of transportation can be significantly higher than a video visit. Videoconferencing for medical care is becoming increasingly common. A survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 30 states out of 45 that responded said they used telemedicine for at least one type of specialty or diagnostic service. Telemedicine is meant to complement in person medical care rather than to replace it. It can make it easier for referring physicians at the jail to work as a team with outside physicians. Still, some advocates worry that it can contribute to isolation of inmates. Learn more here.