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Correction Officials 'Disturbed' by Probation Probe's Findings

Posted March 26, 2008
Updated March 27, 2008

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— North Carolina Department of Correction officials are expanding their probe into probation offices in Wake and Durham counties, saying they are bothered by what they are finding.

Officials launched an internal investigation earlier this month based on the cases of two men charged in the March 5 death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson.

"I think it's fair to say that we're disturbed," DOC spokesman Keith Acree said Wednesday, declining to elaborate further. "The director (of the Division of Community Corrections) has said he's greatly disturbed by what he's seen so far."

Specific findings, he said, will be released in a report expected next week.

Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, and Demario James Atwater, 21, had been in and out of jail several times or were in violation of probation and were overlooked by the state's probation system.

Each faces a first-degree murder charge in Carson's death. Lovette is also charged in the shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in January.

Among the findings of the DOC's investigation, so far, authorities have learned Lovette's probation officer, Chalita Nicole Thomas, was charged in 2005 with driving while impaired and was arrested on another DWI charge in December.

She was charged with having  a concealed weapon and offenses related to harassing phone calls in 2003, but they were later dropped.

Thomas was hired Sept. 13, 2004, as a correctional officer and became a probation officer last summer. She reported her December DWI to her supervisor, but nothing happened to her until March 7, when she was put on administrative duty.

Part of the internal investigation is whether she should have been hired and what the hiring policies and processes are, Acree said.

"That concerns us," he said. "I think it's difficult for a person with that type of thing in their history to manage people in similar situations."

At the time of his arrest on March 13, Lovette was on probation for a pair of crimes he had committed last November. He received a two-year suspended sentence for misdemeanor larceny and breaking and entering and was placed on probation Jan. 16.

Atwater had been wanted on a probation violation for several months but wasn't arrested until February. He was in court two days before Carson's death for a hearing on the matter, but it was rescheduled because of a clerical error.

Robert L. Guy, director of the Division of Community Corrections, told WRAL last week that during the six-week period from Mahato's to Carson's deaths, Thomas attempted to met with Lovette outside of court but did not succeed.

"There's no excuse, absolutely no excuse, for having somebody on probation and they don't see their probation officer," said Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, who sits on a state House justice-system-review committee.

Blue said lawmakers want to know if probation problems are a matter of training or resources. The latter would be an issue for legislators.

Seth Effron, a spokesman with the Governor's Press Office, said that if probation needs a statewide review, Gov. Mike Easley expects that to happen.

"The expectation is that if through what is found, they need to look at things on a statewide basis, the secretary (of Correction, Theodis Beck) will do that and determine what the problems are and additionally come up with what needs to be done to fix it," he said.

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  • atozca Mar 28, 2008

    "This is the fruit of the multi-generation welfare cycle that many have warned about since way back in the early days of the great society. I'm not talking about racism here, but level headed insight, prophecy and warnings voiced by many thoughtful, intelligent people of all colors, including people as diverse as Walter E. Williams, professor of economics and Bill Cosby, noted media personality.

    The chickens have come home to roost, and all of society is now reaping what bone-headed social programs have sown."
    mrkagain

    Let's hope that we the people will recognize and accept this truth and do not vote anyone into office who will increase these programs in addition to adding more government controlled disasters.

  • oldschooltarheel Mar 28, 2008

    Blockhead Squared said, "Prison should not be a "Storage Facility". Rehab non violent offenders and eliminate the rest!"
    You are correct - work farm them. Nonviolents can be "leased" to farmers needing crops harvested & fields tended to. Violent criminals work on-site in prison - rocks still need splitting,no? Drop all that stupid parole stuff that is not even followed up on - these "offenders" need to be taught how to work - so work them! Just be prepared for when the ACLU & the effete Chapel Hill attorneys come squealling about "the injustice" of it all.

