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DOC chief denies ordering inmate release

Posted December 9, 2009

— The chief of North Carolina's prison system testified Wednesday that he never ordered the release of inmates who were covered by a 1974 law that put an 80-year limit on a life sentence.

Alvin Keller, the state's secretary of correction, said that he thought there was a possibility that a group of inmates sentenced under a 1970s law might be released after state courts agreed that the sentences would not last a person's entire life. But he contended that he never said they would be released.

Alford Jones Prison inmate goes to court over release date

"I never ordered the release of anybody," Keller said.

An attorney for inmate Alford Jones tried to show that state officials believed that about two dozen prisoners serving life sentences would be released because of sentence-reduction credits.

Gov. Bev Perdue initially said that the state was being "forced" to release the prisoners, and she released a list of inmates who knocked enough time off their sentences to earn immediate freedom. Correction officials, meanwhile, scrambled to find community connections and identify places for the prisoners to live.

The state now argues that the inmates should have never received credits to reduce their sentences.

Jones, a convicted murderer, appeared in the Wayne County courtroom Wednesday in just one of what could become a series of legal battles spanning the state.

His attorney argued that Jones should have been released four years ago under the 80-year limit.

Another inmate, William Folston, went before a judge in Shelby last week. A third, Faye Brown, is scheduled to appear in a Raleigh court on Friday.

Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand did not rule on Jones' case Wednesday, saying he would also be hearing Brown's case on Friday. A decision won't come until after that hearing, he said.

23 Comments

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  • jon2four Dec 9, 5:32 p.m.

    This is the same administration that tried to balance the budget by taking earned money from the pocket of every state employee. I guess they figured that by letting out more prisoners ,that would help cut operating cost. What next Mrs Perdue ?

  • samiam1244 Dec 9, 5:28 p.m.

    A life Sentence is just that.. and who determines how many years a person will live? that was a stupid law to pass anyway.

  • wakeconative4ever Dec 9, 5:05 p.m.

    Let them all go and when they re-offend, and they will, allow the victims to sue to the heck out of the state, the lawyers, and judges who let them out.

  • unc83 Dec 9, 4:58 p.m.

    All the prisoners have to prove is that there have been other murderers who have been released under the same circumstances....and we all know there has been!!!

  • makeitright Dec 9, 4:53 p.m.

    How about all Life sentences get commuted to death penalty... Save a lot of money and time.

  • drh3102 Dec 9, 4:19 p.m.

    The NC D.O.C. is a scam. It should be completely torn apart and rebuilt, replacing everyone in the system.

  • Tarheelfan13 Dec 9, 4:17 p.m.

    It is probably time that this should go before a federal court. it is obvious that the state of North Carolina will not enforce its laws in a fair and consistent manner in accordance with these inmates. The NC Supreme Court has determined the 80 year life sentence issue and now all of a sudden the credits were determined wrongly. I am not a proponent of soft sentences and I am an ardent supporter of tough sentences but in this case the rule of law should be allowed to stand. In this scenario the Executive Branch of North Carolina needs to be overruled by a Federal Court. These inmates are being deprived of their 14th Amendment rights as well as being victims of ex post facto which is Constitutionally illegal in this country. I understand the emotion involved in wanting to keep these inmates in jail but in order for the rule of law we have to be nation that puts emotion aside and govern by the rule of law or otherwise the govt can change how the law is applied any time on a whim.

  • kebsmom Dec 9, 4:15 p.m.

    dohicky, I so agree with you.

  • dohicky Dec 9, 4:04 p.m.

    I think you should let them all go but require these lawyers and judges to take them home with them to live.

  • XLAW Dec 9, 3:52 p.m.

    No "lifer' has ever been released unconditionally unless the Governor commuted the sentence to a term of years. Inmates were eligible for parole consideration after 20 years and if paroled, were under parole supervision. The 1974 Act defining a life sentence as 80 was was merely considered a direction in setting up inmate records to establish a 20 year date for parole consideration. It was never considered a release date. When Fair Sentencing was effective in 1981 it made credits applicable only to crimes committed after July 1, 1981. Inmates convicted of 1st degree murder were specifically exempted from the Act. In 1983 the Secretary of Correction had authority to issue regulations regarding deductions for good behavior. The Secretary gave retroactive application of day-for-day credits, which the General Assembly had provided was only to be given prospectively and gave credit to persons convicted of 1st degree murder - a class of offender the legislature had exempted.

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