Prisons Info on COVID-19

Keeping the public, staff and offenders safe

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the safety and health of employees, those incarcerated in state prisons, and the general public remains a top priority.

Prisons is actively monitoring the health conditions of the offender population, with specific focus on frequent cleaning, good hygiene practices, medical triage, appropriate testing and tracking.

As the pandemic evolves, NCDPS is implementing necessary measures (see list) to ensure the safety and health of all North Carolinians. The department continues to monitor the constantly changing situation and will update this list as we take additional safety steps to help address impacts from the COVID-19 virus and do our part to protect North Carolinians.

Serving Sentences Outside a Prison

To help keep staff and offenders safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice is transitioning select individuals to serve their remaining sentence under the supervision of community corrections officers. Offenders who have been convicted of crimes against a person will not be considered. To be considered, offenders must meet all legal requirements and meet one or more of these strict criteria (updated 5/31/2020): 
* Pregnant
* Already on home leave with a 2020 release date
* Already on work release with a 2020 release date
* Age 65+ with a 2020 or 2021 release date
* Age 50-64 with underlying health conditions and a 2020, 2021 or 2022 release date

     More details here

E-mail DPS about offender movements during COVID-19

Actions Taken

May 7, 2020

Again, modified criteria for consideration of extended limits of confinement. To be considered, offenders must meet all legal requirements and one or more of these strict criteria. Offenders who have been convicted of crimes against a person will not be considered.

  • Pregnant
  • Already on home leave with a 2020 release date
  • Already on work release with a 2020 release date
  • Age 65+ with a 2020, 2021 or 2022 release date
  • Age 50-64 with underlying health conditions and a 2020 or 2021 release date

May 29, 2020

  • Extending the initiative through July 31, 2020 to make COVID-19 testing available to more than 21,000 employees in the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, which includes the Division of Prisons. The initiative provides for free, confidential, flexible and voluntary COVID-19 testing. Testing will occur at identified FastMed Urgent Care locations throughout the state. LabCorp will provide employees with results through its secure online portal.
  • Implementing the testing of all offenders at Caswell Correctional Center in Blanch, to determine the extent of a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen a gradual increase in the number of staff and offenders who have tested positive for the virus. Staff is continued to be encouraged to be tested for the virus in an initiative extended through July 31, 2020.
  • Continuing the suspension of visitation, work release, and educational programs until June 15, when they will be reevaluated.

May 27, 2020

  • Resuming limited number of offender transfers between prisons to make room for other offenders sentenced to state prisons. Transfers will be conducted in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

May 14, 2020

  • Enacting an initiative to make COVID-19 testing available to more than 21,000 employees in the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, which includes the Division of Prisons. The initiative provides for free, confidential, flexible and voluntary COVID-19 testing. Testing will begin on May 18 at identified FastMed Urgent Care locations throughout the state. LabCorp will provide employees with results through its secure online portal.

May 13, 2020

  • Releasing data regarding the number of offenders who, after testing positive for COVID-19, are presumed recovered under criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This information is included in a chart at the bottom of this webpage. The chart is updated daily. When unveiled on May 12, the data revealed more than 500 offenders were presumed recovered of the 642 offenders who, at that point, had tested positive for COVID-19. All prisons remain on pandemic response mode, with continued staff screenings, isolation and quarantine protocols and offender movements designed to prevent the mixing of offenders from different housing units.
  • Continuing to produce hygiene and personal protection equipment, Correction Enterprises so far has manufactured:
    • 203,033 washable face masks
    • 15,429 face shields
    • 957,200 bars of soap
    • 281,376 bottles of disinfectant spray
    • 15,260 gallons of antibacterial liquid soap
    • 7,952 gallon jugs of hand sanitizer
    • 3,042 hospital-style gowns
    • And more.

May 7, 2020

Modified criteria for consideration of extended limits of confinement. To be considered, offenders must meet all legal requirements and one or more of these strict criteria. Offenders who have been convicted of crimes against a person will not be considered.

