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Struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic in state’s prison system
COVID-19 has sickened at least 6,000 people behind bars in NC, including 25 who died. More than 1,500 staff have gotten the disease, and 300 are currently ill and out of work, while four have died. The prisons’ slow response, lack of transparency and history of outbreaks has led the courts to cite them for noncompliance with orders. While a vaccine offers a glimmer of hope, it didn’t have to happen this way. Health experts, including state agencies, urged preventative steps that weren’t taken or were only taken after months of delay in North Carolina, even as other states did respond, resulting in better outcomes. So, where do we go from here?
Follow our investigation
Part 1 of 2
Coming up short: Court driving NC prisons reform, but expert advice on handling pandemic still rejected
Swannanoa inmate: ‘I probably have the COVID, but they don’t want to test me because they gave it to me.’
Part 2 of 2
Chronic NC prison problems predate pandemic, will outlast it
Conditions and policies make NC prisons more vulnerable and miserable during pandemic. But COVID-19 has allowed lawsuits to shed light on existing problems.
Resources on COVID-19 and NC prisons
The Kicker, Show 37 | Imprisoned in a pandemic
Carolina Public Press’ weekly Podcast, The Kicker, looks at concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s prisons system.
Previous reporting on COVID-19 and North Carolina prisons
Holding NC prisons accountable: Court liaison tasked with monitoring pandemic response
Judge concerned by high and increasing rates of illness and death in NC prisons, as he asks head of Duke University science and justice program to keep watch on the prison system.
Judge: Test all NC prison staff for virus every 14 days
Court documents reveal state health agency recommended regular prison staff testing for COVID-19 months ago.
Are NC prisons in contempt? Punishing sick, misleading information alleged as judge weighs action
Attorneys for NC prisons deny accusations their clients have retaliated against those who talked. Judge unsure of ruling as state set to appeal earlier orders.
Contagion confusion: Communication lapses between agencies undermined tracking outbreaks at women’s prison
Internal data indicated the NC women’s prison in Raleigh was facing a large second outbreak of COVID-19. Gaps in information led other agencies to think it was one ongoing outbreak.
Outbreak rages at NC women’s prison ahead of new court hearing
Judge previously called NC prison system handling of COVID-19 ‘likely unconstitutional.’ Recent prisoners describe continuing problems as cases persist at Raleigh women’s prison.
Mass testing revealed mass outbreaks in North Carolina prisons
Court-ordered testing data tells different story than NC prisons officials recently provided in press release.
NC kept moving hundreds of inmates, despite pandemic risks
Inmates at NC prisons were transferred for a range of reasons prior to a judge’s June 11 order for changes. Experts say this increased COVID-19 risks.
Prisons’ resumption of inmate transfers amid COVID-19 raises concerns
Transfers of inmates raise issues of proper quarrantining to prevent spread of COVID-19 between prison facilities, as NC judge calls for changes.
Judge: Prison conditions during pandemic likely unconstitutional
Prison conditions favoring spread of COVID-19 are likely cruel and unusual punishment, superior court judge says, with NC doing too little to fix issues.
Spotty information as judge nears crucial decision on NC prisons
Documents and inmate statements at odds with some claims from North Carolina prisons to court in lawsuit over handling of COVID-19.
Mass COVID-19 testing at Caswell Correctional after news investigation
NC prisons infectious disease staff beginning COVID-19 tests on all inmates at Caswell Correctional following investigative report on death of prison nurse.
Senate leader demands answers after report on prison nurse’s death
A day after network of investigative journalists reported on the death of prison nurse Barbara Stewart, Senate leader calls on prisons to answer questions.
Nurse’s COVID-19 death raises questions about delayed testing at prison
Prisons did not implement staff testing despite growing outbreaks. State evaluating whether nurse’s family will get benefits for death in line of duty.
Experts expect more prison COVID-19 deaths without more testing
North Carolina testing of prison inmates for COVID-19 lags behind other states, despite several large outbreaks affecting staff and prisoners.