Raleigh, N.C. — Twenty North Carolina criminals to be set free Oct. 29 because of a legal ruling and good conduct credits have racked up more than 250 infractions in prison for offenses such as fighting, weapon possession and theft.
Department of Correction records reviewed Friday by The Associated Press show the violations go as far back as the 1970s but also appear as recently as 2008, raising questions about whether the prisoners are reformed. Each one of the inmates has at least two infractions, and combined they have a total of 256.
They have repeatedly been denied parole.
The inmates are scheduled to be released Oct. 29 after state courts sided with one of the inmates, Bobby Bowden, that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as only 80 years.
State officials believe dozens more inmates convicted 30 years ago could soon be eligible for release.
The state's Fair Sentencing Act in 1981 included a retroactive provision essentially cutting all those sentences in half, and a variety of good conduct credits, meritorious credits and gain time credits have shortened the sentences to the point that they are now complete.
Bowden had argued before the Court of Appeals in 2008 that he had accumulated 210 days of good conduct credit, 753 days of meritorious credit, and 1,537 days of gain time credit.
But the 60-year-old has also racked up 17 infractions in prison, including two for weapon possession, one for damaging property and several for disobeying orders.
But others' cases are different, supporters say.
Faye Brown, one of four inmates on a work release program, was convicted 34 years ago of murder and sentenced to death after she and two acquaintances robbed a bank and one of the men fatally shot a Highway Patrol state trooper.
"There's a strong sense of remorse about what happened that day," said Wanda Short, who runs a local cosmetology school where Brown has worked for four years. "It is being portrayed that she is a cold-blooded murderer, but she's not."
Brown's sentence was commuted to a life sentence, and since then she has finished a college degree program. She has also been denied parole 22 times.
For the North Carolina Highway Patrol, it's disappointing, spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin said.
"I'm glad she's rehabilitated. I'm glad she got the help she needed, but she was handed a sentence that said years ago she would serve life in prison. That's what we feel like she should do," he said.
"This person is a person that I would live next door to," Short said. "This person, I would trust my children with. This person, I don't think anyone would have any reason to fear in any way."