  • Pregnant
  • Already on home leave with a 2020 release date
  • Already on work release with a 2020 release date
  • Age 65+ with a 2020 or 2021 release date
  • Age 50-64 with underlying health conditions and a 2020 or 2021 release date

April 30, 2020

  • Implementing an aggressive, proactive medical initiative at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women to test every offender in one housing unit for COVID-19. Understanding the extent of the spread of COVID-19 in the Canary housing unit allowed the enactment of contingency plans designed to prevent further spread of the virus and to better protect the staff and the offenders. The testing was conducted April 25th in consultation with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Wake County Health Department.
  • Extending through May 17 the April 7 moratorium on the acceptance of offenders from the county jails, in effect a “stay at home” initiative. This second extension of the moratorium was supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. 
  • Enacting a prison safety initiative to give some infraction-free offenders three days off their sentences for each month they and do not commit a disciplinary-worthy offense. This “incentive time” sentence reduction credit is intended to encourage good behavior, particularly as the staff deals with COVID-19 issues in the prisons. It goes into effect May 1.

April 20, 2020

  • Extending through May 3 the April 7 moratorium on the acceptance of offenders from the county jails, in effect a “stay at home” initiative. This extension was supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.
  • Continuing for another 30 days, until May 16, the suspension of visitation, offender outside work assignments and offender home leaves. Legal and pastoral care visits will continue with medical screening. Also continuing are two free five-minute phone calls each week for offenders who are eligible for phone calls.
  • Temporarily closing the Johnston Correctional Institution and transferring hundreds of offenders to other prisons to free the staff for reassignment to Neuse Correctional Institution, to help with managing that facility where a mass testing operation of the 700 offenders at Neuse Correctional Institution has revealed hundreds of offenders there are infected with COVID-19 and 98 percent are asymptomatic. The staff at Neuse Correctional have been working under intense conditions for more than two weeks, when the first two offenders there tested positive for COVID-19 on April 2.

April 17, 2020

April 16, 2020

  • Implementing an aggressive, proactive medical initiative at Neuse Correctional Institution to test every offender in the facility; and, through the Wayne County Health Department, to offer testing to the staff at Neuse CI who chose to be tested. Understanding the extent of the spread of COVID-19 in the facility’s offender population will allow the enactment of contingency plans designed to prevent further spread of the virus and to better protect the staff and the offenders. This large-scale testing is being done in partnership with the State Lab, LabCorp, the state Department of Health and Human Services, following recommendation by Prisons’ medical leadership.
  • Boosting pay temporarily for staff who work in prisons that face the exceptional challenges of high vacancy rates and a significant number of COVID-19 cases. Staff in these specially designated facilities will temporarily be paid time and a half, based on their current salaries, for the time they work at those facilities. This includes staff who are assigned to specially designated facilities on a temporary basis.
  • Purchasing 265 machines, capable of large-scale disbursement of disinfectant, for Prisons facilities. Seventy Power Breezers so far have been distributed to prisons, and more will be distributed when they are delivered. These machines will be used to spray disinfectant up to 65 feet in a 60-degree cone over walls, floors, cafeterias and other large areas to kill any COVID-19 that may be present. 

April 13, 2020

  • Secretary Erik Hooks announced he is using his limited statutory authority to extend the limits of confinement (ELC) of incarcerated persons, allowing certain individuals to continue serving their sentence outside of a DPS prison facility, but under the supervision of community correction officers. See the press release and FAQs below. 
  • Awarding discretionary time credits where appropriate to allow some offenders who are nearing their release date, to reduce their maximum sentence and be released to community upon completion of the minimum sentence. 
  • NC Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission is expediting review of offenders under its authority for possible release. 
  • Again increased Correction Enterprises production of washable cloth face masks (made 40,000 last week; additional 30,000 expected this week). Around 60,000+ have been produced so far. Masks are distributed to staff and offenders in facilities where an offender had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Burke Confinement in Response to Violations facility moved all offenders housed there for parole technical violations to Foothills or Morrison correctional institutions or released on supervision. The action was taken to: 1) reassign staff to other nearby facilities to adjust staffing levels, and 2) prepare for the potential COVID-19 contingency plans across the state, if necessary.
  • Bonus bags filled with snacks and other food offered for purchase to help boost offender morale (and consequently facility operations). Offender friends and families will be offered opportunities in May and June to purchase one of three bonus bags to be delivered to their loved ones. The bonus bag program will be offered to offenders in regular population, as well as those in restrictive housing for administrative and disciplinary purposes and especially to those who are isolated or quarantined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

     

      April 9, 2020

      • Began transitioning some non-violent offenders who meet strict criteria and legal guidelines, including victim notification in certain cases, to serve their sentence outside of a DPS prison facility, but under the supervision of community corrections officers and/or special operations officers. 
        • Done under laws authorizing the Secretary of Public Safety to do this. 
        • Approximately 500 offenders are being considered. They cannot have been convicted of a violent crime against a person and must be one of the following: 
          • Pregnant 
          • Age 65 and older with underlying health conditions
          • Female age 50 and older with health conditions and a release date in 2020 
          • Age 65 and older with a release date in 2020 
          • Already on home leave with a release date in 2020 
          • Already on work release with a projected release date in 2020.

