DPS Actions on COVID-19

Early this year, Gov. Roy Cooper tasked the N.C. Department of Public Safety, through its Division of Emergency Management, to co-chair the state's Novel Coronavirus Task Force in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The task force, in coordination with stakeholders and federal, state and local agencies, worked to prepare the state's communities, residents, businesses, schools and health care providers for the potential of COVID-19 infections in North Carolina. DPS and its Division of Emergency Management leads the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) during emergencies. Other divisions within DPS such as the State Highway Patrol, NC National Guard and State Capitol Police also play key roles in supporting the SERT.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management

With the advent of COVID-19 infections in North Carolina, NC Emergency Management provides daily logistical support to NCDHHS, the incident's technical lead agency, by coordinating communications with local entities and the state's existing emergency management network of partners. In support of the Public Health Coordinating Center (PHCC) and the Public Health Incident Management Team, NCEM provides Incident Action Plan development and daily situation reporting; logistical support for supplies; and coordinated, unified communication (through social media, to the public and stakeholders through its participation and daily support of the State Emergency Response Team's Joint Information Center. 

 

Prisons

Prisons

While no one has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in any North Carolina prison, the department continues monitoring the constantly evolving situation and will continue taking additional safety steps to help pre-empt and reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread.

The safety and health of employees, those incarcerated in state prisons and, ultimately, the general public remains a top priority.

Prisons is actively engaged with the Governor’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force and the Incident Command System in place and is working closely with the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Health and Human Services, and others in closely monitoring the health conditions of the offender population, with specific focus on frequent cleaning, good hygiene practices, medical triage, appropriate testing, and tracking.

Additional actions taken as of March 25, 2020, include:

  • The Prison work release program was suspended statewide on March 24. This was done to limit the offenders’ public contact and, thus, limit their potential exposure to coronavirus and reduce the chances they could transport the virus into a prison. Work release was originally scaled back on March 19. The situation will continue to be evaluated to determine when/if essential job functions may be required on a very limited basis.
  • Prisons housing offender populations with chronic diseases are taking extra efforts to reduce offender movements within the facilities and to lessen the interaction among offenders from different housing units. This is being done to reduce the chance of potential COVID-19 exposure to the medically vulnerable offenders.
  • Educational and other self-improvement programs in the prisons have been limited to reduce the number of outside program providers who enter the prisons. State community colleges have suspended all face-to-face instruction in the prisons.
  • On March 13, all basic training classes were suspended and on March 23 basic training resumed for new correctional, probation and parole and juvenile justice officers who commute to class. Continuing to train new officers helps ensure that Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice have adequate staff  to carry out critical public safety functions. Additional precautions, such as limiting class sizes and maximizing social distance, have been taken to protect the health and safety of instructors and trainees.

Actions taken as of March 19, 2020, included:

