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There’s still a long way to go in transforming our criminal justice system into what it needs to be. Indeed, the lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reminded us that the ongoing assault on North Carolina’s court system by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory is as absurd as it is counterproductive and shortsighted.

And yet, despite the ridiculous budget cuts that have resulted in all kinds of destructive service reductions, there is some promising news on the criminal justice front.  Today’s lead editorial in the News & Observer explains:

In 2011, North Carolina’s prison population was growing. The probation system was failing because of lax supervision caused by understaffing. A majority of prison admissions were because of revoked probations. Treatment programs to help inmates addicted to drugs and suffering other behavioral problems were sparse. Prisons were always under construction to keep up with growing inmate populations.

Then Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican lawmakers agreed to address the issues through the Justice Reinvestment Act. Now, the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments reports that the state is doing better than its expectations, the Associated Press reported.

Simply put. the state chilled out — at least a little — on the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach to criminal sentencing and put at least a few more resources into post-release supervision and services in an effort to cut down on recidivism. There is  real reason to believe that such an approach will both produce better results for society and save money.

Not surprisingly, state efforts in this area are far from perfect and continue to be hamstrung by pandering politicians bent on showing how macho they are when it comes to crime. Many additional changes and services are needed. That said, as this morning’s editorial notes, the reports thus far on the Justice Reinvestment Act (click here for a thorough explanation from the good folks at the Carolina Justice Policy Center) make clear that the model shows real promise and deserves lots more effort and attention.

Let’s hope the humane, cost-effective and bipartisan reforms keep on coming.

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The list is no doubt long and growing rapidly — be sure to check out this morning’s edition of the “Friday Follies” for more — but the always-entertaining (if rarely intentionally) State Senator Andrew Brock has to be a leading contender in the category of “most inane response by a North Carolina politician” when he tweeted the following this morning:

Commentary

There were lots of compelling moments in the President’s speech last night on immigration policy. Especially during the moments in which he appealed to the better angels of our nature with powerful rhetoric and Biblical citations, Obama reminded us of why he can be such an inspiring figure to so many Americans. For example:

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”

What appealed most to me, however, were the moments when the President talked simple practicalities, as he did in this passage:

“But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants — in every state, of every race and nationality — will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.” (Emphasis supplied.)

He’s completely right, of course. Short of turning the U.S. into a police state, deportation of these people simply ain’t gonna happen, no matter what the xenophobes and Tea Partiers say. Indeed, it’s one of the great ironies of modern American politics Read More

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NC Policy Watch 10th Anniversary PartyHoliday Season and the hubbub that comes with it are almost upon us so don’t wait too long to get your tickets for the upcoming NC Policy Watch 10th anniversary celebration.

Please join our three co-hosts – former Governor Jim Hunt, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon – Monday, December 8, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., at The Stockroom in downtown Raleigh. It should be a festive and energizing evening.

Click here for more information. Hope to see you on the 8th!

Commentary

Source: Environment North Carolina

There’s yet another promising report out today about the prospects for solar power in North Carolina. The authors find that the state could quite easily generate 20% of its electricity from solar power by 2030. Indeed, as the map at left shows, North Carolina has the potential to produce more than 30 times as much electricity from solar power as the state consumes each year. Moreover, each of the 50 states has the potential to generate far more electricity from the sun than its residents consume.

This is from the executive summary produced by the good people at Environment North Carolina:

North Carolina could meet its energy needs by capturing just a sliver of the virtually limitless and pollution-free energy that strikes the state every day in the form of sunlight. With solar installation costs falling, the efficiency of solar cells rising, and the threats of air pollution and global warming ever-looming, solar power is becoming a more attractive and widespread source of energy every day. Read More