ZSR Awards a $50,000 Grant to North Carolina Task Force For Racial Equity in Criminal Justice Funding to assist in criminal justice reform efforts in North Carolina


Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) has awarded $50,000 to the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.

By Executive Order, Governor Roy Cooper established the Task Force in June 2020 to recommend solutions to stop discriminatory law enforcement and criminal justice practices and hold public safety officers accountable. In that Executive Order, Governor Cooper noted that “there is a long history of structural inequity and racism in the criminal justice system, underscored by the recent officer-involved deaths of Black people.” Already, the Task Force has taken quick action and made three recommendations, including that 1) all North Carolina law enforcement agencies enact a policy articulating a duty to intervene and report in any case where a law enforcement officer may be a witness to what they know to be an excessive use of force or other abuse of a suspect or arrestee; 2) all North Carolina law enforcement agencies enact a Use of Force policy that, at a minimum, prohibits neck holds; and 3) the North Carolina Supreme Court enact a General Rule of Practice which would require an assessment of a defendant’s ability to pay prior to levying any fines or fees. With the second recommendation, the Task Force suggests that law enforcement agencies consider using sample policy language that provides that “law enforcement officers shall not use chokeholds, strangleholds, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints, Carotid Restraints, chest compressions, or any other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck unless necessary to protect the life of the officer.”

“In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, it’s become clear to many that our criminal justice system does not treat all people fairly,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “I am proud to co-chair this effort to improve the system and work toward meaningfully addressing these issues. I appreciate the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s support, which will help us carry out this mission.”

This grant is aligned with the Foundation’s long-standing efforts to address law enforcement accountability issues and follows the Foundation’s recent statement and related grants addressing those issues. 

“The Foundation has made investments in several other communities throughout North Carolina to support efforts to promote police accountability,” said James Gore, senior program officer at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “The Foundation’s investment in the Task Force is a timely investment to promote strategies to address systemic racism that is apparent within the system.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by NC Attorney General Josh Stein and NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls. The Task Force consists of a diverse group of stakeholders and is soliciting public input to deliver recommendations by December 1, 2020. To view a complete list of individuals appointed to the Task Force, click here.

Funding from ZSR for this Task Force will support convening costs, facilitator costs and content experts in the areas of criminal justice reform and racial equity.