Imagine someone has killed your loved one, and despite the court telling you that the killer’s sentence is 12 years, you suddenly find out that the murderer is able to go home on weekends only nine years into the sentence.
That nightmare is a reality for one family in North Carolina.
A Wilmington family thought their loved one’s murderer would not be out of prison for at least 12 years, but to their surprise the murderer was leaving prison on weekends after serving only nine years. A phone call to the family recently confirms that the murderer is going home on the weekends.
After Civitas and The NC District Attorneys across the state exposed problems with the Home Leave Program this past summer, changes were made to the program. Now that the policy manual has been updated, people need to know what the changes amount to.
Perhaps the two most significant changes are: No sex offenders are able to qualify for the program, and anyone with a life sentence cannot qualify unless he or she has a release date set. These are great steps and give the general public a little more confidence in the system. But one would think that the public would have even more confidence if the program were to apply to only those who have release dates set. That would ensure that leaves would be granted only to those who will soon be released and might benefit from a gradual transition back into life outside of prison.
There are other changes and aspects of the program that are important to consider– but at the same time leave questions unanswered.
1.) An inmate who is in minimum custody level III and has maintained this status for a minimum of 90 days and is within 12 months of a projected release date is eligible for consideration for home leaves.
What exactly is a “projected” release date?
Does this mean if you are denied parole you can still qualify for the program?
2.) A qualified sponsor must be an immediate family member which is defined as mother, father, husband, wife, adult daughter, adult son, adult brother, adult sister, foster parents, or other person who has acted in the place of parents where such relationships can be verified (“adult” refers to 21 years of age or older).
Are prisoners from out of state eligible for the program?
While there are still questions about the home leave program, now fewer families do not have to worry about seeing their loved one’s murderers in the community before their sentence is completed.