Raleigh, N.C. — Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he did not know enough to judge whether a policy that allows inmates serving lengthy sentences to go on home visits when they near the end of their terms should continue.
"If a (district attorney) sees someone out who they think is a significant problem, I would have concerns," Cooper said, adding that he had not reviewed the program or known about it until press reports last week.
He said the "first priority" should be ensuring that those allowed to go home for weekend visits do not pose a threat to public safety.
The Department of Public Safety, which is overseen by Gov. Pat McCrory, called a news conference Monday to discuss the program. But as it was supposed to begin, department spokeswoman Pam Walker walked to the podium and said there had been "a scheduling conflict" and that the department would speak about the program later this week.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys has spoken out against the program, asking McCrory to end it.
Cooper was more circumspect.
"The fact remains that 95 percent of people who go into prison will come back out one day," he said.
Reports to the General Assembly show that roughly 36 percent of those released from prison will re-offend in two years.
Cooper said his office has worked to cut the recidivism rate by sending specialists into the prisons. The home visit program, he said, might be a part of helping to ensure people who serve long sentences "re-integrate" back into their old lives more smoothly.
"Clearly, we want to work on ways people who are going to be released can re-integrate into society in ways so they don't commit more crimes," Cooper said.
However, he said, the home leave program needed to be "looked at" and some assurances made. For example, he said the prison system should ensure that victims or their families are notified when a prisoner is going to be granted home visitation rights.