  • Visitation and volunteer visits were suspended at all prisons beginning March 16. This was done to help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to prisons.
  • Legal visitation and pastoral care visits continue, but those visitors are subject to medical screening. Visitors who show symptoms of COVID-19 are denied entry.
  • All vendors and contractors doing business with facilities are screened prior to entering a prison facility. Visitors who show symptoms of COVID-19 are denied entry.
  • The Prison Incident Command System activated to help control and coordinate COVID-19 responses and to facilitate prompt reactions as this virus spreads rapidly through the country.
  • Aggressive cleaning efforts underway at all prisons, both by staff and offenders.
  • Ample supplies of disinfectants and soap distributed to each facility.
  • Correction Enterprises has 2,000 cases of spray bottle disinfectant available and is producing 1,100 cases per day.
  • A non-alcohol-based hand cleanser has been created by Correction Enterprises and is available to staff and offenders at all facilities.
  • Coronavirus prevention posters from the CDC have been placed in all facilities to explain how to reduce exposure to, or transmission of, the virus.
  • All new offenders to the state prison system are being medically screened for potential COVID-19 symptoms to prevent the introduction of the virus. Those who have symptoms are isolated while the source of their medical issue is investigated. COVID-19 tests are being done as necessary, in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • Offender transportation is limited to only court-ordered, high priority and health care movements.
  • Offenders who are transported are medically screened for potential COVID-19 symptoms. This is being done to prevent the spread of the virus if it emerges in the prison population. Offenders with symptoms are isolated while the source of their medical issues are investigated. COVID-19 tests are being done as necessary, in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • All transport buses and vehicles are required to be cleaned thoroughly after each use.
  • Non-essential medical appointments for offenders have been canceled to reduce transports so the medical staff can focus on COVID-19 issues.
  • Medical co-pays have been waived for offenders with fevers or flu-like symptoms.
  • Increased recreational opportunities for offenders are being instituted, where possible, and all facilities will have access to a movie subscription service.
  • Offenders will be allowed two free five-minute phone calls each week to family and friends.
  • Pre-paid post cards will be provided for offenders in restrictive housing who do not have phone privileges if they wish to correspond in writing to family and friends.
  • Facility leadership met with offenders to explain the actions taken, and the need for frequent hand-washing regimens and social distancing, to the extent possible.
  • Large staff gatherings have been canceled.
  • Staff training has been suspended statewide, including Basic Correctional Officer Training and In-Service training. However, interviewing and hiring will proceed, including new employee orientation, using alternate interview methods such as Skype where possible.
  • Staff has been instructed to report anyone who looks ill or feverish to the chain of command.
  • Telecommuting was approved for non-essential personnel during the State of Emergency authorized by Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 116.
    • Employees are required to sign a Temporary Teleworking agreement form from their immediate supervisor or manager and must provide the same work performance as would take place in the day-to-day workplace.
    • Telecommuting is at the discretion of the warden or facility director to ensure adequate staffing levels to meet safety and security requirements.
    • Essential employees are those who are deemed mandatory and essential to public safety.

Juvenile Justice Facilities

Juvenile Justice Facilities

Effective March 16, 2020
At this point, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 (also known as novel coronavirus) infections in North Carolina's Juvenile Justice facilities.

Based on recommendations from Gov. Roy Cooper, as well as information from the Governor’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, NCDPS has suspended visitation and volunteer activies at all juvenile justice facilities. Visitation and volunteer activities will resume when conditions are deemed safe.

Community Corrections

Community Corrections

Effective March 16, 2020
The Division of Community Corrections of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 to Probation and Parole Officers and all Community Corrections staff as well as those under community supervision and post-release. Actions taken during this time are designed to ensure public safety while protecting the health and wellbeing of our staff, those under supervision and members of the public we may encounter in the carrying out our vital mission. Community Supervision will continue uninterrupted, however, modifications will be made to accomplish this task while reducing the COVID-19 risks to all those involved. 

The health and safety of employees and the juveniles in our care, as well as the offenders, in facilities and under community supervision, are top priorities of the Department of Public Safety.

Training

Training

Effective March 16, 2020
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, effective immediately, the Department of Public Safety has suspended all training academies, planned or currently ongoing, for its adult correctional, juvenile justice and law enforcement employees, for an initial period of two weeks.

“While training is a critical need within DPS, we are operating in an extraordinary time, requiring difficult decisions,” said Secretary Erik A. Hooks.  “We must prioritize the health and safety of our employees, and ultimately the public health, during this pandemic. ”

Samarcand Training Academy

Suspended all training until at least March 29. Staff are disinfecting and sanitizing all rooms on campus, and social distancing measures are being practiced by administrative, housekeeping, maintenance and security staff.

Law Enforcement Agencies

Law Enforcement Agencies

Alcohol Law Enforcement

  • Alcohol Law Enforcement has issued additional hand sanitizer and gloves to all district personnel and are following guidance from the governor and the ABC Commission regarding retail ABC establishments.

 
State Capitol Police

  • State Capitol Police has issued protective equipment and hand sanitizer to all duty stations and are following applicable guidance from  NCDHHS and the CDC. 
  • Chief Hawley serves on the Governor’s Novel Coronavirus Task Force .

 
State Highway Patrol

  • The State Highway Patrol is coordinating with the Sheriff’s Association and two Police Chief Associations (NC Police Chiefs Association and IACP) to ensure all North Carolina law enforcement agencies are informed and involved in the state’s planning and response to COVID-19
  • The State Highway Patrol has issued personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and first aid kits to personnel and are following guidance from NCDHHS and the CDC. 
  • Colonel McNeill serves on the Governor’s Novel Coronavirus Task Force and Lt. Colonel Gordon serves on the State Emergency Response Team and is collaborating with other state agencies on COVID-19 response.