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Methodology: Data Collection 

WFAE and FRONTLINE sought court and jail records for “incapable to proceed” (ITP) defendants from all 100 counties in North Carolina to calculate how long defendants wait for a hospital bed. Based on availability, we were able to review records from 63 counties. We found that misdemeanor data was incomplete, so limited our analysis to felonies.

 The Wake County Justice Center where criminal district and superior court files are located.
Mona Dougani
The Wake County Justice Center where criminal district and superior court files are located.

For felony defendants in 34 of those counties, representing nearly two-thirds of the state’s population, we obtained sufficient data to calculate how long each defendant waited for a hospital bed for restoration. We then calculated median wait times in each of the three hospital regions in the state. We limited the analysis to defendants whose cases were pending at the time we obtained the data, or whose cases had been resolved in 2016 or later. Sources for data on the defendants included individual clerks of court offices as well as the Court Information Public Record Search (CIPRS) and eCourts systems. Individual clerks’ offices and jails differed in how they collect and maintain this information, so our analysis is limited to the information they provided.

We conducted this analysis after unsuccessfully requesting information from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.

This story is part of a collaboration with FRONTLINE, the PBS series, through its Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mona Dougani is an investigative research and reporting fellow with WFAE. Previously, she reported on local issues as part of the Queens University News Service.