Kelan Lyons

Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.

a map of North Carolina that highlights counties which are legal deserts

Eight new public defender districts funded in the budget — but legal deserts remain

By: - September 28, 2023

In May, the head of the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services told members of the Governor’s Crime Commission that almost half of the state’s 100 counties are “legal deserts,” meaning there was less than one lawyer for every 1,000 residents. But the state budget could help with that, Mary Pollard told officials. At […]

NC prison staffer sounds alarm on overcrowding, neglect of basic prisoner health and safety

By: - September 27, 2023

A prison so packed that people on suicide watch are sleeping in 5-by-5-foot holding cages. A disabled Vietnam veteran sent to segregation after his peers attacked him. Incarcerated people spending months in solitary confinement, not because of misconduct inside the prison, but because they’re waiting for a bed to become available elsewhere. These were among […]

The words Legal Aid of North Carolina and an image of the scales of justice

Legal Aid lawyers carved out of tuition assistance program in latest budget

By: - September 20, 2023

Under the latest state proposal budget, the North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation would still provide tuition assistance for prosecutors and public defenders — but not Legal Aid lawyers. The carveout, located on page 413 of the most recent version of the state budget Republican lawmakers will vote on this week, restricts NC LEAF funds […]

an aging prisoner in his cell

Latest budget still includes expanded eligibility for prison medical release

By: - September 20, 2023

Following the lead of a budget drafted by Senate legislators earlier this year, the latest version of lawmakers’ budget proposal would expand medical release for elderly people in state prisons. Current law dictating the medical release of old or sick incarcerated people is very narrow: they must be so sick that they’re likely to die […]

Medicaid expansion

Casino-Medicaid bill also includes proposal for spending ARPA windfall

By: - September 19, 2023

Republican legislators’ proposed legislation to pair the approval of four new casinos in the state with Medicaid expansion also details how North Carolina would spend a “temporary savings fund” from the American Rescue Plan Act. Most, but not all, of the cash would go toward health-related programs and initiatives. It’s not clear if the bill […]

A graphic from a recent Prison Policy Initiative report that emphasizes the multiple crises that can be helped by expanding access to housing.

Monday numbers: New reports tout ‘Housing First’ to support formerly imprisoned people

By: - September 18, 2023

The phrase, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” is often hurled at people who have criminal records. But the “time” of a person’s punishment often extends beyond prison walls and follows a person home. People with criminal records who have paid their debt to society frequently have a hard time getting […]

‘The lockdown generation’ calls on Republicans to reform gun laws

By: - September 12, 2023

Students from across North Carolina gathered in front of the Legislative Building Tuesday to demand that Republicans pass bills that tighten people’s access to guns. “Being part of the lockdown generation is not something you want to be a part of,” said Leah Krevat, a 20-year-old who has been a gun reform activist for five […]

flashing lights on a police car

Legally required racial data can still fail to prove police stop people for ‘driving while Black’

By: - September 12, 2023

Jeremy Johnson had parked his Ford Mustang beside a “No Trespassing” sign in the parking lot of Raleigh North Apartments in the early morning hours of Nov. 22, 2017. As Raleigh Police Officer B.A. Kuchen patrolled the lot, it looked to him like Johnson slid his body under the steering wheel, apparently trying to hide […]

an image of a stethoscope, an outline of North Carolina and the words "Medicaid Expansion"

Governor’s Crime Commission connects Medicaid expansion to criminal justice

By: - September 7, 2023

As the rollout of Medicaid expansion remains delayed as lawmakers continue to negotiate the budget, the Governor’s Crime Commission passed a resolution Thursday acknowledging that extending healthcare to about 600,000 North Carolinians is a criminal justice issue. “In rural communities, the biggest treatment facility often is the jail,” Pamela Thompson, a member of the Governor’s […]

A view of the outside of the NC Court of Appeals building

Appeals court rules father’s parental rights can’t be terminated because of his parole conditions

By: - September 6, 2023

The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling Tuesday that a man should not lose his parental rights because of strict parole conditions imposed by another state. In 2014, the father, who is not named in the opinion, was convicted of two felonies involving sexual conduct with a 14-year-old in Indiana. He spent three […]

a prisoner grips the bars on their cell

Judge wrongly resentenced man convicted of murder as teen, possibly delaying release, lawyers say

By: - September 1, 2023

When the North Carolina Supreme Court sent James Kelliher’s case back to the trial court, they did so with an instruction: Give him two sentences of life-with-the-possibility of parole that run at the same time. But that is not exactly what Superior Court Judge James Floyd Ammons, of Cumberland County, did. On March 31, 2023, […]

Justice Anita Earls

NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls sues state’s Judicial Standards Commission

By: - August 29, 2023

State Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging the Judicial Standards Commission had violated her First Amendment rights for investigating and potentially punishing her for public comments she made about the lack of diversity in the state judiciary. The 29-page complaint says that Earls believes that public confidence in the courts […]