C A R O L I N A
JUSTICE POLICY CENTER
"Criminal Justice Advocacy since 1975"
Legislative Criminal Justice Policy Brief
The Time for Death Penalty Reforms
Racial Justice Act to be heard in House & Senate Judiciary I Committees on Tuesday, May 12th
In light of the recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision that overruled the NC Medical Board’s authority to punish doctors for participating in executions, advocates for death penalty reforms are racing to legislative offices throughout the state. Hopes are high that the NC Racial Justice Act (
Senate Bill 461/House Bill 472) will pass at least one legislative chamber prior to the May 14th bill crossover deadline. In North Carolina, all bills lacking appropriation requests are required to be heard and passed out of one chamber to stay alive.
The NC Racial Justice Act continues to be a crucial death penalty reform in North Carolina as race continues to play a role in who is sentenced to death. Kenneth Rouse, an African American, was sentenced to death in Randolph county by an all-white jury – one of which was an admitted racist that lied to be seated on the jury and admitted that ‘bigotry’ was influential in his decision to vote for death. Mr. Rouse is still awaiting execution. The Racial Justice Act will allow defendants to raise ‘significant’ racial bias claims before or after trials.
The House version of the NC Racial Justice Act is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary I committee chaired by Rep. Deborah Ross on Tuesday, May 12th at 10am. The Senate version of the bill has also been calendared for the same day in the Senate Judiciary I committee chaired by Senator Martin Nesbitt and may be heard during the morning session at 9am or the 2pm afternoon session.
The rush to convince legislators to pass the NC Racial Justice Act is not new. In 2007, statewide advocates from the NC NAACP, Carolina Justice Policy Center, ACLU, NC Coalition for a Moratorium and numerous other groups fought into the late hours of the night along with bill sponsors Rep. Larry Womble and Earline Parmon prior to the 2007 crossover deadline to pass the NC Racial Justice Act through the NC House. Once again, there is a sense of deja vu and North Carolina activists have geared up in support with the addition of Senator Floyd McKissick leading efforts in the NC Senate.
Revenue Shortfall – Even Worse than Anticipated
Everyone Bracing for More Cuts
North Carolina’s revenue projections have plummeted even further since Governor Beverly Perdue and the Senate released their budgets in March and April of this year. April 15th tax returns were down by forty percent.
Here are the earlier estimates and how far they have plummeted since July 2008:
Governor Senate May 2009
Forecast 18.8 bil 18.8 bil 17.5 bil
Continuation 22.1 bil 22.1 bil 22.1 bil
SHORTFALL 3.2 bil 3.2 bil 4.5 bil
As a result of budget shortfalls, the NC General Assembly must generate an additional $1.5 BILLION to present a balanced budget, which they are required to do by state law. That is equivalent to approximately half of the size of the entire university system budget.
There are only two ways to generate the revenue since stimulus dollars are already included in calculations. North Carolina will either raise revenues and/or cut programs.
Budget analysts didn’t have much better news for coming years. They projected another $4-6 billion shortfall in two years and didn’t foresee a true recovery for state revenues for four to five years.
What does this mean for the people working hard to provide important state services every single day?
1. Nothing will go untouched. It’s difficult to see how the state can prepare a budget without including some furloughs.
2. Revising the tax structure to generate revenue in a progressive manner that is not balanced on the backs of poor people is something that must be given a consideration.
3. Programs providing effective community-based corrections services in the communities will suffer cuts like all other areas. The question is how deep?
NC House leaders are expected to release possible budget cuts any day and we will pass those figures along as we receive them. They are likely to be damaging to a wide number of programs. If your program or a program that you are familiar with receives state funding, please stay in close contact with your local elected officials about the importance of protecting it from some of the impact of budget cuts.
Citizens Right to Know
Burdensome Bill for NC Pre-Trial Programs
‘Citizens Right to Know’ aka
Senate Bill 1013 would add extremely burdensome reporting and paperwork to the delivery of pre-trial services across North Carolina. Senator Doug Berger’s bill, if adopted, would make it impossible for publicly funded pre-trial services to do their jobs especially on reduced operating budgets. Fortunately, the bill that was brought forward by the Bail Bondsmen was opposed by the NC Pre-trial Association, County Commissioners, Judges and many Sheriffs across the state. This bill will not be heard again until an agreement is reached by opposing parties – an unlikely development before the May 14th crossover deadline.
Probation Reform = Reduction in Basic Protections
Warrantless Searches by Law Enforcement & Access to Juvenile Records Bad Business
The untimely death of UNC President Eve Carson in March 2008 led to a floodgate of reports on errors in North Carolina’s probation system. While NC’s probation system is in need of restructuring, staffing increases and most importantly more quality training and supervision for staff, Senate Bill 920 oversteps its boundaries in mandating across the board warrantless searches of those on probation by both probation officers and law enforcement officers. In addition, the bill calls for access to juvenile records which are currently sealed.
The Carolina Justice Policy Center joins the ACLU of NC in opposing Senate Bill 920.
