Durham County district attorney looking to release some from prison to stem COVID-19’s spread

Durham County News

Durham DA Satana Deberry. (Jan. 30, 2020)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham County district attorney said she is working to stem the spread of COVID-19 by releasing certain people who do not pose a threat to the public from prison.

District Attorney Satana Deberry released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying her office has been working with judges and attorneys since last month to reduce the population of the Durham County Detention Facility.

“This ongoing effort is being made for the safety of both people who are detained and work at the detention facility, where it is difficult if not impossible for people to follow the guidance of health officials to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Deberry said in the release.

The district attorney said the virus has spread quickly in detention centers in other states which puts not only inmates at risk but also the detention center staff and their families.

“It is with these same goals of public safety and public health that my office is now reviewing, and in some cases consenting to, requests by people in the state prison system for sentencing relief in light of the pandemic,” Deberry said.

Deberry said her office is working to identify inmates who can be released from prison safely – including those who are high risk due to age or those convicted of non-violent crimes.

Some under review are scheduled for release “in the near future.”

“In appropriate cases, my office will consent to sentencing modifications; a judge must approve such an agreement and issue a final order. A coalition of organizations including North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services and the North Carolina Justice Center is identifying individuals for potential release and, importantly, will connect people released through this process in Durham to resources and re-entry services,” Deberry said.

The district attorney said it is everyone’s responsibility to slow the spread of the coronavirus and releasing certain inmates from prison can help protect the detention centers as well as the all communities.

North Carolina now has more than 3,200 cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths related to the disease.

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