Even many legislators were unaware that part of North Carolina’s budget bill that was approved in August says the state’s Parole Commission should aim to parole at least 20 percent of inmates eligible for parole who were sent to prison before structured sentencing guidelines took effect in 1994.
Previously the goal was to parole 10 percent of these inmates, whose sentences are typically longer than those imprisoned after 1994. Currently the state paroles about 5 percent of these prisoners, according to Melita Groomes, executive director of the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
Releasing inmates on parole saves the state money, especially when it comes to older prisoners who might have medical conditions that are costly to treat. But some worry that saving money isn’t a good enough reason to parole offenders.
Beulaville Police Chief Hal Williams, president of the North Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, says he was not aware of the new law and is worried that it will put more violent criminals on the streets.
“There’s no way around it,” he says. “And some of them will be sent right back.”