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The idea of cutting costs in the criminal justice system seems like it would be a common sense idea that would appeal to conservatives and progressives alike. In recent years, one of the most effective tools in advancing this objective has been the rise of alternatives to the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach of the “war on drugs” years.

Put simply, some smart people finally figured out that it’s a heckuva lot cheaper and more effective to help drug addicts escape the clutches of their health crises than it is to merely throw them in jail. Hence, the eminently sensible and highly effective concept of “drug courts” that seek to effect just such an outcome.

Yesterday, New Jersey’s conservative Republican governor, Chris Christie, signed a bill that makes his state the first in the nation to mandate drug treatment rather than jail time for drug-abusers convicted of nonviolent crimes. Good for him and good for New Jersey. Let’s hope their program is an off-the-charts success.

Now, if only conservatives running the North Carolina General Assembly could see (or remember) the obvious wisdom in this approach. Read More

If you want to get a glimpse of just how crazy and extreme things are getting at the General Assembly during the session’s hectic waning days, check out the debate surrounding this bill from the bail bonds industry that has been sliding through under the radar. It is premised on the truly cockamamie notion that publicly-supported pretrial release programs somehow constitute “unfair competition” for bail bondsmen. We are not making this up.

Over the weekend, the Wilmington Star News had a solid editorial on the topic that ought to be a “must read” for anyone following the subject.

North Carolina taxpayers don’t owe bail bondsmen a living, but a bill that’s making its way through the General Assembly would fatten their wallets at the expense of a pretrial release program that is well regarded by judges and court officials. The Honorables should lock up this legislation in a safe place and throw away the key. Read More

Some good folks at Duke Law School are hosting the inaugural “North Carolina Law and Policy Symposium” tomorrow and Friday.

The event is entitled: “Realizing Criminal Justice Reform Together.” The symposium focuses on pressing criminal justice topics such as preventing and rectifying wrongful convictions, reintegration and the pardons system, the “school-to prison pipeline,” post-conviction reforms, and effective legislative advocacy techniques.  Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP will deliver the keynote address on Friday at 12:30.

The event commences Thursday evening and runs through Friday afternoon. It’s free and open to the public but an RSVP is appreciated. 

Click here for more information. Even if you can only be there for a session or two, it looks like a great event.  

 

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The state Supreme Court issued an opinion today on a rather complex and obscure matter related to the process used in the adoption of the state’s execution “protocol.” The decision serves to highlight once again the fact that the death penalty has not been carried out in the state in more than five years.

This got me thinking: If death penalty proponents like state Rep. Paul Stam are right, this should have produced a spike in crime and killings given the supposed deterrent effect of executions.

Then I looked at the statistics. Read More

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Maybe a lot of you are already aware of this remarkable story, but I confess that I just found about it today.

Florida prosecutors are trying 12 year-old Christian Fernandez as an adult for the murder of his two year-old brother. I’ll say that again: prosecutors are trying a 12 year-old — a boy born in1999 — as an adult. The boy, who was himself born to a 12 year-old mother and has endured a dreadful life of abuse, faces life in prison. Read More