Rocky Mount NC – Evans is a good pick for D.A.

The Seventh Judicial District, which covers Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe counties, has a new district attorney, District Court Judge Robert A. Evans.
Evans, who was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to the post earlier this week, will become the first African-American district attorney east of Interstate 95 in the state’s history and just the second black district attorney currently serving in the state. (Wilson Times)

See related:

Edgecombe County – District Attorney Appointment At A Glance

Greensboro NC – Minister, a nephew of Martin Luther King Jr., dies in Greensboro

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Rev. Vernon King Guest Speaker at Memorial Celebration for Coretta Scott King at Mount Zion First Baptist Church Rocky Mount NC

The unexpected death Friday of the Rev. Vernon C. King,  a nephew of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,  has left his St. James Baptist Church congregation shocked and grieving.

Vernon King, 48 , had been pastor at the West Florida Street church for eight years and was well liked, said Ron Galloway,  chairman  of the church’s board of deacons. (News & Record)

See related:

Memorial celebration in honor of Coretta Scott King in Rocky Mount NC

Note: Will try to make video available here soon.

Rocky Mount NC – An intriguing courthouse drama, the Appointment of the D.A.

Jeff it never seems to amaze me how you can write up these stories when it includes certain folks in the community such as Knight and Blackwell. I have been active in the politics of Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson Counties since the 90’s so I am glad I don’t have to rely on this paper. You see my friend you have an upper edge on the black community because you can always say what the white community is saying and feeling and that in itself make it look like the racist white folks are not alive and well. Hell Bobby Gorham bless his soul spent much of his wealthy finances running around Rocky Mount and even got into black churches trying to silence the black city councilpersons by saying he didn’t want their input on the "Coming Together in Rocky Mount." I have had much respect for you although I very rarely agree with you, but I am about to change the way I think of you. I guess the news in the area will always be slanted since we do not have a real black reporter nor a black newspaper. This is why I video all the meetings and record on my blog what really goes on because the papers print it in a fashion many times that educated political black folks should not have a say in who represents us. How ignant. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

Note: This is my response to Jeff. I will see if he post it to his blog. He never did print my letter to the editor concerning the appointment however the Wilson Times did. Oh well.

Justice in the Twin Counties took a strange, lumbering step forward last week with the appointment of Robert Evans as new district attorney.

Evans has been a fine District Court judge for the past 10 years and will no doubt serve the Seventh Prosecutorial District equally well in his new position. His replacement has not been named, but insiders for some time have mentioned Rocky Mount City Councilman Lamont Wiggins as a strong candidate for a judgeship. Wiggins, too, would make an excellent juror. (Rocky Mount Telegram)

See related:

Edgecombe County – District Attorney Appointment At A Glance

Raleigh NC – Who will replace Vernon Malone for Senate District 14?

If House Rep. Dan Blue wants to move over to the Senate then it should be a done deal. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

When I think of the many problems in NC Senate District 14 (and especially Southeast Raleigh) that can be fixed with direct state assistance, I wonder: Can anyone seeking this seat successfully negotiate on our behalf? Is he or she risk-adverse? Or just a perpetual whiner? (WRAL TV 5)

Raleigh NC – CJPC Legislative Update – April 27, 2009

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Watch What Really Happens to the Mentally Ill When Released from Prison

Tuesday, April 28th at 9pm – PBS

Mental IllnessFive years ago, the television show Frontline aired the report  ‘The New Asylums’ which portrayed the experiences of individuals with severe mental illnesses in Ohio’s prisons.  Now, Frontline returns to Ohio to tell the disturbing story of what happens to these individuals when they are released from prisons into the community.   Watch part two of this story, ‘The Released’, on Tuesday, April 28th at 9pm on PBS.

     The story is not a pleasant one.   Barriers to treatment, housing and other supportive services are even more pronounced for ex-offenders than they are for the general population of people with mental illnesses.  It almost seems like these individuals are being set up to re-offend, which is frequently the case.  

‘The Released’ – Watch Online or Check Local Listings

Original Airing of ‘The New Asylums’

North Carolina Bill Bans Capital Sentencing for the Mentally Ill

     Treatment of the mentally ill in North Carolina’s prisons continues to be a hot topic since most prisoners are either mentally ill, chemically addicted or both.  To bring attention to the disparate treatment of the mentally ill in NC’s correctional and health care systems, NC’s Disability Rights is currently working on Senate Bill 309.  The legislation if passed will ban executions for the mentally ill.  Advocates highlight the absence of quality intervention and treatment in the community to prevent people from committing violent offenses as one reason to support such legislation.

One Hurdle Jumped

NC Racial Justice Act Moves Out of Conservative House Ways & Means Committee

     The NC Racial Justice Act jumped a huge hurdle in the North Carolina House last Wednesday.  With leadership from House Ways and Means committee member, Rep. Phil Haire, a committee substitute for

House Bill 472, was favorably reported to the House Judiciary I committee chaired by Raleigh Democrat Deb Ross.  The committee substitute includes language changes that ensure that jurors remain protected during appeals and that juror matters are handled in accordance with current state law.

     If signed into law this year, North Carolina will join Kentucky in becoming the second state in the nation to add the use of statistics to legal challenges on the grounds of race. An unaltered version of the NC Racial Justice Act is also still in play in the NC Senate.

