Perdue to block prisoner release

October 22, 2009 3:21:18 PM PDT
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue says she will block scheduled release of 20 violent inmates. She said she'll challenge the good behavior credits that would allow the 19 men and one woman to be freed next week.

The issue is whether the credits were given correctly.

"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," said Perdue in a news release.

State officials began scrambling to try and block the release after a controversial NC Supreme Court ruling that limited the length of so-called life sentences handed down in the 1970s to a term of 80 years.

Click here for more information on each inmate (.pdf)

During a morning teleconference with reporters, Perdue said releasing the offenders would not be acceptable to her.

"Everybody that I have talked to understands that letting them out is not going to be the answer that I am going to be able to live with," Perdue said.

Calling from China, where she's on a two-week trade mission to Asia, Perdue said she is speaking twice daily with lawyers and other staff members about the prisoner release, which she called "one of the most appalling things I've ever heard."

"I cannot imagine that our system of laws work in such a way that people who are in prison for a life sentence for rape or murder, now we're being told that there's nothing that we can do and that I have to let them out. I just refuse that kind of discussion."

Perdue said until the legal issues are resolved, the prisoners will not be allowed to go free.

Attorney General Roy Cooper agreed.

"In the interest of public safety and to ensure that sentences and release dates are properly calculated according to law, we have advised the Department of Correction that no prisoners have to be released until further direction from the courts. We continue to believe that these prisoners need to remain behind bars as we have argued for more than two years to the courts," he said in a statement.

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