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Month-Long Vigil Calls on Gov. Roy Cooper to Reform North Carolina Prisons

22 Nov 2023, Jail News, by

Advocates press Gov. Roy Cooper to reduce the population and act on reforms at the North Carolina prisons in a month-long vigil.

Month-Long Vigil Calls on Gov. Roy Cooper to Reform North Carolina Prisons - Inmate Lookup

In a push for criminal justice reform, advocates are urging Governor Roy Cooper to take decisive measures to reduce the population of North Carolina prisons. A month-long vigil outside the Executive Mansion seeks to draw attention to the pressing issues within the state’s prison system.

Kristie Puckett, Senior Project Manager for Forward Justice, emphasized the need for Governor Cooper’s intervention, pointing out that beyond the annual turkey pardons, there are over 30,000 individuals incarcerated in North Carolina prisons who urgently require attention.

The Decarcerate Now NC has submitted a letter to Governor Cooper outlining specific requests. They call for the release of certain prisoners, particularly those in ill health, the elderly, individuals imprisoned for “technical parole violations,” and those convicted as minors. Additionally, the coalition also advocates for the commutation of all death sentences.

The group will stage marches and demonstrations throughout the month to draw attention to concerns like the racial inequities among those detained in the North Carolina state prison system.

Puckett specifically urged Governor Cooper to exercise his clemency power, emphasizing the potential for a positive impact on those currently incarcerated. The call for clemency aligns with the coalition’s broader goals for criminal justice reform.

In 2020, following Governor Cooper’s re-election, the activist groups initiated a series of events aimed at highlighting the need for criminal justice reform. It marked a pivotal moment as Governor Cooper, who had previously refrained from exercising his authority to commute sentences or grant pardons, issued pardons to five wrongfully convicted individuals in late 2020.
Building on this, at the close of 2022, Governor Cooper took decisive action by commuting sentences for six people and granting four pardons of forgiveness in a single day.

Two of these commutations were based on recommendations from the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, a body established by Governor Cooper to assess cases of individuals sentenced to prison as minors.

The clemency and pardon process involves a thorough review of various factors, such as court outcomes, sentences, and prison records. Jordan Monaghan, spokesperson for Gov. Cooper, emphasized the meticulous examination of all clemency petitions by the Governor’s Office, including the Executive Clemency and General Counsel offices.

Notably, there was no indication from the governor’s office about whether he plans to exercise his clemency power again before the year ends.

This year’s vigil takes place against the backdrop of a high vacancy rate in North Carolina state government jobs, particularly within the prison system. Although there has been a slight improvement in the vacancy rate, concerns persist about the safety of both state employees and prisoners.

Stephanie Freeman, Deputy Secretary of the NC Dept. of Adult Correction, acknowledged positive signs but stressed the need for continued vigilance.