Statement from the Governor Regarding Prisoner Release
Governor Says Offenders Will Not Be Turned Loose
When I learned that the Supreme Court had issued a ruling that meant offenders serving life in prison would be released after a mere 35 years, I was appalled. Like most of my fellow North Carolinians, I believe life should mean life, and even if a life sentence is defined as 80 years, getting out after only 35 is simply unacceptable.
Since that ruling, my staff and I have been doing everything we can to stop the release of these rapists and murderers. These are people who have been denied parole repeatedly, and many who have numerous infractions during their prison stay. I do not believe they are ready for release onto the streets of our communities.
While I understand the decision of the Supreme Court, I believe there remain unresolved legal issues that were not addressed. Before Mr. Bowden or any other offender affected by the Court's decision is turned loose, these issues must be heard.
At issue is the application of good behavior credits to these violent offenders serving life sentences since the 1970s. Since last week, we have been scrutinizing the good behavior credits applied to the 20 inmates eligible for immediate release. This morning, legal counsel and Department of Correction staff met with officials who oversaw the application of those behavior credits during the 1980s. At the time, the DOC gave inmates day-for-day credits under the authority of the then-secretary. There is a real question whether the General Assembly intended for the DOC to have that kind of authority. I do not believe they did, and my legal counsel agrees. This raises the very real question that these inmates should not be eligible for early release.
Mr. Bowden's case is in the process of being sent back to the trial court to recalculate his sentence. These issues can be resolved by the courts.