The Court System and the Departments of Correction, Crime Control & Public Safety, Justice, and Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention: The 2007-08 General Assembly made some significant investments in criminal justice agencies, but left some controversial legislation unfinished. Over the biennium, the Legislature increased the justice & public safety budget by 15 percent to just under $2.1 billion, including nearly 350 net new positions.
Victims of child predators will not rest easier tonight even as Governor Mike Easley signs a watered down version of Jessica’s Law (HB 933) into effect. A report by the Civitas Institute reveals that child molesters in North Carolina will not be required to serve mandatory prison time under the new law.
Get the facts on Jessica's Law and what North Carolina has done.
Crimes Before & After N.C.’s Jessica’s Law. Crimes in red are punished under the Florida Jessica’s Law with a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison. Offenders either serve life in prison or serve 25 years followed by lifetime satellite monitoring.
Highlights of the House Justice & Public Safety Budget Total General Fund budget of $2.09 billion; nearly half is dedicated to prisons. Increase of 1.6 percent over 2007-08; increase of 14.9 percent over 2006-07. Adds 315 new positions (79 new positions plus those authorized for 2008-09 last year). Authorizes $90 million in special indebtedness (COPs) for prison expansion - $45 million for women’s health and mental health care and $45 million for new wings at three men’s prisons. Provides $12.7 million in capital for JPS agencies. Significant or Contentious Items: $3 million for to-be-determined improvements to the probation system; outside study of probation system; separate study of probation officer compensation. $1 million for the cost of victims’ rape examinations, including insurance co-pays. New substance abuse treatment facility for women parolees and probationers. Repeal of the provision passed last year shifting the cost of courthouse telephone systems from the State to counties (see amendments on reverse). Elimination of some of the expansion approved last year, including three special superior court judges and staff. These positions were included in the 2007-09 budget but were not requested by the court system. Inclusion of the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services in the judicial retirement system. $1 million for the N.C. Sheriff’s Association to providing training and technical assistance for immigration enforcement. Budget an anticipated increase of $1.5 million in federal receipts for reimbursement for incarcerating illegal aliens. Establish reserves to fund costs associated with HB 44 (makes repeated violation of a domestic violence protection order a felony) and SB 869 (requires sex offenders to register email addresses) if those bills pass. No other reserves for pending legislation. Allows the Dept. of Correction to pay for temporary housing for homeless offenders on probation or parole – housing is limited places such as shelters and halfway houses – locations such as hotels and nursing homes were prohibited by amendment. Two policy issues to be studied: (1) The impact of increasing the maximum age for the juvenile criminal justice system from under 16 to under 18. (2) Identification of misdemeanors that should be decriminalized. Continuation Review Results: Four JPS programs were placed on continuation review in 2007-08. This meant they received one-time money instead of their usual recurring appropriation, and had to prove their effectiveness in order to be funded in 2008-09. The budget proposed in House Appropriations restored – and expanded – funding for two of the four programs. House Floor amendments restored funding for the other two programs. Criminal Justice Partnership Program: Restored all $9.2 million in funding and increased funding by another $500,000. Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils: Restored all $22.7 million in funding and increased funding by another $1 million. New language requires more detailed annual reports and a study of the funding distribution formula. Conference of District Attorneys and Conference of Clerks: House Appropriations budget did not restore funds for these conferences. An amendment on the floor restored all $523,000 and all 7 positions. Items that showed up in the Appropriations and Floor amendment processes: $200,000 for the Land Loss Prevention Project and the Financial Protection Law Center to assist low-income homeowners with legal issues related to foreclosure. $110,000 in two reserves ($100,000 for the courts, $10,000 for sheriffs) to implement HB 44 if it becomes law. HB 44 increases the penalty for a second violation of a domestic violence protection order (current law increases the penalty on the fourth violation). Funds cut from indigent defense are instead used to repeal the 2007 provision shifting responsibility for funding courthouse telephone systems from the State to the counties. (Still leaves about a $700,000 reduction in telephone funding.) $174,321 for new equipment in the SBI Crime Lab. Eliminate the funds ($200,000) allocated for evaluating the Support Our Students program funded through Juvenile Justice. Change funding for the National Guard’s Tarheel Challenge dropout prevention program from recurring to nonrecurring to match the requirement for a continuation review of the program. However, the budget still contains expansion funds of $193,000 (non-recurring) for Tarheel Challenge. $200,000 for Operation Kids on Guard to help children of National Guard members cope with deployment fears. House Floor amendment to reduce funds for representation of indigent defendants: Governor’s budget had $3 million in one-time funds to fund increased demand for private attorneys who represent indigent criminal defendants; House Appropriations budget had $1 million in one-time funds; Final House budget eliminates the $1 million funding and also cuts $1.6 million of the funds approved last year to expand public defenders in the state. Nearly $300,000 increase in chemical dependency treatment for male inmates. Reduction of nearly $700,000 in the expansion of contractual funds for the Department of Correction (net expansion now $1.2 million) – this expansion item was reduced to fund three different items through amendments.
