Local News

Convicted murderers, rapists paroled each year

Posted October 26, 2009 7:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2009 9:23 p.m. EDT

— Twenty inmates convicted of rape and murder are slated to be released from prison this week under a loophole in state law.

Gov. Bev Perdue, however, has said she won't allow them to go free until the state Department of Correction can verify the conditions of their release under a state Supreme Court ruling were "lawfully and correctly applied."

But they wouldn't be the first violent offenders to be released.

North Carolina has paroled 300 violent offenders in the past year, 27 of whom were convicted of first-degree murder.

Unlike the inmates set to freed this week, DOC officials say the cases are much different because the inmates paroled go through an intense review process and are supervised after their release.

"Most of these people are people that none of us thought would be back on the street again," said Tom Bennett, executive director of the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network.

He says victims often feel further victimized when an offender is paroled.

DOC spokesman Keith Acree says the parole board takes a lot into consideration when making its decision.

"They are looking at what has the inmate done during the time they have been in prison to improve themselves. Have they made attempts to rehabilitate? Have they graduated from programs? Have they made themselves better in the time they have been in prison?"

During the past year, North Carolina has paroled 27 first-degree murderers, 193 second-degree murderers, eight first-degree rapists and 72 second-degree rapists.

"When you are looking at offenders who have committed crimes this serious, you've got to be very concerned about having these people back out on the street," Bennett said.

Inmates convicted prior to 1994 are eligible for parole, even those with a life sentence.

DOC officials say just because a prisoner is paroled, he or she isn't completely free.

"After that parole comes, they are also subject to supervision by a parole officer in the community for usually about a year or so," Acree said.

The state prison system holds approximately 40,000 inmates a year. More than half are released each year.

Cases eligible for parole are reviewed annually, except first-degree murder. Those cases are heard every three years.