Inmates and the CoronaVirus: North Carolina and Wake County Custody Concerns

March 23, 2020 – Today, speaking from the North Carolina State Emergency Operations Center, Governor Roy Cooper expressed his concern for all of North Carolina’s confined populations. He further elaborated that these confined populations included individuals from prisons to nursing homes. He acknowledged that if the CoronaVirus was able to break into these compromised North Carolina populations, there is a “much greater chance” that the virus may spread. Recognizing this chance, Governor Cooper cited recent restrictions that have been placed on visitors to both State prisons and nursing homes. While the restrictions to nursing homes were increased as of today, visitation restrictions to the State prisons have been in effect for some time now. Governor Cooper emphasized, “We want to make sure that people do not bring the virus into these facilities.”

Governor Cooper then called on Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Eric Hooks to confirm these restrictions and the importance of barring the CoronaVirus from the State prison system. Secretary Hooks affirmed the restrictions, and provided that further efforts are being made through working planning teams who are addressing the congregate living in these special situations.  The restrictions and efforts apply to both the adult and juvenile prison facilities.

There was no mention of the possibility of early release for State inmates as a result of the CoronaVirus. While prisoners in at least 16 States have deemed it necessary to release inmates, North Carolina officials currently remain confident of the ability to exclude the virus from these vulnerable populations.

As for local Wake County operations, Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has reported the implementation of efforts to protect staff and inmates from the CoronaVirus.  Sheriff Baker stated that “For the past several weeks, we began to develop a plan to address concerns about coronavirus in our facility. The plan includes increased medical screenings, increased education and awareness for our detention officers and increased efforts to sanitize, both, public and secure areas of the facility.”

Baker’s plan urges area law enforcement agencies to follow an updated screening process. The process reportedly includes asking the arrestee if they have traveled out of the United States in the last two weeks and whether the arrestee has been in contact with someone suspected of having the virus. Baker further added that “Our detention medical staff has always been proactive in screening arrestees who may have an infectious disease. With the help of our law enforcement partners, we hope these additional steps help to reduce exposure to the virus while having a plan in place should symptoms appear.”

Contemplating these confined circumstances, the Criminal Defense Team of Hatch, Little & Bunn has recently analyzed the circumstances of each client in custody and evaluated the potential for a proactive bond hearing with the possibility of a reduction or alternative release. Our team remains available for all hearings where a client is in custody, as well as for recent arrestees who seek representation for first appearances. Our offices remain open with representation in the courthouse, the jail, and the office.

In the event you have a concern about a loved one in jail or have a criminal question of your own, give us a call. We are here to help.

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