While the bulk of the money spent by the State on corrections is for the incarceration of prisoners, three-quarters of convicted offenders each year are returned to the community for their punishment. Based on the most recent annual data...
Raleigh, N.C. – In conjunction with today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of lethal injection as a means to administer capital punishment, the Civitas Institute released results of its April DecisionMaker poll revealing that North Carolina voters approve of the use of the death penalty by a greater than two to one margin.
The two men suspected of killing UNC-Chapel Hill student body President Eve Carson represent a case study in the failure of North Carolina's criminal justice system.
The first edition of HB 933 included a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for an adult who molests (gropes/fondles) a child under the age of 12. This piece of the legislation, which is the most costly, was removed in the second edition of the bill.
Officials in North Carolina and elsewhere are questioning whether 16- and 17-year-olds should be treated as adults in the court system. North Carolina is currently one of three states that consider delinquent juveniles to be adults on their 16th birthdays.
Judicial Spending Up, Sex Offender and Gang Legislation Still Under Consideration The 2007 session saw dozens of bills introduced on criminal justice issues, but very few became law. Proposed legislation ranged from tougher penalties for sex offenders to the forgiveness of nonviolent crimes. In order to be heard during the 2008 session, bills must either have passed one chamber (“crossed over”) or have an appropriations or revenue element. Because criminal justice bills tend to cost money, most legislation still has the potential to pass next year, even if it didn’t cross over from one chamber to the other.
The General Assembly and the Governor have gleefully trumpeted the passage of “Jessica’s Law” (HB 933) in the final weeks of the legislative session. What they aren’t talking about – and don’t want anyone to know – is that what North Carolina now calls Jessica’s Law is a far cry from the original Florida law passed in memorial to nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford. Under this partial enactment of “Jessica’s Law,” an adult who takes advantage of a young child’s innocence to grope, fondle, and inappropriately touch them still gets a mere slap on the wrist.
The way crimes are punished in North Carolina is changing. This year, more than 100 bills would create new felonies or change the sentences for existing felonies. They would affect crimes ranging from theft of timber to the rape of a child. Other bills would make changes to misdemeanors, and several would expunge felony records for some offenders. Regarding the latter, after anywhere from two to 10 years of good behavior, some individuals could have their records expunged of Class H and I felonies (see table for examples of felonies). With all of this activity, we thought it would be helpful to give a little breakdown on the system.
Did you know that 10,014 registered sex offenders live in North Carolina? Of those, 100 are lifetime registrants; 47 are recidivists; and 617 are either not registered or have not verified their most recent address.
The “official” explanation as to why the Democrat leadership didn’t even consider passing Jessica’s Law is because a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence for child molestation is inconsistent with North Carolina’s structured sentencing laws. This fact alone, however, does not mean that legislators cannot impose a longer sentence for taking indecent liberties with a child, or create a new offense (lewd or lascivious molestation) that would be punished with a longer sentence.