      April 6, 2020

      • Instituting a two-week moratorium on accepting offenders from county jails.
      • Reducing offender transfers between prisons beginning April 7 to contain additional spread.
      • Providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE):
        • Distributing washable face masks to all staff and offenders at three prisons where offenders have tested positive for COVID-19 – Caledonia Correctional Institution (CI), Johnston CI and Neuse CI. The goal is to issue these face masks to all staff and all offenders in every prison.
        • Increasing Correction Enterprises’ production of PPE for prisons. Correction Enterprises is now producing each week more than 3,600 clear face shields; 6,000 washable face masks; 500 hospital-style gowns; and more than 6,000 four-gallon cases of disinfectant spray, in addition to large quantities of hand lotion.

      March 31, 2020

      • Medical screenings for all staff entering a prison beginning April 1. Any of the following result in denied entry:
        • Temperature of 100 degrees or more
        • Symptoms of respiratory illness
        • Exposure in the past 14 days to anyone who is suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19
      • A 14-day quarantine period for all incoming offenders from county jails to help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to the prison system.
      • Reducing offender interactions at all prisons to reduce the potential for additional COVID-19 exposure.
      • Providing additional PPE:
        • Distributing washable face masks to staff at Central Prison, NCCIW, and Wake Correctional Center where COVID-19 community cases are rapidly increasing.
        • Ordering additional PPE for staff, including 100,000 medical-grade surgical masks, 15,000 N95 masks, 5,000 face shields, and 4,000 gowns.
        • Increasing Correction Enterprises’ production of washable masks, face shields, and washable gowns for prisons. Distribution of the masks prioritized to facilities located in counties with increasing COVID-19 community cases.
          • Face masks: distributed 3,500 washable masks; 6,000 masks produced per week
          • Face shields: 60 produced per hour
          • Washable gowns: 200-300 produced per week
      • Communicating COVID-19 risk information:
        • Distributing informational posters regarding proper PPE usage to all prisons.
        • Distributing fact sheets on sanitation expectations and prisons cleaning procedures to all offenders.
      • Providing double rations of soap to all offenders.
      • Limiting staff gatherings to fewer than 10 people and requiring social distancing.
      • Designating two COVID-19 response coordinators at each prison.

      March 25, 2020

      • Suspending the work release program to limit offenders’ potential exposure to COVID-19. Monitoring will continue to determine if exceptions are required for essential job functions.
      • Reducing offender movements and interactions in prisons with medically vulnerable offenders.
      • Limiting educational and self-improvement programming to reduce the number of outside staff entering a prison. [BC1] 
      • Reducing exposure risk in basic training by:
        • Suspending all basic training classes from March 13 to March 23 for new correctional, probation and parole, and juvenile justice officers who commute to class.
        • Limiting class sizes and practicing social distancing between instructors and trainees.

