Department of Public Safety modifying 'Home Leave Program' for inmates

July 3, 2013 12:32:32 PM PDT
Governor Pat McCrory has approved the Department of Public Safety's recommendations on changes to the weekend release of inmates for visits home.

McCrory, who oversees DPS, asked officials to review the Home Leave Program that allows inmates with long-term sentences to go home near the end of their term as part of a transition back into society after receiving several concerns.

The new rules were spurred by the recent releases of convicts in high-profile cases, including Dr. Raymond Cook of Raleigh.

Cook was convicted in 2011 in the drunk driving crash that killed a 20-year-old ballerina.

This past spring, some of Cook's neighbors saw him at home even though he was still serving an almost four year sentence.

When the state secretary of public safety -- who oversees prisons -- heard about it, he and the governor conducted a review.

The DPS recommended that local prosecutors who handled an inmate's case and their victims be notified every time the inmate is allowed home leave.

DPS also recommended that any inmate serving a life sentence under the old system will not be eligible for participation in program, unless they have an actual parole date.

Inmates who are convicted sex offenders will also not be allowed to participate in the program. Current inmates who were allowed to participate in the program under the Mutual Agreement Parole Program will no longer be allowed.

Inmates who are eligible for the program will have to be recommended by the facility head housing them, by the Regional Director and the Deputy Director of Prisons.

The suggested changes will be implemented immediately, according to the department.

DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan said the modifications to the Home Leave Program will still allow the program to serve as a useful tool in assisting inmates with the transition from prison to home life without an abrupt release.

"We are pleased that Governor McCrory has taken steps to address the concerns of prosecutors and crime victims across North Carolina. The home leave program does not punish criminals for their violent behavior, and for the victims of crime, it is not justice," said North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys President Phil Berger, Jr. "We look forward to reviewing their modifications to the home leave program, and working with the administration to strengthen the criminal justice system."

The Home Leave Program has been in place for 40 years.

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