Wilson Center Executive Director Thomas Maher has been appointed special master in the North Carolina litigation over the state prison system's handling of COVID-19.
NAACP v. Cooper was filed earlier this year on behalf of several civil rights organizations, including the North Carolina NAACP and ACLU, as well as several incarcerated individuals. The plaintiffs have accused the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Gov. Roy Cooper of not doing enough to keep those incarcerated safe from the virus, which has long term health effects and can cause death.
Maher's appointment to the case was announced Friday by Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier.
"I am honored that Judge Rozier entrusted me with assisting in the important litigation, and I hope my work helps Judge Rozier and the parties confront the pressing need to deal with COVID in the prison system," Maher said after Friday's hearing.
Several media outlets covered the hearing. From the News & Observer:
"Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier’s ruling follows civil rights groups once again asking him to appoint a special master to oversee prisons’ response during the pandemic as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, shutting down facilities and resulting in mass transfers that could further spread the virus to vulnerable communities, they said.
Rozier appointed Thomas K. Maher, executive director of Duke’s Wilson Center for Science and Justice, as special master.
Rozier also ordered that all prison staff who have contact with offenders be tested every two weeks.
Rozier said it’s appropriate now to seek assistance from a special master, particularly in the process of reviewing prisoners who are being considered for extended limits of confinement, which allows qualified offenders to serve out the remainder of their sentence outside of prisons.
Maher will be asked to consult with the state and the civil rights organizations to ensure there is compliance with the court’s orders related to reducing the population, testing, safe transfers and other concerns, Rozier said.
The details of the special master’s role will be provided in a forthcoming written order, Rozier said."
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