NAACP HK on J Criminal Justice Bills Hanging on for Life
Death Penalty & Sentencing Reforms, Re-entry Bills, Alternatives to Incarceration, Prison Moratoriums & Increasing the Juvenile Sentencing Age
The NAACP HK on J Coalition comprised of over eighty progressive organizations from North Carolina continues to support a range of criminal justice initiatives in 2009. HK on J stands for ‘historic thousands on Jones Street.’ NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II coined this concept out of the thinking that people power can always outweigh the power of money in Raleigh. Since 2007, thousands of people have gathered across issue boundaries in front of the legislature on Jones Street to demand movement on progressive issues that uplift those who are typically overlooked.
The HK on J agenda is broken out into fourteen points with various issues and pieces of legislation beneath each point. As the legislative crossover deadline quickly approaches, here is a quick glimpse of where the criminal justice bills stand under the fourteen points:
Enact the Racial Justice Act and ban executions of persons with severe mental disabilities:
Both the House and Senate versions of the NC Racial Justice Act are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, May 12th in their respective Judiciary I committees. Racial Justice Bills are sponsored by House members Larry Womble, Earline Parmon, Pricey Harrison and Paul Luebke and Senator Floyd McKissick. Meanwhile, NC Disability Rights is leading the fight to pass Senator Ellie Kinnaird’s
Senate Bill 309 to ban the execution of persons with severe mental disabilities. This bill is also scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary I committee on Tuesday, May 12th. Other problems dealing with mental illness in North Carolina’s prison system have gone unaddressed.
Enact the Reform Recommendations of the NC Sentencing Commission: Much needed bills to enact reforms to North Carolina’s sentencing structure that will reduce the state’s over-reliance on costly prison construction and the incarceration of nonviolent offender have been introduced by Senator Ellie Kinnaird and House members Phil Haire, Rick Glazier and Alice Bordsen. Most have a fiscal impact and are not subject to the crossover deadline.
Fund Alternative Sentencing Programs: While many programs faced 10% across the board cuts in the Senate budget released in March, the new revenue shortfall predictions puts all existing community-based programs at risk and the chance for new programs is non-existent. Without funding for such programs, North Carolina will still face drastic expenses due to prison overcrowding in this budget year and future budget years. Also, the Ex-offender Study Bills (H527/S496) introduced by Senator Ed Jones and Representative Garland Pierce are currently stuck in the Rules committees in each legislative chamber.
Enact a Moratorium on New Prison Construction: While no moratorium has been enacted, Governor Perdue has not proposed constructing any new prisons due to the budget crisis. Unfortunately, three prisons will be double-celled to make room for prisoners and sentencing reform to address the prison bed crisis lacks the needed urgency.
Raise the Age for Adult Prosecution from Age 16 to 18: North Carolina is one of only two states that automatically sentences persons who have reached age 16 as adults in criminal courts. North Carolina’s Action for Children led a press conference last week to highlight the need to raise the juvenile sentencing age from 16 to 18 in North Carolina.
In order to pass any of the previously mentioned bills this session, strong leadership will be needed along with support from the grassroots community.
Building Knowledge & Finding Help
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COMING FALL 2009!
North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Resource Directory for Practitioners, Offenders’ and Their Families
Monday, May 11, 2009
In This Issue
Brace for More Cuts
Bad Pre-Trial & Probation Bills
HK on J Criminal Justice Update
Upcoming Conferences & Events
NC Legislative Black Caucus Scholarship Weekend
June 19-20, 2009
Criminal Justice Roundtables &
Donna Brazille, keynote
Sheraton RTP Durham, NC
2009 Community Capacity Development Office Nat’l Conference
July 13-16, 2009
National Conference on Addiction and Criminal Behavior Sept 13-16, 2009
St. Louis, Missouri
Upcoming Death Penalty Educational Events
State & National Research Findings
Pew’s 1 in 31
Reallocate Prison Expenses to Stronger Community Programs & Community Supervision
CJPC Staff & Volunteers
Charmaine S. Fuller
Lao E. Rubert
Senior Director of
Policy & Special Projects
NC Central Dept of Political Science
NC Central School of Law
Volunteer Office Aide
Volunteer Office Aide
Board of Directors
Dr. George P. Wilson, Sr.
NC Central University Professor of Criminal Justice
Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail – Executive Director
Dr. Peter H. Burian
Classical Studies Professor
Dr. Jeffrey Elliot
NC Central University Political Science Dept Chair
Dr. Jarvis Hall
NC Central University
Civic Engagement Director
Self-Help Community Credit Union
Institute of Government
CJPC is a partner organization
of the following:
HK on J Progressive Coalition for Social Change
"A Movement Not a Moment"
North Carolina Center for Nonprofits
Coalition for a Moratorium on Executions
Post Office Box 309
Durham, NC 27702-0309
"Promoting effective, equitable, and humane solutions to criminal justice problems since 1975."
Production of this Newsletter is made possible by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Tides Death Penalty Mobilization Fund and the generous support of individual donors.
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www.justicepolicycenter.org ‘Criminal Justice Advocacy since 1975’