Finally Something NC Can Learn From Texas

Texas State Representative Tells NC How to Reduce Prison Beds

Texas Rep Jerry Madden

Jerry Madden, a Republican Representative in the Texas State House told North Carolina Legislators last week that Texas had been able to reduce its skyrocketing prison costs and North Carolina could too.

The  Texas Speaker of the House tapped Rep. Madden, an engineer and self-described social conservative, for the task of finding ways to bring the costs and the population under control.  Madden has clearly been the legislator for the job.  Working together with a leading Senate Democrat, he helped forge a plan that has greatly reduced the 17,000 new prison beds Texas was slated to need. 

     "There are ways you can do this thing," Madden told legislators.  He explained that it’s not always necessary to make big changes in order to lower costs.  For example, "if you have 5% that don’t return to prison, that’s 1500 people.  That’s one prison and next year it’s the same."

  "I guarantee you, if you build it, they will come," Madden said about building new prisons which costs $250 – $300 million each in Texas and $40 million to operate.   Texas has 150,000 people in prison, 450,000 on probation and 77,000 on parole – a total of 7% of the male population in Texas is under some form of correctional supervision.  Texans spend $5.6 billion per year on their correctional system.  North Carolina spends over a $1 billion per year.

Major Changes Pursued in Some States

      Madden pointed to other states, such as Michigan and Kansas that are also making major changes in their population and spending.  Michigan – a state that has 1 in 3 state employees working for the Department of Correction – has not only reduced the projections, they’ve cut the actual population.

      One approach in Texas and Michigan is taking steps to reduce the high rates of failure for people leaving the system.   Even a small reduction in the failure rate can have big financial pay offs down the road.  To do that, Madden said, "We found we needed more drug treatment and mental health programs."  In previous year Texas had cut offender treatment programs to build more beds.

      Probation revocations are another area that has been targeted in both Kansas and Texas.  As in  North Carolina, a high percentage of prison admissions in Kansas were probation revocations.  We need to look for the "swingers" Madden said.  He explained that some offenders who are revoked definitely need to be in prison and some will do ok no matter what is done, but those people in the middle are worth the extra attention to keep them from coming back.  Those "swingers" can help save the state a lot of money.
     Michael Thompson from the Council of State Governments in New York worked with Texas to help develop data for their state’s approach.  Thompson cited counties in some states that have exceptionally large numbers of offenders returning from prison or jail.  In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, two-thirds of those released  were returning to a single neighborhood.  The neighborhood had 1% of the state’s population and 6% of the population returning from prison. 

Incentives

      In some states, leaders have chosen to "incentivize" communities to lower their revocations.   They found if they could lower their revocation rate by just 1%, the community could receive $400,000 to address local housing and treatment needs.   A number of North Carolina communities could be prime candidates for this kind of innovative solution.

        Finally, Madden emphasized that the changes made in Texas didn’t require new legislation, but were accomplished through appropriations acts, one more indication that there are many ways to address the problem.

Hold on to Your Hats

NC Revenue Picture Still Up in the Air

     North Carolina House budget leaders have not yet reported on the status of the April 15 revenue returns.  Projections have been dire for months and House budget leaders have been warning that they will probably have less money to apply to their budget than was projected in the Senate.  Hold on to your hats if that’s the case, because there could be more cuts and eliminations before it’s over.

      A big piece of the puzzle, of course, will be the revenue package that is developed in each chamber.  The Senate came out with a package this week that was viewed by the Budget and Tax Center as more progressive than revenue packages in the past.  At the same time, though, they point to corporate loopholes that need to be closed.  We hope the House will give careful attention to those items.

Budget Cuts

Cuts Can Go Deeper than they Look

North Carolina non-profits operating community-based services were cut by 10% in the NC Senate’s Justice and Public Safety budget.  Some cuts went even deeper though because the 10% cut was taken from a base level of funding which did not include non-recurring dollars.  Women at Risk, a program specializing in programs for female offenders in Western North Carolina, will actually face a 30% cut, which will require them to completely eliminate services in one Western county.

     Likewise, Sentencing Services will have to reduce information to judges and local offender placements by a total of 16%.

    These cuts dig even deeper into the state’s ability to provide sound alternatives to prison at the local level and the consequence will be an ever higher projection for additional prison beds.

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COMING FALL 2009!

North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Resource Directory for Practitioners, Offenders’ and Their Families

Monday, April 27, 2009

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In This Issue

Capital Ban for Mentally Ill

RJA Jumps 1 Hurdle

Prison Bed Reduction Lessons from Texas

Revenue Outlook Slim

Budget Cuts Actually Deeper

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Halifax County – Tough love for Halifax schools

Halifax County school employees must "succeed or go" during the three years the state will oversee education in the district, a state education official said in court Wednesday.

Pat Ashley, an administrator with the state Department of Public Instruction, testified in a Wake County courtroom about a plan to reverse sliding student performance in Halifax, a struggling, poor district. The plan involves intensive training and monitoring of teachers, principals and central office staff. (News & Observer)

Washington DC – President Obama 1st 100 days in office

So much for honeymoons. President Obama has passed the 100-day point of his White House term, a moment that generally is more symbolic than profoundly meaningful. In the case of this president, however, that’s not exactly true. The challenges facing Obama when he succeeded President George W. Bush required virtually immediate action. Obama was like a firefighter airlifted and dropped into a blaze. (News & Observer)