Pubdate: Sat, 10 Jan 2004
Source: Richmond County Daily Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2004 Richmond County Daily Journal
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


There may be talk this year in North Carolina about reducing or
eliminating prison time for certain crimes, especially those involving
drugs. This subject deserves our serious attention.

Most, if not all, citizens are alarmed so many defendants convicted in
Richmond County Criminal Court receive suspended sentences rather than
time behind bars.

Judges adhere to the structured sentencing guidelines in such cases.
Only the most serious crimes result in prison sentences. Even then,
work release is sometimes recommended.

One law that has been very effective regards habitual criminals. On
his/her fourth felony offense, a defendant can be charged as a
habitual felon and receive a longer prison sentence.

Jail and prison overcrowding has reached unreasonable levels in North
Carolina. A lot of the overcrowding in the county pen is because there
is no room for inmates sentenced to state prisons. The state pays for
Richmond County to house them.

North Carolina cannot build prisons fast enough to hold all the felons
being convicted.

The 20th Prosecutorial District has been very effective in prosecuting
the habitual felons brought to justice by the Richmond County
Sheriff's Office and Rockingham and Hamlet police departments.

But local law enforcement's effectiveness has created a problem with
housing those sentenced to serve time.

The future of such prosecution will depend on the state's ability to
finance such effectiveness. Local law enforcement drains a lot of
resources dealing with drug-related activities. Most break-ins, thefts
and fraud cases can be traced to drug use.

In the next year, Richmond County will once again have to consider a
bond issue to expand its ability to house prisoners.

In doing so, we need to take a look at who we are putting in jail and
why. The economics of crime has an effect on the pocketbooks of every
Richmond taxpayer.

Local law enforcement efforts have put many criminals behind bars. The
question some may ask is, "Has criminal activity been reduced because
of such action?"

But what would the result have been if no action was taken? It is safe
to say a relaxed climate of law enforcement would be disastrous for
the county.

Giving suspended sentences does not mean a defendant is totally free.
However, so many people being on probation has produced a burden on
probation offices.

The climate of crime across the state needs serious review - and not
just by the criminal justice system. We need to know more about how
society can promote a greater emphasis on intolerance of unsocial
behavior in our communities.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin