Over 90 percent of convicted murderers on death row have filed to have their death sentences revoked under the misnamed “The Racial Justice Act” (RJA) or Senate Bill 461. The impact of the bill – passed by what some refer to as the “most liberal Legislature” in North Carolina history – is now being felt statewide.
Twenty years ago, state prison populations forced the North Carolina Department of Corrections to effectively "legalize misdemeanors." Many existing prisoners were released to be free long before their sentences had required.
During the long legislative session of 2009 that was defined by increased spending, in¬creased taxes, and a statewide smoking ban, the General Assembly managed to make several other significant changes to the General Statutes. One such revision – largely made unnoticed and with little media attention or fanfare – would drastically alter current laws on the books by putting drunk drivers back on the roads.
Just last week, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed their anxiously awaited budget for FY 2010-11. As many had expected, the content of this year’s budget mirrored the tribulations of North Carolina’s economy, as many critical programs suffered sizeable budget cuts to reconcile the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.
Legislators who support H.B. 1403, sponsored by Reps. Wil Neumann (R-Gaston), Pearl Burris-Floyd (R-Gaston), Darrell McCormick (R-Yadkin) and Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), which would require the collection of DNA upon arrest for all felonies and certain misdemeanors, have only focused on how it would exonerate the innocent.
The House budget plan would reduce overall Justice and Public Safety (JPS) Budget by about 3 percent compared to the spending plan put in place last year. As with the Senate JPS Budget, the majority of appropriations shifting occurs within the Department of Corrections, the largest department in JPS. The largest reductions come from inmate medical costs and a lower-than-projected inmate population. The most significant difference between the House and Senate JPS budgets is that the House allocates to the Department of Corrections about $12 million less than the Senate to correct for an inmate population now projected to be lower than the estimates used last when the two-year budget plan was put in place. Corrections, however, would see an increase of 803 full-time positions under the House budget. Two other notable discrepancies between the House and Senate budgets are the $3.5 million expansion in the House Budget to restore the Samackland Youth Development Center, which is absent from the Senate Budget, and the $2.35 million in the Senate Budget to expand prisoner education not included in the House Budget. Significant expansions and reductions include: Expansions: $9.77 million to the operating reserves at the Central and Women Prisons' hospitals as requested in the Governor's budget proposal $3.5 million to restore the Samackland Youth Development Center. This is an alternative correctional facility for juvenile offenders. $2.2 million to restore the Sentencing Services program as requested in both the Governor's and Senate's spending plans Reductions: $27.2 million from the Department of Corrections because of lower than expected inmate population $20.5 million from linking inmate medical costs to a fee schedule based on rates authorized by Medicaid. This reduction was included in the Senate's and Governor Perdue's proposals $5.75 million from the Private Assigned Counsel (PAC) program. PAC consists of private legal counsel who have been assigned to provide indigent legal services. This reduction was also included in the Senate Budget. $5 million from the technology services program and administration budgets of the Judicial Department. This too was included in the Senate Budget.
The overall Justice and Public Safety (JPS) budget was reduced by about 3 percent compared to the spending plan put in place as the second year of the two-year budget approved last year.
The General Assembly is currently considering HB1403, "Collecting DNA Sample on Arrest," sponsored by Reps. Wil Neumann (R-Gaston), Pearl Burris-Floyd (R-Gaston), Darrell McCormick (R-Yadkin) and Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg). The bill would establish a database of DNA samples - the unique, identifying genetic make-up of an individual - collected at the time suspected felons are arrested. This legislation must be considered philosophically with careful examination of the struggle between liberty and security...
The Department of Justice and Public Safety (JPS) would see a 3.8% reduction in its budget if the Senate's budget passed as it currently stands. The majority of the expansions and reductions occur within the Department of Corrections, which is the largest department in JPS. Many of the shifts in allocation of funds occurred in the budgets dealing with inmate medical matters...
Justice and Public Safety (JPS) is one of only two major state agencies – K-12 public education being the other – to receive a reduction in Governor Perdue’s 2010-11 budget recommendations.
North Carolina lawmakers seem more concerned with saving a few dollars than keeping those charged with rape, murder or many other felonious crimes in prison. Thanks to a new set of sentencing guidelines that went into effect on December 1, many convicted criminals won’t spend as much time behind bars.
With help in part from $24 million of federal funds, this year’s JPS expenditures will be slightly higher than last year’s estimated actual spending. The most significant budgetary changes occur in corrections, with 187 – mostly vacant – positions being eliminated and seven prisons being closed.
JPS appropriations in the Senate budget proposal include roughly $23.8 million funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Over 200 vacant positions and nearly 800 filed positions will be eliminated mostly cut from Corrections and as a result of the expected closing of 7 prisons. 57 new jobs will be created either in the merging of prisons or through positions created by federal stimulus dollars.
Take a trip with me down memory lane to the mid-60’s, 70’s and early 80’s and try to remember the huge surge in violent crime that swept across the United States. The judicial activism of Chief Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren laid the foundation for liberal action against the death penalty. The result of tampering with capital punishment was immediate and clear. Murder rates spiked in the 70’s and didn’t really come back down until voters demanded tough penalties and reinstatement of the death penalty.
North Carolina has long been considered a conservative state with the expected conservative beliefs on many issues of the day. One issue that evokes special attention has been the preservation of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA). Despite the intensity of the support for lawful self defense, lawmakers in the Old North State have a mixed record when it comes to standing up for gun owners.