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Beverly Eaves Perdue
Governor

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Alvin W. Keller Jr.
Secretary

North Carolina Department of Correction


For Release: Contact: Keith Acree
Date: Feb. 3, 2010 Phone: 919 -716-3700

   

Secretary Keller responds in letter to News & Observer editor

As a retired Marine officer, lawyer and judge with more than 30 years of legal experience, I have great respect for our laws and the legal process.  I want to make sure the public clearly understands how the Department of Correction handled the potential release of certain inmates with life sentences.

When we learned on Oct. 9 that a N.C. Supreme Court ruling might force us to release inmates on Oct 29, we did two things.  We started preparing for the potential releases by confirming home plans, notifying victims and providing resources for inmates after release.  We also aggressively pursued legal options that would stop the inmates from being released on Oct 29.

I did not order the release of any inmates.  However, preparing the inmates for potential release on Oct. 29 was the responsible thing to do and was consistent with our mission to protect the public safety.  If courts had ordered their release, it would have been unsafe to put these inmates on the street lacking any resources.

The N&O described a variety of prison correspondence related to responsible planning for the potential release of the inmates.  Prison superintendents were told to discuss the potential Oct. 29 release with the affected inmates.  Their court testimony reflected that.  The letter to victims quoted by the N&O was drafted, but I never signed it and it was not sent.

Over the past 15 years, 92% of life-sentence inmates released under parole have not come back to prison.  The parole process is critically important to maintaining public safety and thatís why this agency continues to pursue all legal means to prevent the release of these inmates without approval by the parole commission and supervision after release. 

The public should be reminded that Judge Gentry Caudill ruled in the stateís favor and against the release of inmate Wilbur Folston in a Cleveland County case in December.  With differing rulings from judges on nearly identical cases, itís appropriate that our stateís highest court decide this matter.

Alvin W. Keller Jr.
Secretary of Correction

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