To the editor:
Reading in the your paper about the three people in custody in Moore County for possibly committing 30 break-ins took me back. I had a young inmate on my caseload; seeing him the first time, he came bouncing into my office and told me straight out that he had only a year left in prison and that he was not interested in any programs we had to offer him.
This young man had 42 counts of breaking and entering in five counties. His home county cut him some slack by running his three cases there concurrently, or at the same time. The other 39 counts in the various counties were run consecutively — one after the other — with a sentence of 6 months minimum to 12 months maximum, meaning he had to pull at least 6 months for each of the 39 counts — a total of almost 19 years.
Oh, how he screamed and cried and fell to pieces. He was going to escape, he said! Wrong! He went to a single cell lockup that minute; 23 hours a day in the cell, 15 minutes to shower, 45 minutes outside in the perp run, fully shackled, out until the officer had time to bring him back inside.
Back in about the mid-’80s when crack cocaine hit the streets, the prison department exploded; the young men came pouring in; murders, robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury; young men killing each other in every major city in the state.
In 1994, the Structured Sentencing Act replaced the Fair Sentencing Law. Changes were made specifically to keep the violent offender in prison longer. Parole ended, except for those inmates sentenced before October 1994. The new law included a minimum and a maximum sentence meaning that the inmate would serve at least the minimum. The day when an errant and bigoted judge could use his or her position against an inmate is over. The sentence is established through points and scale.
The person facing the judge would be given points for each conviction. A felony gets more points; classes A-E crimes carry more points and the points are added up. Go to the scale, find the crime class and where the points and the crime meet, the appropriate sentence will be found.
Let me say to any young readers: Don’t throw your life away. I have seen young men — too many — crying their hearts out, looking at years and years locked up. Understand also that when the gangs are taken off the street, they are put in prison and they behave the same way in prison as they do on the streets. If you cannot run with these big dogs, you best stay on the porch!
Barbara Leviner Jackson