Budget cuts might soon leave prisoners in North Carolina without their main source of legal counsel if the Senate's version of the State's budget gets passed.
North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services has been defending inmates since the late 1970s, but Executive Director Mary Pollard says when the Senate rolled out its budget last week, funding for their non-profit law firm was nowhere to be seen.
"I was shocked. I was surprised. We were in the Governor's budgets, we provide a valuable service for the State," Pollard said.
She said 98 percent of NCPLS's funding comes from the state's budget. A little more than $2.8 million a year pays for 19 attorneys and 17 paralegal's.
Pollard says it was Republican Senators Thom Goolsby and Buck Newton's idea to replace their law firm with computers. WNCN reached out to both senators but have not heard back from them yet.
The department of Public Safety released this statement to WNCN:
"The Department of Public Safety supports the Governor's budget, which does include a slight reduction in the appropriation to NCPLS based on the declining prison population. The Department would not be able to meet the senate's timeframe to provide legal research software and computers for inmates by July 1. If the measure is enacted, NCDPS will make every effort to comply as quickly as possible."
If the Senate's version is passed Pollard said, "We'll close down and the inmates will have to represent themselves."
She explained NCPLS has helped many inmates in the past.
"Last year in 2012, we settled a group of lawsuits involving the sexual abuse of women inmates and the DOC agreed to implement a number of reforms that will make conditions safer for women inmates," Pollard said
Pollard said roughly one in three inmates in the state ask for help. That's more than 500 requests per week.