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Navigating The Grievance Process

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

All those incarcerated within the North Carolina prison system are entitled to protection of certain rights and conditions, and if violated an inmate may address it through the grievance process.

What is a grievance?

A grievance is an administrative remedy procedure for filing and resolving complaints about conditions of confinement to include actions, conduct, incidents or policies. There are things which may not be addressed by a grievance, particularly court or parole commission decisions, disciplinary actions, or actions which have not yet happened.

Any incarcerated person may submit a grievance. A third party, staff member, or even family member may submit a grievance on behalf of another person in cases of sexual assault or harassment, but the inmate will likely be contacted for their consent. All grievances must be submitted no later than 90 days after the offending incident.

How to submit a grievance:

Grievances are submitted on a Form DC-410, which can be obtained by requesting the form from any staff member. When filling out the Form DC-410, take care not use any offending or threatening language, otherwise the grievance will be rejected. Only one incident per grievance will be accepted, so in the event of multiple reportable incidents, the first grievance must be resolved before reporting a second or any later claims.

After completing the Form DC-410, it should be submitted to either the Facility Head, a designated screening officer, or any other staff member. The incarcerated person will be notified of rejection or acceptance within 3 days. If rejected, the grievance will be returned with reason for rejection and may allow for re-submission if corrected. When accepted, the process of the grievance has entered Step 1, with the investigation being completed by a designated staff member. Following acceptance, within 15 days the inmate will receive a formal response of the results of the investigation of the claim.

If unsatisfied with the formal results of Step 1, an appeal may be filed for Step 2 review which will be investigated by the Facility Head. An appeal must be made within 24 hours of notification of the Step 1 results, and is accomplished by submitting the Form DC-410 and results of Step 1 directly to the Facility Head. The results of Step 2 review will be delivered to the inmate within 20 days of the request for review.

If unsatisfied with the results of Step 2 review, an appeal may be filed for Step 3 review which will be investigated by the Inmate Grievance Examiner. An appeal must be made within 24 hours of receiving the Step 2 results by submitting the appeal to a facility screening officer who will then mail the appeal to the Executive Director of Grievance Board Resolution. Following reception by the board, final results will be delivered to the inmate within 50 days. There is no appeal after Step 3 review.

During the process:

Be mindful of timelines! Those filing grievances will not receive any information or updates of the investigation, only the final results. A prison may request an extension of time up to 70 days, but must give notice. If hearing nothing back, assume a rejection, and submit an appeal by filing a new grievance that reads:

“My grievance was not addressed within the designated amount of time and I am treating this lack of response as a denial. Therefore, I am appealing the denial of my grievance.”

After the process:

After the grievance process has been exhausted, any incarcerated person that participated in the process is protected from retaliation. If retaliation is believed to have happened, a new grievance should be submitted.

Finally, grievances will not be placed in any person’s combined records, but those making false reports may be subject to disciplinary action.

Special Claims:

Is the nature of the claim an emergency with a risk of substantial harm within a narrow period of time? If so, mark the document “EMERGENCY” and the grievance will be processed with the facility head.

Does the nature of the claim involve sexual assault or harassment? These claims will be processed immediately, and members should expect an initial response within 48 hours, and final agency decision in 5 calendar days.

Is the nature of the claim confidential? The grievance may be submitted directly to the Director of Prisons (Step 3) via legal mail, but if the Director determines the claim is not confidential, it will be returned to the inmate with instructions to resubmit it via the traditional process.

If the nature of the grievance is a disability, ADA, or accommodation claim, a person should indicate on the DC-410 that they received a Form DC-746, Inmate Request for Accommodation, and whether or not it was approved or rejected.

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