Thursday July 30, 2009 | Sentencing Reform

July 29, 2009 at 8:33 am | Posted in Coming Up | 9 Comments

All too often North and South Carolinians read about a career criminal or repeat offender getting out on parole only to break the law again, sometimes violently so. Calls for sentencing and parole reforms are rising in volume and frequency but the system is complicated. Our panel of experts will help us understand the system in place and how it might be improved. We will also explore the relationship between the police, the courts and the prison system.
Peter Gilchrist
Mecklenburg County District Attorney
John Madler – Assoc. Director for Policy, Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission

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  1. How about reform for FIRST-TIME offenders of serious offenses, like child molestation? Rather than letting them go free the first time around. This was the case with my niece’s father. First time offense, 3 charges, let go. Second time, second state, multiple charges of molestation, served 9 months. Molested multiple children for years, and served 9 months, DISGUSTING. “THAT” is not a “JUSTICE” system!

    • In reference to John Gilchrist’s response in this case, there was proof mostly in the form of Child Testimony. It has been our experience that a child’s testimony under the age of 5 is considered unreliable, so there are molesters getting away with ALOT, by targeting younger children. However, many older children were also involved in this case.

      • I am sorry, I meant, Peter Gilchrist.

  2. Another confusing thing about NC criminal law is that Criminal offenses are described by a mixture of common law (case law) and statute.

    In contrast, in most states and the federal system, ALL criminal offenses are clearly defined by statute.

    Is there a movement to reform the NC statutes so that all criminal offenses are clearly defined by statute? I think it would help out judges, attorneys, and the public.

  3. Mike:

    You keep talking about “leeway,” but I think the word you’re looking for is “discretion.”

    Just a note.

  4. In absolute terms, the United States has the largest inmate population in the world, with more than 2 million in prison and jails even though violent crime and property crime have been declining since the 1990s according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2006, China had a prison population in excess of 1 million.

    Why do countries like Canada (similar population) have such small imprisonment rates compared to the US?

    I’d submit that the US mandatory sentencing guidelines imprison non-violent offenders, particularly drug offenders, to long prison sentences, and WE, the people of the US, suffer for it both in emotional and financial terms.

    • Dear Carl.
      The comment was that Canada has the same population as us. The fact is that the population of Canada is less than 30 million. The percentage of individuals in prison may be less, but Canadian Justice is based on English law, with a presumption of guilt before innocence, therefore while you are in jail awaiting trial, you are given every opportunity to prove your innocence. if you can not prove it before trial, there is very little interest in the court reviewing your case on appeal. This is in contrast the the American system to hear cases based on technicalities, as if innocence can be based on instructions to the jury, or the wrong weapon.
      Tom Thornburg

  5. I was very disappointed in the dearth of guest speakers on this program. How can we truly provide information about the criminal justice system without having anyone on the show who’s primary job it is to represent or jail criminal defendants? There was not one public defender from Mecklenburg County on the show or anyone from the Sheriff’s department. Without those perspectives, your listeners missed out on a lot of what makes the criminal justice system work. Each one of those groups has their own strong views about the sentencing guidelines and they were not heard from during your program. I hope you will have another segment on this important topic and not give it such shrift next time.

  6. I would like to know how (the actual mechanics) someone is able to “fool the system” into believing that they are “rehabilitated.” Having never spent time in a cell block I am unaware of anything a “resident” does other than break large stones into small ones, play cards, network with other prisoners, and eat meals.
    The perception is that as long as the “resident” stays out of trouble, keep out of the way of the prison guards, that he/she will be released early, despite past wrong doings, restitution, or compensation to their victims.
    How can someone function socially, after spending twenty, to twenty-five years as a state or federal resident? Placing them in the public at large. An individual just does not turn twenty-one and commits a crime. There is an entire history of social maladjustment prior to going into incarceration. At this time: historic high unemployment and limited job skills, presuming the released will conform to parole guidelines is somewhat unrealistic, especially if having finding three hots and a cot is easier than looking for work.
    Tom Thornburg

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