COVID-19 and Incarcerated people in NC

North Carolina Jails' Response to COVID-19

The response of North Carolina’s jails to COVID-19 varies by county, as each county operates its own jail pursuant to its own policies and procedures. Some county jails, such as the Alamance County Detention Center, have responded to COVID-19 by quarantining and closely monitoring infected inmates, regularly screening all arrestees and jail staff for COVID-19, regularly deep cleaning all jail facilities, and providing inmates with cleaning supplies and sanitized personal protective equipment. We understand, however, that other county jails may follow different procedures with respect to COVID-19. Again, if you are concerned about how COVID-19 is being addressed by the county jail at which your family member or friend is incarcerated, please contact us.

COVID-19 Impact on Courts

In response to COVID-19, federal and state courts made changes to the way they operate, including limiting in-person hearings, postponing jury trials, extending filing deadlines, and limiting the number of staff in their offices. Before planning a visit to any courthouse, consult the website for that jurisdiction to determine what safety precautions are in place in that location. If you have questions about an upcoming deadline or hearing, please contact the clerk of court in that jurisdiction.

Helpful Links and Resources:

NC Courts COVID-19 Orders and Updates

Federal Courts COVID-19 Orders and Updates

NCDPS Response to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, NCDPS has made changes to the way prisons operate, including allowing some individuals to serve their sentences outside of prison facilities (see below), restricting visitation and transfers, testing incarcerated people and staff, and providing protective equipment and cleaning supplies to individuals in facilities across the state. The programs and regulations they have implemented in response to COVID-19 change often. For the most up-to-date information, visit their website here.

Extended Limits of Confinement

NCDPS implemented Extended Limits of Confinement (ELC) as a way to reduce the population of North Carolina prisons and reduce the risk of infection. ELC is not early release per se, but it does allow some individuals to serve their sentences outside of prison facilities. To be considered, one must meet certain eligibility requirements, which have changed several times over the past few months. There are further criteria that are used to determine if an eligible person will be actually be released on ELC. Because of the nature of these criteria, NCPLS is unable to confirm whether an individual qualifies for ELC. At this time, no individual has a right to ELC. For up-to-date information on ELC eligibility requirements and criteria, visit their website here.

Helpful Links and Resources:

CDC Guidance on COVID-19 in Correctional and Detention Facilities

NC Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Response

NCPLS Letter about COVID-19 in NC Prisons

COVID-19 Impact on NCPLS

NCPLS is fully operational, as we have been throughout the pandemic. Our office has taken a number of safety precautions, including limiting the number of staff in our office and discontinuing in-person visits until further notice. We remain committed to providing the best possible service for all incarcerated people in North Carolina. Please be aware that COVID-19 has increased our volume of incoming letters and increased our caseload. Our response times may be longer than usual at this time. We thank you for your patience.

Many people in prisons and their loved ones are worried that continued incarceration will lead to infection. We share in this concern and our office continues to monitor health and safety risks across the state in prison and jail facilities. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) is responsible for the prisons in North Carolina. Please be aware that NCPLS is not a branch of NCDPS and is not part of North Carolina’s state government. We have no supervisory authority over NCDPS and cannot force them to release incarcerated people or comply with safety guidelines. Below you will find information pertaining to the impact of COVID-19 on NC prisons, jails, courts, and our office. If you are a friend or family member of someone in an NC prison or jail and you are concerned about their safety, you can contact us here. Additionally, please have your loved one write to our office and explain their concerns so that we can assist them directly.