Hallelujah! This week, Emancipate clients Shannon Nyamodi (second from right, pictured with his mother) and Sandy Dowell (left, pictured with her wife) were given release papers from state prison, after months of relentless advocacy.
Sandy served 30 years in state prison on a parole-eligible Life sentence. Emancipate NC has represented Sandy repeatedly–in connection with her same-sex marriage case in 2019, a habeas petition in Summer 2020, and a parole hearing in December 2020. She was also a named plaintiff in NAACP v. Cooper, the statewide COVID-19 litigation. She caught COVID-19 while in prison, and was the subject of extensive press coverage.
Shannon was in prison for seven years. He was a key witness regarding inhumane COVID-19 conditions in the NAACP v. Cooper litigation, suffering retaliation as a result. His mother joined Emancipate NC at an action in Raleigh in September 2020 demanding early releases in light of the pandemic.
Today, the entire COVID-19 prison litigation team–ACLU of North Carolina, Forward Justice, Disability Rights North Carolina, National Juvenile Justice Network, and Emancipate NC–announce a groundbreaking settlement in NAACP v. Cooper.
The settlement will result in the unprecedented early release of at least 3,500 people in state custody, the largest known prison release in the country achieved via COVID-19 litigation efforts. Additionally, the settlement will ensure the state takes important measures to mitigate the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s prisons, including through vaccination and testing, cohorting, transfer protocols, as well as monitoring and complaint processes.
“These 3,500 individuals would not have been freed absent the demands of the litigation, the consistent public advocacy by community members, and the scores of brave incarcerated people who have spoken out about the inhumane conditions and treatment they have endured,” said Elizabeth Simpson, attorney and associate director of Emancipate NC.
“Thank the Lord for Emancipate NC,” stated Amanda Marriner, wife of plaintiff Sandy Dowell. “Without y’all, this would not have gotten done.”