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Lawmaker, DAs call on governor to end home release for prisoners

Posted June 26, 2013

State Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-District 9 (New Hanover)

— Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, took to the floor of the state Senate Wednesday to denounce a program that allows convicted felons nearing the end of their sentence to go home on weekends. 

"Many of the people on this list are murderers," Goolsby said, encouraging lawmakers to put pressure on Gov. Pat McCrory to end the program or take up legislation if the governor does not act. "This is an outrage."

Goolsby said the program was brought to his attention by Phil Berger Jr., a Republican district attorney from Rockingham County and the president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. Berger is also the son of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. 

"More than 2,000 criminals have taken advantage of this policy since 2008," the younger Berger wrote in a letter to McCrory. "What shocks the conscience more than the release of these dangerous individuals is the fact that victims and prosecutors are not aware of their presence in the community. The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys requests that this policy be rescinded immediately." 

The prison system's policy says it was designed "for inmates who are nearing release to re-establish family relationships and community socialization in preparation for their transition back into the community." It specifically said that inmates should be within 12 months of parole eligibility and remain infraction-free while in prison. 

A count of participants provided by the district attorneys shows that 149 inmates were allowed out on home leaves during the most recent weekend, including 36 people convicted of murder, four convicted of manslaughter/death by vehicle and 39 convicted of drug trafficking. Another breakdown shows that 13 of those participating are from Guilford County, eight are from Wake County and seven from Cumberland County

A McCrory spokesman referred questions to the Department of Public Safety.

“For over three decades, the home leave program has allowed for inmates who are nearing release to re-establish family relationships and community socialization in preparation for their transition back into the community," said Commissioner of Adult Correction David Guice. "Every inmate is carefully screened and selected and undergoes a thorough investigation before admission into the program.”

WRAL News recently reported on the case of Raymond Cook, 46, who was found guilty on March 1, 2011, of involuntary manslaughter, felony death by motor vehicle and driving while impaired in the Sept. 11, 2009, death of Elena Shapiro, who danced for the Carolina Ballet. He is allowed both work release during the week and home visits on the weekend.

Others on the list prisoners who have been allowed home visits include Robert B. Pollard, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to second-degree murder in connection with a case that involved two people killed, dismembered and buried beneath a farmhouse near Selma.

59 Comments

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  • sweetlyght Jun 28, 3:47 p.m.

    Aldo, i'll add we can not make them transistion on our terms once they've served their sentence. Once they are free they are free. If you;re going to try to make things better you have to do it while they're still on our time.

  • sweetlyght Jun 28, 3:45 p.m.

    I think we should keep this program. These are people who are on their way home ANYWAY. They will be walking among us free and clear and a transition into being ut seems much, much better for all of us then to just dump them right from prison into us. I mean, the way you think and have to react in prison is not the way we want people to think and react in our free world, and for them to start that process at home, around family, getting back to what normal is and should be seems safer then taking them out of the festering place and having them walk next to me in the mall. Just saying.. I feel better with them getting their heads right.

  • Freakazoid Jun 28, 2:29 p.m.

    Look at how old the infraction dates are on most of these. The newer ones are all white collar crimes. Someone can reform with the right drive and determination

  • Freakazoid Jun 28, 2:08 p.m.

    You have no idea of what you speak. The policy and procedures that are followed are strict and in place for the safety of everyone. Your hardened criminals are not getting these passes. It’s the men who have done their time and worked to improve themselves and have family and loved ones who are trying to help them reacclimatize to the real world. Think for a minute! Without our help they would just be thrown out after their sentence is up and forced to adapt immediately. Many fail that way. These passes are only available every other week and only if the individual is close to release anyway. Move on senator, find another cause besides creating future failures.

  • Vox-Populi Jun 27, 5:07 p.m.

    "...by the way, I consider those convicted of selling drugs to as violent as murderers."

    Well that is ridiculous. Do you consider someone who calls you an "dolt" as violent as someone who slaps you in the face? If you said no then you would have a functioning sense of judgment. But your previous statement calls that into question.

  • Taffy Jun 27, 12:26 p.m.

    Being within 12 months of parole eligibility doesn't mean they will get parole. But we're letting them out for home visits? A person convicted of a felony should serve their time until paroled.Any by the way, I consider those convicted of selling drugs to as violent as murderers.

  • mrr03 Jun 27, 11:23 a.m.

    On this whole issue, I see that the DA in Rockingham County has little to do.

  • Rebelyell55 Jun 27, 11:19 a.m.

    I can see those conviced of violent crimes, especally murder not be released, but would agree that those who crime were of a non-violent nature would be.

  • CrazyFoxofCary Jun 27, 11:00 a.m.

    White collar crimes, petty theft, perhaps... but murderers and violent criminals? And doesn't law enforcement and the victims have the right to know about this? Once again a half-baked idea from Raleigh.

  • venitapeyton Jun 27, 10:42 a.m.

    Why not expend energy on revisiting how we handle the nonviolent inmate population? Some could be performing useful tasks that better society during the day and sleep at the correctional facility at night.

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