Law and the Courts

Law and the Courts

COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

Monday numbers: Incarceration and COVID-19

Last week, several civil rights organizations and incarcerated people filed a lawsuit seeking emergency help from the North Carolina Supreme Court. Conditions for battling the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons and jails are less than ideal, and they’ve asked justices to consider releasing to release as many incarcerated adults and youths as possible in the face of the rapidly spreading virus. Below are several numbers about incarceration and COVID-19 (numbers are current as of Sunday):

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report, Part Four: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Disease poised to spread like "wildfire" at overcrowded ICE detention facilities At Stewart Detention Center in southwest Georgia, 350 immigrants began starving themselves last week to protest the conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ana María Reichenbach, who used to live in North Carolina but is now in New York, spoke to Policy Watch last week about her friend who is being detained at Stewart, where immigrants picked up in North Carolina, as well as other states, are housed.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report, Part Three: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

The challenge of keeping kids and staff safe in juvenile detention facilities The needs of children in detention centers are almost identical to those of adults in jails and prisons, but their age and development can be an added challenge for officials to consider when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “They are uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this type of emotional and psychological strain that this virus is causing,” said Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, formerly the Carolina Justice Policy Center.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report, Part Two: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Advocates, family members plead with Gov. Cooper to to take action "before it's too late" About seven years ago, a Buncombe County man stole a piece of metal from a dumpster and then sold it at a scrap yard. He needed money, because as a chronic substance user he had relapsed after his wife miscarried their child.  The man was charged with larceny and selling property under false pretenses, but because he had previous drug charges — set aside when he graduated a court-ordered substance use program — prosecutors resurrected those charges as part of his sentencing.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Criminal justice advocates and family members of incarcerated individuals have been warning state and county officials for weeks about the potential for COVID-19 to ravage the populations of jails, prisons and other detention facilities. Their pleas, however, have mostly been ignored.  Citing the public health and safety of North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper has closed schools, expanded unemployment benefits and ordered residents to stay at home. His administration, though, has been silent on issues facing some of the most vulnerable individuals in the state: incarcerated people and detention facility staff. 

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

Health pandemic leads to numerous reports of price gouging across NC

Just three days after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Joannie Valencia paid $42.90 for two bottles of 70% isopropyl alcohol at a mom and pop pharmacy in Charlotte. She was in a panic; she had kids at home and had driven all over the city looking for any kind of disinfectants to keep her family safe, but her search had been futile. She knew the price was high, but she paid it. When in stock, the same 32-ounce bottles of rubbing alcohol cost $1.99 a piece at Target and $2.39 at CVS.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Special PW update: North Carolina sheriffs are continuing to carry out evictions during pandemic

Should North Carolina sheriffs be evicting people during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereby place the public health at further risk? That's a question that's front and center in the state public policy debate this weekend. Advocates say that people evicted from their homes could end up on the street, doubling or tripling up in crowded homes with family or friends or congregating with crowds at homeless shelters. It doesn’t bode well, they point out, for the larger social distancing directive and other recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect the public from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Left behind: Immigrant communities try to navigate COVID-19 with language barriers, lack of resources

On the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it would limit enforcement action amid COVID-19 concerns, agents threatened to break a man’s truck window in a Cary parking lot to take him into custody. Mariano Rosario-Rios and his daughter locked themselves in their truck Wednesday morning and called Siembra NC’s 24-hour ICE detention hotline for help while agents surrounded them and ordered they get out of the truck. They were in a shopping center parking lot.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

N.C. immigrants, allies vow to resist ramped-up ICE enforcement actions

North Carolina immigrants and their allies are making it plain they will not go softly into President Donald Trump’s dark night when it comes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tactics that they say have sown fear in their communities and separated children from their parents. Since January, ICE has increased its presence to target immigrants in 12 counties across the state of North Carolina: Alamance, Chatham, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Rockingham, Surry and, as of last week, Durham.

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Environmental advocates, fossil fuel industry debate Atlantic Coast Pipeline at the U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Where does a trail end and the land beneath it begin? That’s just one of the thorny questions the Supreme Court grappled with Monday morning during a one-hour hearing on a U.S. Forest Service permit for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The hearing has been hotly anticipated by both the gas and oil industry, which supports the pipeline, and the environmental advocacy community, which opposes the project.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Greensboro event fuels movement to reform criminal justice fines and fees

Not everyone in North Carolina understands the implications of court fines and fees and how expenses from minor traffic violations and criminal charges can cause a person’s life to spiral out of control. The North Carolina Fines and Fees Coalition and the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program kicked off a campaign last week at Bennett College in Greensboro to change how people think about the burden court debt can pose, particularly to people who are poor.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

PW profile: Deputy Juvenile Justice Secretary draws from painful personal past to help kids in the system succeed

When Billy Lassiter was 12 years old, he sat in the front row of one of his seventh grade classes surrounded by about 30 students who had their sights set on picking apart their substitute teacher’s strange dialect.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Attorneys to NC Supreme Court: Lead us in ending racial discrimination in jury selection

Imagine three people being interviewed in succession in Juror Seat #10 about their ability to serve in a felony drug trial involving a Black man considered to be a felon who allegedly also possessed a firearm. You’re the prosecutor, and you want the juror who can sympathize most with how you present the case. Juror A is a supervisor at a termite company. He says he's previously been a victim of crime, and that even though no one was arrested, charged or convicted, he still feels that law enforcement did everything it could.

You’re the prosecutor, and you want the juror who can sympathize most with how you present the case.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

NC’s new “Raise the Age” law appears to be off to a promising start

New facilities and policies offer hope to 16 and 17 year-olds once consigned to the adult corrections system Tall trees and a rocky, woodsy landscape envelop the C.A. Dillon juvenile detention campus in Butner. Save for the tall metal fence that rings the confinement building, the area could be mistaken for a summer camp or private school grounds. The feeling that greets the visitor of wanting to go for a group hike or play flag football with old pals quickly diminishes inside, however...

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Progress, setbacks in fight against gerrymandering headline an extraordinary year in the courts

Two-thousand nineteen will forever be immortalized as the year North Carolinians fought back against gerrymandering and won. Their prize? For the first time in a decade, voters will get to cast their ballot in something resembling a constitutional ...
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The gerrymanderer’s daughter

Stephanie Hofeller opens up in exclusive interview about life, family and the explosive files that changed North Carolina politics LEXINGTON, KY. – Almost a year and a month to the day after Stephanie Hofeller turned American Politics on its head by reaching out to Common Cause North Carolina about her family affairs, she stood in the middle of her small Kentucky apartment with a Marlboro Light hanging from her lips and a glass of red Kool-Aid in her hand. She exhaled a thick haze of white smoke and then took a deep breath before delving into what her life has been like in the aftermath of releasing the personal files of her dead father – notorious GOP mapmaker Tom Hofeller.

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