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Killer's Possible Parole Raises Concerns About Work Release Process

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RALEIGH — Theparole case of a womanwho murdered a Raleigh police officer in 1980 is raising concerns about the state's work release program for inmates.

TheNorth Carolina Parole Boardis considering the release of Cassie Johnson, who was convicted of killing Officer D.D. Adams on South Saunders Street in Raleigh on February 3, 1980. Adams' family met with the parole board Tuesday asking that Johnson not be released.

"We feel confident that we've done everything we can possibly do to assure that she remains in prison," says Adams' widow Sandra Lipshutz.

"It doesn't affect just us, it affects everyone that there's a convicted murderer that you could sleep next to, that you could work next to. That's just the things I hope they take into consideration," says Marcus Adams, one of the victim's sons.

The family also hopes the parole board will consider the 500 letters and petitions from people across the state, urging that Johnson not be released.

In orderto be paroled, inmates must behave while in prison. If they do, they can be moved to a minimum-security facility. This means inmates may live in a halfway house, work in the community and, in some cases, go home for short visits.

In North Carolina, hundreds of convicted murderers are living in minimum-security facilities, including Cassie Johnson. More than a quarter of these inmates are in work release programs. This is often the last stop before parole.

The family of D.D. Adams is angry that Johnson is living in a halfway house and working in the community.

"No, we weren't surprised. We were shocked. Surprised, shocked, outraged -- that's what I felt personally," says Phillip Adams, another of the victims' sons.

"This was actually cold-blooded, heinous, point-blank murder. There was no denying she did it. There's no reason in the world she should be eligible for work release," he says.

More than 500 first- and second-degree murderers in North Carolina are classified as minimum-security prisoners. Of those inmates, 136 are walking the streets in work release programs.

Tracey Little, spokeswoman for theN.C. Department of Correction, says the decision to place a convicted killer in a minimum-security situation is not taken lightly.

"More than 95 percent of the offenders who are in prison are going to be released to society, and the work release program is designed to help transition offenders back into the community after their period of incarceration," she says.

Many people say convicted murderers should never again experience life outside prison walls.

"There is a time for them to become better people, but to walk the streets again after what they've done -- it's just not fair," says Karen Lee of the Police Family Support Group.

Minimum-security inmates can also earn the right to go home for 48-hour visits once or twice a month and 72-hour visits on holidays.

There is only one halfway house in the state -- a female-only facility in Charlotte. That is where Johnson is currently serving her time.

There is no shortage of convicted killers inside North Carolina's prisons. As of the end of June:
  • 4,332 men and women are being held for first- or second-degree murder.
  • 88 convicted killers are age 20 or younger.
  • Offenders between ages 25 and 29 make up the largest group, with 800 inmates.
  • The vast majority are men; 242 of those behind bars for murder are women.
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    Amanda Lamb, Reporter
    Edward Wilson, Photographer
    Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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