      March 19, 2020

      • Suspending visitation and volunteering at all prisons beginning March 16.
      • Medical screenings for legal and pastoral care visitors, vendors, and contractors prior to entering a prison. Visitors who show symptoms of COVID-19 are denied entry.
      • Activating the Prison Incident Command System to coordinate COVID-19 response efforts.
      • Promoting clean environments within prisons:
        • Aggressively cleaning prison facilities.
        • Distributing additional supplies of disinfectants and soap to all facilities.
        • Increasing Correction Enterprises’ production of spray bottle disinfectant. 1,100 cases are being produced per day.
        • Providing hand sanitizer produced by Correction Enterprises to staff and offenders at all facilities.
        • Thoroughly cleaning all transport buses and vehicles after each use.
      • Displaying CDC COVID-19 prevention posters at all facilities to explain how to reduce exposure to, or transmission of, the virus.
      • Medical screenings for all new offenders entering the state prison system. Those who have symptoms are isolated while the source of their medical issue is investigated. Additional COVID-19 tests are being done as necessary, in accordance with public health guidelines.
      • Limiting external movement by offenders to reduce potential COVID-19 spread.
        • Limiting offender transportation to only court-ordered, high priority, and health care movements. If an offender is being transported, they are medically screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Those who have symptoms are isolated while the source of their medical issue is investigated.
        • Scaling back the work release program.
      • Canceling non-essential medical appointments for offenders so medical staff can focus on COVID-19 issues.
      • Waiving medical co-pays for offenders with fevers or flu-like symptoms.
      • Increasing recreational opportunities where possible and providing access to a movie subscription service for all offenders.
      • Increasing offenders’ communication options by:
        • Providing offenders two free five-minute phone calls to family and friends each week.
        • Providing pre-paid postcards for offenders in restrictive housing who do not have phone privileges.
      • Hosting Facility leadership meetings with offenders to explain the actions taken and the need for frequent hand-washing regimens and social distancing, to the extent possible.
      • Promoting social distancing between staff where possible:
        • Canceling large staff gatherings.
        • Suspending staff training including Basic Correctional Officer Training and In-Service training. Interviewing and hiring will proceed, including new employee orientation, using alternate interview methods, such as Skype, where possible.
        • Allowing telecommuting for non-essential personnel during the State of Emergency. Approval to telecommute is at the discretion of the warden or Facility director to ensure adequate staffing levels are in place to meet safety and security requirements

      Offender-Related COVID-19 Data

      Updated daily at 3 p.m.

      Notes:
      • NEW: Prisons is following NCDHHS guidance on presumed to be recovered patients, which can be found online on the COVID-19 North Carolina Dashboard.
      • NOTE: As testing frequency within prisons increases, data entry associated with testing and its results may be delayed. This chart is updated once daily, therefore it may not represent the most current information.
      • The positive column does NOT list the number of offenders currently infected with COVID-19, but rather is a total of the number of tests performed that have been positive to date. As you know, the majority of those people who contract COVID-19 recover from the virus and return to health.

      Confirmed COVID-19-Related Deaths
      by Facility
      NCCIW 1
      Neuse CI   3
      Pender CI 1

       

      FAQs on Serving Sentences Outside a Prison

      What does this mean? Are offenders being released? Or put on probation?

      What does this mean? Are offenders being released? Or put on probation?

      What does Extending the Limits of Confinement (ELC) mean? 
      North Carolina General Statute §148-4 gives the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety the authority to extend the limits of confinement in limited circumstances for certain incarcerated offenders. Extending the limits of confinement allows individuals to continue serving their sentence outside of correctional facilities.  

      Is this an early release or commutation?
      This is not a commutation, nor is it an early release from a sentence. Offenders on ELC are serving part of their active sentence outside the confines of a correctional facility, and are under the supervision of community corrections officers and/or special operations officers. If an offender fails to remain within the extended limits of confinement of fails to otherwise follow the conditions of their community confinement, they will be returned to a correctional facility to serve the remainder of their active sentence. Offenders who willfully fail to remain within the boundaries of their alternate “confinement” in the community may also be charged with escape.   

      In addition, depending on an individual offender’s unique circumstances, the crime for which he/she was convicted and other factors, the offender may have additional security measures put in place while on ELC, such as
        • Electronic monitoring
        • Curfew
        • Drug testing

      What’s the difference between being on ELC and Post-release/Probation?

      • ELC allows individuals who have not completed their minimum sentence to transfer outside of a correctional facility to continue serving their active sentence. This is not a release from custody.
      • Post-release is a period of structured supervision after completion of an active sentence in a correctional facility. Not every offender is sentenced to post-release supervision. 
      • Probation is a period of community supervision imposed by the courts instead of an active prison sentence. A violation of probation could result in an active sentence.
         
      Which offenders (and how many) will be impacted?

      Which offenders (and how many) will be impacted?

      What criteria were used to select offenders for ELC?  
      Public Safety – Non-violent offenders (no crimes against a person), many of whom have already been back in communities through home release and work release.
      Time served – Offenders near their release date with a strong priority for those with release dates in 2020.
      Health Risk – Pregnant offenders, offenders age 65+ with a release date in 2020 or 2021, and offenders age 50-64 with underlying health conditions and a scheduled release date in 2020 or 2021. The difficulty is many of the individuals in the category are in for crimes against a person.  

