Archives by: Kelan Lyons

Kelan Lyons

About the author

Kelan Lyons, Investigative Reporter, joined Policy Watch in June 2022. Before moving to North Carolina, he wrote about the criminal legal system for the Connecticut Mirror. He has written extensively about an array of systemic issues within the justice system, including solitary confinement, money bail, racial disparities among the incarcerated population, and the ways people with mental illnesses can become ensnared in the legal system. He has also worked at newsrooms in Utah and Texas.

[email protected]
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Kelan Lyons's articles and posts

Top Story

Two men serving life sentences lobby lawmakers to expand parole eligibility

"People with no reason to change will not change.” Phillip Vance Smith II first met Craig Wissink in 2004, toward the beginning of the life sentences the men were serving for separate murders. Smith thought Wissink was a friendly guy, the type who was always trying to make those around him laugh. The pair lost touch for about 10 years, a gap in a friendship common among imprisoned men subjected to unanticipated transfers to other correctional facilities.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts News Top Story

Disenfranchised no more, ‘Second Chance voters’ can register and cast ballots — for now

Allowing those on probation and parole to vote marks the largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Daquan Peters didn’t waste any time registering to vote on Wednesday. He hadn’t been fast enough last year, during a 10-day window between court proceedings where people like him, those who were home after spending time imprisoned for a felony but still on probation or parole, were briefly re-enfranchised.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report: Two recent state state Supreme Court decisions could alter NC’s juvenile justice landscape

After growing up behind bars, many who committed serious crimes when they were children now have a chance at parole  James Ryan Kelliher first tried to kill himself when he was 10 years old. A high school dropout who had been abused by his father, Kelliher spent all his time getting or staying high by the time he was 17, robbing people to support his addiction.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Monday numbers: Gun violence in North Carolina, and one county’s efforts to address the crisis 

The shooting at the school convinced county leaders it was time to do something.  In August 2021, on his first day back in class after a suspension, a 15-year-old student at New Hanover High School shot one of his peers in the hand and leg.

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Health News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Medicaid expansion would help people incarcerated in jails and prisons — the ‘black hole of the mental health system’

Thousands of people currently cycling in and out of jails and prisons are among the roughly 600,000 who would get health coverage under Medicaid expansion, potentially transforming North Carolina’s justice system. Dorel Clayton became unmoored after his mother died of ovarian cancer, in 2001.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Budget would expand sheriffs’ ability to challenge jail investigations — and delay fixing alleged violations

County sheriffs and jailers could challenge violations uncovered during jail inspections conducted by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, according to a provision in the proposed state budget. Bill opponents say the measure undermines the state’s ability to regulate county jails and to enforce safety standards by allowing local authorities to immediately appeal the results of investigations. That could delay remedies for the violations while the appeal wends through the court system.

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