People with disabilities are increasingly finding themselves within North Carolina’s prisons, jails, and juvenile correction facilities. However, they may encounter challenges in accessing the medical attention they require. Below are some essential tips and resources for individuals and their families to self-advocate for medical care while incarcerated. 

North Carolina Jails (“Detention Centers”) 

Contact the Sheriff’s Office

By law, the county Sheriff is in charge of the local jail. A jail may also have a Jail Administrator, who oversees jail activities and is accountable to the Sheriff’s Office. If you are experiencing issues of abuse, neglect, or lack of medical treatment, you may write a complaint to the local Sheriff’s Office and the Jail Administrator, if there is one. Some Sheriff’s Offices have a resident handbook that outlines its grievance process for you (e.g. Mecklenburg County Detention Center – Resident Handbook).

Call the Jail Nurse

Each jail should have a jail nurse. You or a friend or family member may try to call the jail nurse to request specific treatment. If you had a physician or a therapist before the arrest, you might consider contacting that provider and asking that the physician or therapist call or send a letter to the jail nurse to explain the kind of medical treatment you need.

Inform your defense attorney

Your defense attorney may be able to advocate for your needs while in jail, so you should inform your attorney of the problems you are experiencing. 

File a medical grievance

Any inmate in the custody of the Department of Public Safety may submit a written grievance on Form DC-410. Keep a copy of all responses, especially if the response is on paper. 

File a complaint with N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR)

DHSR is a state agency that licenses facilities that provide healthcare services in North Carolina. DHSR is also responsible for investigating complaints about the facilities they license, including local jails. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with DHSR. DHSR only investigates complaints that happen within one year of filing. To file a complaint, visit, or call: 1-800-624-3004 or 919-855-4500. Complaint Hotline Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. weekdays, except holidays. 

North Carolina Prisons (“Correctional Institutions”)
overseen by the N.C. Department of Adult Corrections

Contacting Nursing Staff, Warden’s Office, and Regional Office

Friends and family of incarcerated individuals can play a vital role in advocating for their loved one’s medical needs. They can contact various authorities within the prison system, including: 

  • Offender’s Case Manager at the prison facility. 
  • Nursing Staff at the unit where the individual is located. 
  • The Warden’s Office at the specific prison facility. 
  • The Regional Office, which oversees multiple prison facilities in a particular area. 

For more information on prison facilities, regional offices, prison-by-prison details, and a map of facilities across the state, visit DAC Division and Sections – Prisons

NC Prisoner Legal Services

NC Prisoner Legal Services provides legal assistance and advocacy to incarcerated individuals in North Carolina prisons. They can offer guidance on navigating the legal aspects of accessing medical care while in prison. 

PO Box 25397, Raleigh, NC 27611, 
Phone: 919-856-2200

Filing a Grievance

In order to address medical concerns, incarcerated individuals can file a grievance within the prison system through the Administrative Remedy Procedure process. Specific steps for filing a grievance can usually be found within the prison’s handbook or by contacting prison staff. 

Inmates can also appeal to the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board in case of any adverse decision.

4207 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4207
(919) 850-2936.

More details can be found at DAC Inmate Grievance Resolution Board. 

Other Helpful Tips

Release of Information Forms

In both prisons and jails, individuals need to complete release of information forms with the medical provider in the facility. This grants permission for the medical providers to communicate with their community medical providers, ensuring HIPAA protections. 

List of Community Providers

It’s essential for individuals to have a list of their current community providers along with their contact information. If they don’t have this information readily available, family or friends can provide it to the facility’s medical provider. 

Signing Release of Information in Advance

If individuals have time before entering the facility, it’s beneficial to sign a release of information with their community medical provider’s office. This can expedite the process, as medical providers in jails or prisons may not promptly follow up. 

Bring Current Prescription Medications

Some jails find it helpful if individuals bring their current prescription medications with them. This facilitates verification of medications, as the medication bottle will have the medical provider’s contact information. It enables the facility to check with the pharmacy and, if necessary, follow up with the physician. 

Additional Resources

For additional information on accessing mental health services for persons with disabilities, visit DRNC website at: Disability Rights NC – Criminal Legal 

ACLU of North Carolina is a legal organization that helps people with civil rights issues. You can apply for their help on their website. Additionally, the factsheets below may be helpful: 

NC CURE is a volunteer organization that advocates for humane treatment of people in North Carolina. (P.O. Box 5013, Kinston, NC 28503; Tel: 252-367-9656; Email: