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State resets inmate release dates

Posted November 19, 2009

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— The state Department of Correction has adjusted release dates for 27 inmates who should be freed following an appellate court ruling, setting the earliest date for unconditional release in 2054, officials said Thursday.

The inmates – mostly convicted murderers and sex offenders – were scheduled to be released last month after the state Supreme Court upheld a Court of Appeals ruling in favor of double murderer Bobby Bowden. He contended that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as 80 years and sued for his release.

Lawmakers could weigh in on release of inmates N.C. calculates new release dates for 27 inmates

The 1981 Fair Sentencing Act included a retroactive provision that essentially cut all of those sentences in half, and Bowden and his attorneys argued that good behavior and other credits have shortened the sentences to the point that they are now complete.

The potential releases sparked outrage among many, including the governor, partly because all but one of the inmates would be free without any post-release supervision.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, who has vowed to block the releases, has argued that officials improperly applied some of the credits.

"I will continue to pursue all legal means of preventing the release of these inmates without any review by the parole board or any post-release supervision,” Perdue said in a statement.

Four inmates involved in pre-release programs who were scheduled to be released in 2010 and one in 2011 are not affected by the new plan, a DOC spokesman said.

DOC Secretary Alvin Keller has directed that the unconditional release date for each life sentence imposed for crimes between April 8, 1974, and June 30, 1978, be calculated as 80 years, minus applicable jail credit earned while the prisoner awaited conviction and sentencing.

Staples Hughes, the state appellate defender whose office represented Bowden, said it was regrettable the state was spending so much time and money pursuing an argument that has no legal basis.

"They, in essence, are continuing to attempt to defy the rule of law," Hughes said. "It has long since ceased to be a legal issue. It is simply a political issue and a mechanism for the governor to use to attempt to raise her popularity."

According to Keller, the Fair Sentencing Act specifically prohibited felons serving life prison sentences from receiving good behavior credits for purposes of unconditional release from prison.

James Woodward, the DOC secretary in 1983, expanded the rule to apply to those serving life terms.

Since 1955, the DOC has awarded good behavior credits for prisoners with life sentences only for purposes of earning a more favorable custody grade, for becoming eligible for parole and for a commutation of a sentence by the governor, Keller said.

The department will continue to do so but won't award credits to calculate an unconditional release date, he said.

98 Comments

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  • rcham68 Nov 20, 10:37 a.m.

    This is what is wrong with our Government today. Gov. Purdue or anyone else knew the intentions of those that made the law back in the 70's. But they think just because of their position they can change it. I worked in the prison system for 13 years and have seen some inmates with the same crime let go. I say if the served the time that was given to them and they have not been in any trouble while in the system then they should be let go, and save the tax payer the money it cost to keep them there. I also feel that if NC wants to save taxpayers money then they should cut off the cable television that is provided to the inmates. There are people living and trying to make it in this world that can't have cable TV soo why should inmates be afforded this luxury?

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Nov 20, 10:24 a.m.

    (my last word was cut off)

    anarchy.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Nov 20, 10:24 a.m.

    "I see people up here talking about the rules and how they can't be changed. This is true but, we are talking about people convicted of murder and rape. I bet if they were to murder or rape you once released you would not be talking about how the rules aren't fair. Maybe they should be released and sent to see you to do what they did that landed them in prison the first time."

    And I bet if the state did something illegal to you or your family, you wouldn't be so eager to let the state get away with something illegal.

    You're missing the point. I don't WANT these people released. Nor do I want the state doing things they are not legally authorized to do.

    If the police broke down your door without reason and without a warrant, searched your house, left it in an absolute mess after finding nothing illegal, I bet you'd be more than happy to sue them for illegal search and seizures. Our government HAS to function within the law or we may as well have anar

  • coolwill43 Nov 20, 10:03 a.m.

    Perdue can defy a judge’s order but she cannot do anything about illegal immigration. She can’t even do anything about the community colleges alloying illegal immigrants’ to go to our schools or work on state contract. With unemployment being as high as it is she should start making demands for the legal US citizens.

  • kbo80 Nov 20, 9:44 a.m.

    I see people up here talking about the rules and how they can't be changed. This is true but, we are talking about people convicted of murder and rape. I bet if they were to murder or rape you once released you would not be talking about how the rules aren't fair. Maybe they should be released and sent to see you to do what they did that landed them in prison the first time.

  • SME2 Nov 20, 9:14 a.m.

    This proves that it is okay to trample on people's rights as long as they are convicts.

    I wonder how many people would be up in arms if a graduating Class at NCSU was told after they had completed all requirments for their degree that they had to take more classes? Just because the school Presidents did not like their Class.

  • we-r-just-human Nov 19, 7:18 p.m.

    "Bowden and his attorneys argued that good behavior and other credits have shortened the sentences"

    Why didn't these folks think about "good behavior" before they ended up in jail?

  • we-r-just-human Nov 19, 7:11 p.m.

    "China has executed nine men for crimes committed during July"

    News story on Nov.9 2009 .. If the US followed this time frame we wouldn't be dealing with this MESS...

  • ncemployee Nov 19, 7:09 p.m.

    Another great waste of state money. I hope they all sue and win. You can't change the rules at the end of a game. Even a child knows that!

  • INDLS Nov 19, 6:39 p.m.

    "the ONLY issue here is that Perdue doesn't want to let the BLACK inmates out without SUPERVISION. i'm ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that the inmates would simply agree to be supervised like the WHITE female inmate Perdue has working for her who is supervised. just let the black inmates agree to supervision and let them out just like the white female was let out. don't blame the inmates for taking advantage of the law, the law should not only work against but it should be able to work for you also."
    Amazing how race ALWAYS gets dragged into it. Let's look beyond the above post that I did a copy and paste of and let me suggest that the author volunteer to have these guys move into his neighborhood. Color won't matter then, wonder if he has a wife and children. Maybe one of these fine, reformed gentlemen could babysit, or do some yard work for his wife.

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