      Have any offenders already transferred under ELC? 
      Yes, transfers to ELC began in early April and there are currently approximately 200 offenders on ELC as of 5/7/2020.

      Are any other offenders being considered for ELC?
      Those being reviewed have not been convicted of a crime against a person and must meet one or more of these criteria:

      • Pregnant
      • Already on home leave with a 2020 release date.
      • Already on work release with a 2020 release date.
      • Age 50-64 with underlying health conditions and scheduled a 2020 or 2021 release date..
      • Age 65+ with a 2020 or 2021 release date.

       

       

       

       

      What about pregnant offenders?

      What about pregnant offenders?

      Will all the pregnant offenders be offered ELC?
      We are trying to transition all pregnant offenders out of prison.  Not all are being transferred under ELC.  For example, over fifteen pregnant women were released by the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission in early April. Several others completed their sentence and were released to post-release supervision in the community. On April 9, four were transferred into the community to complete their sentence through ELC. However, some offender factors pose challenges we have to work through. For example, if the offender has a detainer or pending charges, we can’t just transfer them home. We are working with local prosecutors to discuss those issues and that takes time.

      What’s being done to make sure the pregnant offenders continue to get prenatal care?
      The health and well-being of both mom and child are greatly important to DPS. During this pandemic, unprecedented demands are being placed on our healthcare system from all sides. Thus, DPS has to ensure that anyone we transfer to ELC who has medical issues is properly transitioned with a health care plan. To that end, we are partnering with NC FIT (Formerly Incarcerated Transition Program) affiliated UNC Department of Family Medicine to connect individuals with federally qualified health centers in their county of supervision.
       

      Does this apply to juveniles?

      Does this apply to juveniles?

      Extended Limits of Confinement does not apply to juveniles. However, Juvenile Justice has been working to release non-violent juveniles from detention who are awaiting trial. The Juvenile Justice section is working to safely return juveniles committed to youth development centers to their home communities. Prior to releasing any juvenile from a youth development center, Juvenile Justice works to ensure that the home and community environments are safe, supportive of the juvenile’s continued growth, and able to meet the juvenile’s needs in the areas of education and mental health treatment.

      Are there things that prevent offenders from participating?

      Are there things that prevent offenders from participating?

      Yes. Offenders convicted of crimes against a person may not participate.  Additionally, other factors such as outstanding detainers, pending charges and lack of a verifiable home plan may prevent a person from qualifying.

      What happens to offenders serving sentences outside a prison?

      What happens to offenders serving sentences outside a prison?

      Will offenders continue to get the medical care they received in a correctional facility?
      That is considered when looking at the home plan and if there are medical needs. The goal is to help ensure the offender has access to care in their community. 

      Have any of the offenders who are going to be transferred tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed?
      As of publication, not to our knowledge.

      Will offenders be placed on electronic monitoring? 
      It depends on each individual situation.

      What happens when an offender completes their active sentence?
      Once an individual offender on ELC completes their active sentence, they may be required, as part of their sentence to serve a period of post-release supervision in the community.

      Who is going to keep track of people on ELC?
      Individuals on ELC will be supervised by probation/parole officers from Community Corrections. They may also be supervised, or have periodic checks by special operations officers. Those on ELC will be required to check-in regularly with their assigned officer, or an officer on-call. Some will also be on electronic monitoring. They are still considered to be offenders; however, the limits of their actual confinement have been extended, therefore, Prisons will take part in some monitoring of ELC individuals. 

      What happens when the COVID-19 crisis is over? Do they return to prison?

      What happens when the COVID-19 crisis is over? Do they return to prison?

      That will be determined on a case-by-case basis and where they are at that point in time with their active sentence.

      Family/Victim notification

      Family/Victim notification

      How can I find out if my family member is being transferred to the community through this ELC process? 
      Unfortunately, we are unable to answer questions on specific individuals. If the offender is deemed to be eligible, they will be contacted directly. Family may also be contacted to inquire about the individual home plan.

      How are victims notified of a release?
      In some circumstances, a victim is entitled to receive notification prior to release of an offender.  If the victim is registered with SAVAN, they will be notified if the individual is being considered for release.  Details are on the website under Victim Services.

      Is this the only way people are currently being released from prison?

      Is this the only way people are currently being released from prison?

      No. Prisons continues to release individuals daily as they complete their court ordered sentence.