State tightens rules on inmate home release program

Posted July 3, 2013

— Reacting to outrage from district attorneys and victims' families, the state Department of Public Safety on Wednesday announced changes to a program that allows convicted felons nearing the end of their sentence to go home on weekends.

The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys appealed last month to Gov. Pat McCrory to review the program, complaining that convicted killers have been allowed to spend time at home without notice to local prosecutors or relatives of victims.

McCrory referred the matter to DPS, which recommended "more rigorous" notification of district attorneys and victim families before inmates are released on home leave.

Other recommendations that the governor approved will bar convicted sex offenders from participating in the home leave program and prevent any inmate serving a life sentence from participating unless he or she has a parole date scheduled. All other inmates eligible for the program would have to be approved by three Division of Adult Corrections officials.

The prison system's policy says the home leave program 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.

"With these modifications, the Home Leave Program will continue to serve as a useful tool to assist an inmate in transitioning from prison to home, while additionally serving to reduce recidivism,” DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan said in a statement.

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., president of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said he and his colleagues were pleased with the changes.

"The home leave program does not punish criminals for their violent behavior, and for the victims of crime, it is not justice," Berger, the son of Senate leader Phil Berger, said in a statement. "We look forward to reviewing their modifications to the home leave program and working with the administration to strengthen the criminal justice system."

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 of 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.


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  • ljohnson247 Jul 8, 2013

    All these programs were put in place by the DEMS over the years for one reason VOTES. Just as they and The REVS are using Moral Monday to make the REPS look bad, but they would take it, why, VOTES. What would you do if one of these people on a week-end pass, sex offender, murder, so on, show up to the house next-door to you. Look at things and ask yourself what would you do and then work with those with the same view. Can't same it will be the right, but it will be what you believe it, not what other are doing just to get VOTES.

  • LastSon1981 Jul 4, 2013

    I'm surprised the WRAL comment crowd is against this. Normally if its something that makes life easier for inmates they are all for it.

  • sjb2k1 Jul 3, 2013

    why even put them in prison then, lol

  • rushbot Jul 3, 2013

    other than cook, who else committed a crime..what are the statistics on this..how many people are in the program..come on..facts s.v.p.!!!

  • whatelseisnew Jul 3, 2013

    "More pandering to Pope."

    This program was put in place by the Dems. this is just more lefty stupidity on display.

  • rushbot Jul 3, 2013

    typical nc ga effort: if it isn't broke, fix it!!! this program was set up to reduce recidivism..we have not heard of any problems with anyone out for the weekend..we also have not been told of the effects of the program on reducing recidivism rates!!!

  • whatelseisnew Jul 3, 2013

    This program should not exist. that is the only change that should have happened. Shut it down.

  • wildpig777 Jul 3, 2013

    we need to start putting these da's, judges, and incompetant corrections personnel in PRISON to punish them for thier roles in dysfunctional sentencing of criminals.

    the justice system in nc operates under zero accountability and as such has been running wild for decades-- THIS NEEDS TO STOP.

  • lissa227812 Jul 3, 2013

    Isn't/Wasn't Cook a doctor?? If he is out on work-release what exactly is he doing?? Is he still a licensed doctor, I hope not, I wonder...

  • mep Jul 3, 2013

    And people wonder WHY the criminal justice system doesnt work.... we let them go home for the weekends... hang out with the boys... get established back in the old neighborhood.