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Some Angry About New Law That Gives Eligible Inmates Chance At Parole

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Every October, Nola and Rayvon Gilmore come to the N.C. Parole Commission in Raleigh to fight the release of Bobby Earl Smith, the man who was convicted of killing their son, Clayton police officer Ray Gilmore, in 1982.

"We come, but I would come 10 times a year if it would keep him in," Rayvon Gilmore said.

A new law passed by the N.C. General Assembly makes it even more likely that Smith will eventually be released from prison.

The law prompts the Parole Commission to make a "good faith effort" to release 20 percent of eligible inmates convicted before 1994, the year North Carolina adopted structured sentencing guidelines.

"I was really angry the Legislature would do such a thing," Rayvon Gilmore said.

The parole legislation was attached to the budget passed by the General Assembly in August. But many lawmakers, including Sen. Tony Rand of Cumberland County who sponsored the original parole bill, said they did not know it was included in the budget.

"It's an important new law because it provides that element of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system," said David Mills, executive director of the

Common Sense Foundation


Mills said there are many non-violent criminals who are serving life sentences who should be released.

"It covers people who are already eligible. It covers mainly non-violent criminals," Mills said. "And it covers people who have been in prison at least 11 years, some many more year -- some 30 years or more."

But the Gilmores said Smith should stay in prison.

"It will devastate us because we know that this guy is going to hurt somebody," Rayvon Gilmore said.

Last year, about 10 percent of the state's total prison population was paroled. That's nearly 4,000 inmates, and 200 of those were convicted murderers.

Parole applies only to inmates who were sentenced before the 1994 structured sentencing law. Since 1994, prisoners are released under mandatory terms.

To qualify to be enrolled in the parole program, inmates must be in medium- or minimum-security custody, learn a job skill and must complete substance abuse, anger management or other counseling programs related to the offense they committed.


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