Justice Reinvestment Act Aims to Reduce Spending in Prisons

Dec 1, 2011

Today marks the final story in a WHQR News series focusing on some of the 34 new laws that took affect yesterday in North Carolina, including the 2011 Justice Reinvestment Act which was created to reduce spending in the prison system. Sara Wood reports the law significantly changes the way crimes are sentenced in the state. 

The last time such sweeping changes occurred in sentencing was in 1995. One of the law’s several different aspects is an emphasis on post-release supervision. According to New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Doug Carriker, every defendant sentenced to prison for a felony will be released a couple months early to report to a post-release supervisor.

“The legislature apparently decided they don’t like the idea of people serving straight active sentences and then coming out scott-free. They want offenders to be re-worked gradually into the community.”

Defendants with low-level felonies will serve nine months of post-release supervision, for high-level felonies it’s one year and sex offenders will require five years. 

Eddie Caldwell serves as the executive vice president and general counsel of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. He says another aspect of the legislation, The Drug Diversion Program, will target first-time drug possession offenders, regardless of the drug or amount.

“If you have someone who’s in possession of drugs and is using drugs and has a substance abuse problem, a criminal conviction is not going to keep them from being a drug addict. And this particular provision is designed to get them into treatment programs that will help increase the likelihood that they’ll quit using."

The provision dismisses criminal charges upon successful completion of probation during which the defendant is required to enter drug treatment. Another piece of the new law included adjusting probation supervision depending on the offense.

To read the bill in its entirety, visit the North Carolina General Assembly web site.