My Turn, Your Turn: Alarming number of NC adults in the criminal justice system

By Gary McNair - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Pew Center recently released an interesting study with some alarming statistics.

Did you know that in North Carolina one out of every thirty-two adults are in some form or fashion "clients" of the criminal justice system?  That means they are either in prison, on parole, probation, or under house arrest.

In 1982 that number was one in sixty.  We've nearly doubled our ratio in twenty-five years. This is a disturbing trend and it is costing us - big time.  Last year, North Carolina taxpayers (you and me) spent about $1.25 billion on corrections.

But there is something good that came along with this study, the Pew Center people also brought together leading policy makers, practitioners and researchers to review a wide range of strategies to improve corrections and control costs.

They've published the results of those discussions and have some best practices to recommend.  Our state policy makers would do well to listen to what they have to say.

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

Viewer Response:

How interesting that you brought up our justice system. I have been stewing about this more and more lately and had thought about WECT doing a story on it.

In September my house was broken in to. They tore the heavy doors (in their frames) down in to my house. I was told by the D.A.'s office to gather receipts for anything stolen or that needed repair. These totals could NOT include labor for someone replacing the doors (which my husband had to do) or for wages lost the day he had to take off to put new doors on my house.

Excluding labor and wages my total restitution came up to $2600.

This man went to court and pled guilty to at least 7 breakins all at one court date. He got 6 years jail time (which we all know will be much

less.) The D.A.'s office told me that because this man (Rocky Garner) received jail time it was like an "either or." He got jail time so he didn't have to make any restitution to me.

This is so wrong. As a parent you teach your kids if they do wrong they have to make it right. If my own son stole from someone I would expect him to do his jail time and when he got out he would pay back whomever he stole from. As long as this man has years to live on this earth he should have to pay me and all the others back that he stole from (including labor and lost wages.)

This Rocky Garner had previous break-in charges from the past. Maybe if the system was stricter he would stop. No wonder our society is so messed up. Nobody has to be accountable for their actions any more.


I believe that North Carolina's judicial system made a better effort towards creating drug treatment and alcohol programs that are actually affordable for people and took a stand towards dependence on substance abuse that the crime rate would drop substantially. I had been on drugs for quite some time and had brushes with the law here and there. About eight months ago I was caught with 40 methadone pills that I was taking to try and get off of other opiates, which for that charge I am facing 90 months in prison. I was not selling them or making any money off them, I just didn't want to deal with the extreme withdrawals from the opiates that I was on but I wanted to be off of them. After I got out of jail  my girlfriend found a scholarship program for me to go to drug treatment and since then I work full time, go to school full time, and go to church on Sundays. However had I not been lucky enough to get that scholarship at Wilmington Treatment Center I believe that I would be dead or in more trouble. So basically what I am trying to say is that I believe that rather than building more prisons the state should work towards programs to get people off of the drugs and into school or work, something that is actually affordable. I had tried to go to an outpatient program at a place in Wilmington called Coastal Horizons for follow-up care after my inpatient stay and all I get is the runaround. And believe it or not a lot of people would like to be clean it is just hard to break that cycle of drug addiction which usually leads to crime which leads to taxpayers spending money. Seriously I cannot think of anything productive that a person would get out of prison except maybe becoming a hardened criminal with more connections to crime than he had when he went in. Like in my case I was a drug addict not a dealer but with the mandatory sentencing I might be put in a prison space that could be used for maybe a sexual predator or violent criminal. Maybe if people looked at the source of our problems than there would be less of them

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