Governor Perdue is reportedly “furious” at a Superior Court Judge’s order to uphold the law and Constitution by releasing some inmates who have served the time that the law specified that they should serve (more, actually). Setting aside the fact that there are a ton of other things that she would do well to get even more furious about in modern North Carolina (child poverty comes to mind), it really is time for her to suspend the macho statements on this matter.
Six weeks ago, we published an essay on this topic in which we recommended the speech she should give on this difficult matter. The advice still holds.
Here is the gist of the suggested speech:
“Like most North Carolinians I am extremely upset with this development. The notion that some obscure law from decades past can trump modern public policy when it comes to fundamental matters of public safety is tremendously frustrating. I am confident that if we were able to go back in time and explain to the people who made these laws many decades ago the effect of what they were doing, they would have made a different decision.
Unfortunately, we can’t do that. The law is what it is and it is a good and fundamental American constitutional tradition that our nation does not allow so-called “ex post facto” laws – that is, people must be treated according to the law of the time in which they live. Whatever our frustrations at the current state of affairs, it would be an even greater injustice (and, of course, unconstitutional) for us to try and change the law retroactively. Our founding fathers banned this practice for good reason.
So, what do we do?
Well, as far as I am concerned, there’s really only one thing to do – it’s the thing I swore an oath to do almost 10 months ago when I became your Governor: to support the laws and Constitution of our nation and state. It is my most solemn duty.
This will probably not be the only time when I will have to enforce laws that I do not like or agree with, but to do otherwise is to engage in despotism – a step I will never take….
So, as we go forward, let me pledge four things:
1) To uphold our laws and Constitution;
2) To do everything within my power to protect the people of this state;
3) To re-double our efforts to do what is necessary to assure that all offenders released from our state prisons become law abiding citizens and provide restitution to their victims; and
4) To do everything in my power to strengthen the state’s truth-in-sentencing laws and to build a justice and corrections system that’s tough, fair and logical so that no future generation in our state ever confronts such a problem.
I hope you will join me in this effort and resist the calls of those who say we should simply ignore the Supreme Court of our state or find some pretext to hold these people. We are bigger than that. North Carolina is bigger than that. Our state has survived greater challenges without abandoning the rule of law. We will survive this one.”