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.

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Kelan Lyons's articles and posts

Top Story

Mail, Inc(arcerated)

A private company scans all mail sent to North Carolina prisons, digitizes it, and gives the incarcerated copies. Is that a problem? Those writing to loved ones in North Carolina prisons must send their letters not to whichever of the more than 50 prisons where their family member is locked up, but to a P.O. Box in Maryland, where their envelope is opened and scanned by a stranger before a copy is delivered to their family member in a North Carolina facility.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Company for the governor: Criminal justice reform advocates launch vigil to urge use of clemency powers

For the third year in a row, Decarcerate Now NC will host a vigil outside the governor's mansion urging Gov. Roy Cooper to use his clemency power to reduce the number of people in North Carolina prisons and pardon people who have since gone home so they have a chance to move on with their lives after serving their time behind bars. Organizers will maintain a constant presence outside the mansion for the next month, calling for justice, fairness and second chances for those locked in prisons across the state, especially those who are Black and other people of color.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Monday numbers: A closer look at how Buncombe County women are criminalized for poverty and substance use

A new study finds authorities rely on police and jails to address low-level charges that don’t threaten public safety. Drug abuse and violence are experiences commonly shared among the women detained at the Buncombe County Jail, according to a study released last week by the Vera Institute of Justice.  Of the 40 women surveyed in the Buncombe County Detention Center in September 2021, all but one said they struggled with drugs or alcohol use.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Worries abound for criminal justice under a Republican state Supreme Court

Many advocates for reform are concerned about the high court’s rightward shift. Republicans took control of the North Carolina Supreme Court last week, winning two seats and flipping the court from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican one. The Republican majority is guaranteed through at least 2028. That could mean more gerrymandered maps that favor the GOP, a reversal of the landmark Leandro ruling that would lead to a massive increase in education funding across North Carolina, and further restricted access to abortion.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report: Restoring hope in the vote among those with felony convictions in North Carolina

More than 50,000 North Carolinians can vote this fall thanks to a court ruling that restored the rights of people on probation and parole. But their gains are precarious. One hot afternoon in early October, Corey Purdie helped put the finishing touches on the exterior of the 300-square-foot house at Broad and Queen streets in New Bern, North Carolina.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Court of Appeals backs suspension for lawyer who swindled wrongfully convicted Black men

A three-judge North Carolina Court of Appeals panel on Tuesday upheld the State Bar’s decision to suspend the license of an attorney who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from two Black men with intellectual disabilities who served more than 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The unanimous ruling was authored by Judge Allegra Collins and joined by Judges Richard Dietz and Jeffery Carpenter.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Supreme Court candidates tout nonpartisanship as deeply partisan election looms

The four candidates running for two open seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court all gave different versions of the same message at ...
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Law and the Courts Top Story

Policy Watch interviews NC Supreme Court candidates: Part Two

Two Supreme Court seats are on the ballot this Election Day, offering Republicans the opportunity to flip the state’s highest court. Policy Watch has reached out to each of the four candidates and is publishing their responses from interviews conducted in October. Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Richard Dietz are squaring off in a race to replace Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson, who is retiring. Both Inman and Dietz are judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Policy Watch interviews NC Supreme Court candidates: Part One

Two North Carolina Supreme Court seats are on the ballot this Election Day, offering Republicans the opportunity to flip the state’s highest court, which currently includes four Democrats and three members of the GOP. Policy Watch has contacted each of the four candidates and is publishing their responses. Sam J. Ervin, IV is the incumbent associate justice running for reelection as a Democrat. He has been a member of the Supreme Court since 2015. He served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals before that, from 2009 to 2015. He was also a member of the North Carolina Utilities Commission from 1999 to 2009.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Dispatches from the North Carolina court system: The cash bail-jail paradox

Jordan needed an unsecured bond, or he wasn’t getting out of jail. The 24-year-old Black man had been arrested on Oct. 8, charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, trespassing, resisting a public officer, and failing to show up for a court hearing, allegations that kept him in jail on a bond he couldn’t afford. The couple thousand dollars it would cost to get that bond threatened his livelihood, a job at a pizza shop. Jordan was caught in a paradox familiar to people locked up pretrial in a money bail system: unable to work because he was in jail, but unable to get out of jail because he can’t work.

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