  • Blue Shirt Mar 28, 2008

    Maybe DenverBob can visit his local Division of Prisons facility and see what a COs job is all about. Every field has good and bad an there a lot of dedicated people who deal with dangerous offenders and work with law enforcement to solve crimes and deal with the Gangs. The DOC loves Veterans because they have the experience to deal with the diverse froup of offenders. I wish the average citizen had the heart to be the eyes and ears for their law enforcement agency; so I salute the Coppers and COs who have the courage to do this job.

  • mrkagain Mar 28, 2008

    "Also, another person commented earlier that maybe the bad kids in school should behave better to get better teachers.

    How ignorant.

    These children (living in Wake and Durham counties) typically have parents who don't care what they do, live in poverty, and have never been taught by their parents what it means to be a responsible, well-behaved student. The schools have to do that but it takes time and patience because the behaviors are not being reinforced at home. "

    This is the fruit of the multi-generation welfare cycle that many have warned about since way back in the early days of the great society. I'm not talking about racism here, but level headed insight, prophecy and warnings voiced by many thoughtful, intelligent people of all colors, including people as diverse as Walter E. Williams, professor of economics and Bill Cosby, noted media personality.

    The chickens have come home to roost, and all of society is now reaping what bone-headed social programs have sown.

  • denverbob234 Mar 27, 2008

    I think the public is disturbed by the entire DOC in NC.

  • NCMOMof3 Mar 27, 2008

    better education, sure. But better education will soon fall away due to the inability to teach if we don't have better parenting to teach problem children how to behave better in school. It's not the job of the teachers to teach children how to behave. I'm sorry if you think we are "sitting in our ivory tower" and looking down on anyone because that's not what I'm doing. I'm all for helping anyone but the Lord helps those that help themselves and people have to want to be helped and have to be willing to put forth some effort themselves to be helped. The saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" was coined for a reason. And sure, locking up everyone that steals a pack of chewing gum isn't the answer but getting tough on crime and building more prisons and locking up those that deserve it and keeping them there will go a long way to showing those currently on the wrong track to get off that track an on another.

  • goobs Mar 27, 2008

    Also, another person commented earlier that maybe the bad kids in school should behave better to get better teachers.

    How ignorant.

    These children (living in Wake and Durham counties) typically have parents who don't care what they do, live in poverty, and have never been taught by their parents what it means to be a responsible, well-behaved student. The schools have to do that but it takes time and patience because the behaviors are not being reinforced at home. It takes teachers who care and are willing to teach the "bad" kids how to succeed and become "good". It's easy to look down on these kids from your ivory tower and write them off. In fact that's what we do. Why do you think we have so many prisons.

    It seems like lots of people want an every-man-for-himself kind of society. That's not a very Christian thing to think. Didn't God command us to help bring up the downtrodden to better ourselves.

  • goobs Mar 27, 2008

    Make alcohol illegal - are you kidding me?!? As I said in a previous post, there are already way too many people in prison for nonviolent drug charges as it is.

    Build more prisons?!? Do the majority of people really believe that this is the solution? We have more prisons per capita than ANY other industrialized country and we STILL have more violent crime. Prisons feed the cycle of violence! They are necessary for violent offenders (ie. the 2 men in question here) but nonviolent offenders need to be handled differently or they will BECOME violent offenders by being subjected to the prison lifestyle. Gangs rule prisons and anyone who's ever been to prison is likely in a gang (for pure survival reasons). Keep the violent offenders locked away (I totally support this) but we need to quit putting nonviolent criminals in with the violent criminals.

    We also need better education, but no one seems to believe that will help.

  • Corvus Mar 27, 2008

    Someone needs to take a serious look at the hiring practices of the NC Dept. of Corrections (Probation/Parole). They Department as a whole has made it a practice to hire less qualified people of color over someone that is highly qualified. It also pays if you know someone high up in the Department or someone in Politics. A lot of people that have jobs working in the higher up positions of Probation/Parole have never even worked as a Probation/Parole Officer. These are the people that are making the policies for Probation/Parole. In the end it usually takes 3 to 4 months to hire someone for a vacant postion.

  • fedupwithitall Mar 27, 2008

    Hondaman, you must be drunk if you think that making alcohol illegal would help anything in terms of violent crime.

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