Seal of the N.C. Department of Correction

From the N.C. Department of Correction, shared Dec. 1:

RALEIGH–Today several provisions of a new law took effect to strengthen the state’s probation and parole system, allowing the state to better control the prison population and reduce repeat offenders. The provisions are part of the Justice Reinvestment Act, the most significant change to North Carolina’s sentencing laws in 17 years.

The new law is the result of legislative efforts that Gov. Bev Perdue launched in early 2009, when she made strengthening the state’s criminal justice policies a priority. One of her first efforts resulted in a legislative package, passed with the help of legislative leaders that spring, that gave probation officers limited access to juvenile records providing crucial information to aid determining supervision strategies for offenders.

“Nothing that government does is more important than public safety,” Gov. Perdue said. “Our probation and parole officers need as many tools as possible to keep probationers from ever posing a threat to our citizens. This law, passed with the legislature’s help, is a big step toward doing that.”

“This historic legislation provides for new and improved probation and parole strategies,” said Correction Secretary Alvin Keller. “By balancing supervision levels and treatment needs, we can create better outcomes for probationers.”

The new law will:

  • Give probation/parole officers more authority over offenders.
  • Require that all felons be placed under at least nine months of supervision after they leave prison.
  • Creates a new habitual breaking and entering law that would potentially stiffen penalties for a second B&E conviction.

The implementation of the Act comes after intensive data collection and analysis by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center of North Carolina’s criminal justice system. Governor Perdue was joined by a bi-partisan group of legislative leaders; and Judge Erwin Spainhour, Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission chair in requesting assistance from CSG Justice Center and the Pew Center on the States. The Governor signed House Bill 642, the Justice Reinvestment Act, into law on June 23. The bill’s primary sponsors were Rep. David Guice, Rep. John Faircloth, Rep. Alice Bordsen and Rep. Earline Parmon.

The Act is a culmination of recommendations made by CSG Justice Center that focus on three primary areas: strengthening probation supervision; holding offenders more accountable; and reducing recidivism

Here is a summary of the provisions that go into effect Dec. 1:

Strengthening probation supervision – Probation/parole officers given more authority and options in sanctioning offenders based on behavior. The provision helps ensure that the offenders most likely to reoffend receive the most intensive supervision. Another provision limits the length of incarceration to 90 days for felons (up to 90 days for misdemeanants) who violate the conditions of probation, but do not commit a new crime or abscond. Offenders would then return to probation supervision after the incarceration period. These provisions are effective for probation/parole violations committed on or after Dec. 1.

Post release supervision – Requires that all felony offenders will receive at least nine months of post-release supervision. B1-E felons (serious/violent felonies) would get 12 months of post-release supervision, which is increased from the current nine months. F-I felons, who account for 85 percent of felons released from prison unsupervised, now will receive nine months of supervision. Effective for offenses committed on or after Dec. 1.

Habitual felon changes

  • Creates a new habitual breaking-and-entering law that would allow an offender to be sentenced as a Class E felon after a second breaking-and-entering conviction.
  • Modifies the current habitual felon law to require an offender to be sentenced four felony offense classes higher than their underlying conviction, capped at Class C.
  • Effective for principal felony offenses committed on or after Dec. 1.

Other provisions of the Justice Reinvestment Act will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

For more information, go to this link to HB642:

To effectively implement the Justice Reinvestment Act, North Carolina has received support from the U. S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. This funding will assist the state in providing training and updating data systems as part of a statewide effort to implement these policy changes.

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Wmforo. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at [email protected].

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