Death Penalty Champion, Darryl Hunt, Honored with Scholarship by Z. Smith Reynolds

“Darryl Hunt’s spirit spoke innocence,” said Dr. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church. This was a beautiful and succinct description of Mr. Hunt, who dedicated his life to eradicating the death penalty.  He spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Once exonerated, he dedicated the remainder of his life to giving a voice to inmates, whom are some of the most marginalized among us.

A small group of his colleagues, friends, and loved ones gathered at Emmanuel Baptist Church on March 13, 2017.  At that gathering,  Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation announced plans to create a $100,00 endowed scholarship fund that will be used to help previously incarcerated Forsyth County residents pursue higher education.  The first scholarship will be awarded in 2018.

Mr. Hunt worked closely with the Carolina Justice Policy Center, as was acknowledged during the endowment announcement.  Together, we fought to promote real, sustainable awareness and change in the criminal justice system and to eliminate the death penalty.  We were forever changed as an organization by standing beside Darryl in his endeavors.  This endowment is a wonderful extension of Darryl’s work and legacy.

You can read details on the endowment.

Florida Prosecutor Announces She Will No Longer Seek Death Sentences

Prosecutors have the power to essentially stop the use of the death penalty.  How? By pledging not to charge any defendants capitally.  It really is that simple.  Prosecutors have total control over whether a case is tried as a death penalty case or a case with the maximum punishment of life without the possibility of parole. One prosecutor in Florida is doing just this to take a stand against the use of the death penalty in America.

District Attorney Aramis Ayala, the newly elected and first Black Female state attorney for Orange and Osceola Counties in Florida, has pledged not to pursue the death penalty in any case, according to Slate.  In the same article, Ayala was quoted as saying, “While I have discretion to pursue the death penalty, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice,”

Carolina Justice Policy Center commends the stand against the death penalty taken by District Attorney Aramis Ayala.  In North Carolina, where no one has been executed in over 10 years, we need district attorneys to join with the shifting consciousness of America and reject the death penalty as a form of punishment.

Read more on District Attorney Aramis Ayala’s courageous stand against the death penalty.

Wake County Commissioners the Latest Group to Stand in Support of Raising the Age

The Wake County Board of Commissioners is the latest group to join the growing list of supporters for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina.  According to Indy Weekly, the commissioners stressed that teenagers should be allowed to make mistakes that do not follow them the rest of their lives.

A bipartisan bill was filed in the North Carolina House of Representatives on March 8.  The Commission does not typically weigh in on legislative matters unless they are of particular importance to the citizens it represents.  Commissioner Matt Calabria was quoted saying, “I do not think this is about being soft on crime, but it’s about doing the smart thing.”

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison was also at the press conference to show his support for raising the age.

You can read more about the endorsement of raising the juvenile age.

Possible Changes to Recovery and Treatment Courts

Judge Marion Warren, Director of N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee  to present a plan that proposes to unify NC treatment courts and put them in every judicial district in the State. The plan, entitled Judicially Managed Accountability and Recovery Act (JMARA), proposes to coordinate court, community, and college social work resources for accountability and recovery in our communities.

According to the presentation, this model will provide treatment, when needed, and case management.  The treatment would be provided by community treatment providers, with little to no funds from the state.  Senator Barringer expressed approval for the plan and emphasized that there are many community based recovery and support programs that are volunteer based, requiring no additional funding from the state.  Judge Warren stated that he thought the many case managers that would be needed for this plan could be harvested from the schools of social work at the colleges and universities around the state.  He indicated that, under the supervision of professionals, these students would benefit from practical, real world experience and the state would benefit financially from using students in this important role.

Senator Van Duyn expressed concern for the DWI Court in her county of Buncombe, which she felt may be threatened by this new statewide plan.  Judge Warren indicated that the existing treatment courts would be folded into the new system. How that would happen and who would fund those new courts is currently undecided.

There is currently no legislation that associated with this model.  We will continue to closely follow and report on this proposal.

Brunswick County Get New Nonprofit to Support Reentry

Return with Honor is a new nonprofit in Brunswick County dedicated to creating employment opportunities and training for people who have served in the military and are ex-offenders.  Specifically, Return with Honor will hire people who have served in the military to train and mange people who are on house arrest, work release, probation, parole or weekend jail.  The goal is to address employment issues for people who served in the military and to help reduce recidivism by creating a strong reentry program for the criminally involved.

This combination of helping employ ex-military and ex-offenders is exactly the type of community based program desperately needed in North Carolina.  To reduce the overuse of jails and prisons, there must be support systems available to those people reentering society to break the cycle of recidivism.  In 2015-2016, North Carolina released almost 24,000 people from prison.  This number does not include all the people who reenter communities from jails and probation.  The Carolina Justice Policy Center makes it a priority to support entities that are working to make reentry a positive experience that reduces recidivism.

Return with Honor is hosting an open house on April 6, 2017 from noon until 1pm.  Learn more about Return with Honor »

Ban the Box Bill Introduced in North Carolina General Assembly

House Bill 233, entitled Ban the Box, can make getting a job a little bit easier for those people with prior convictions. Primary sponsors are Democratic Whips, Rep. Garland Pierce and Rodney Moore, along with Rep. Cecil Brockman and Rep. Charles Graham.

The bill’s primary purpose is to reduce barriers to employment for people with criminal histories, and decrease unemployment in communities with concentrated numbers of people with criminal records. The goal of the bill is to reduce recidivism and improve economic stability for communities. Rep.  Chuck McGrady, the sole Republican signed on to the bill, is also a primary sponsor for raising the juvenile age,  which is also designed to reduce long term recidivism and improve economic and social stability in North Carolina.

Contrary to many of the misconceptions about this bill, it does not prevent employers from learning about the criminal history of individuals applying for positions.  The bill calls for the elimination of the requirement to disclose that the applicant has a criminal record on the initial application.  This change will allow job seekers with criminal back grounds to make a first impression on the employer without the negative stigma of knowing the applicant made a mistake in the past.  The bill would only remove the question of previous criminal convictions from most city, county, and state job applications.

Dennis Gaddy, with Community Success Initiative, told the News and Observer that having a job reduces a person’s chance of going back to prison by 50 percent.  Carolina Justice Policy Center works to support efforts to help reduce recidivism and improve the quality of North Carolina communities.

Read more about the Ban the Box bill »