December 30, 1996
Raleigh - The U.S. Department of Justice in December awarded the North Carolina Department of Correction $10.9 million in prison construction money.
North Carolina was one of 25 states eligible to receive part of the $400 million for both the Violent Offender Incarceration and the Truth-In-Sentencing Incentive grant money for fiscal year 1996. As part of the criteria, the Department of Correction showed that violent offenders are serving more time in North Carolina prisons and they are serving the entire sentence handed down by the judge. The concept, called Truth-in-Sentencing, was incorporated into North Carolina's Structured Sentencing Act which took effect Oct. 1, 1994.
"We are pleased to have been chosen to receive this grant money and we can thank Gov. Jim Hunt, the General Assembly and the state's criminal justice agencies for having worked together to achieve a significant sentencing reform effort," Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman said. "We will pair this grant and the 1997 grant with state monies for expansions at two existing high security prisons, while we anticipate subsequent grant money to be used to help build three new close custody prisons."
The Department of Correction plans to use the first year of grant money to build a 196-cell maximum custody diagnostic center at Central Prison and a 168-cell addition with a 42-cell disciplinary section at the newly-built Warren Correctional Institution.
The awards, beginning in FY 1996 and authorized through FY 2000, are granted in two steps, both to be used for the construction of prisons to incarcerate violent offenders. No state is allowed to receive more than nine percent of the total available funds.
The Department of Correction currently has 31,000 inmates in a system with a standard operating capacity for 27,000. With the addition of 5,000 more prison beds by the end of 1998, the state will have enough prison beds to match the number of offenders being sent to prison.
"This is good news," Freeman said. "This means that we are ahead of the curve by a year or two in our offender population projections."
"Truth-in-Sentencing would not have worked had Gov. Jim Hunt not pushed hard in his special legislative crime session for the construction of new prisons," Freeman said. "North Carolina is further ahead than most states involving the prison crowding crisis and the proverbial revolving door. This is a good break to the taxpaying citizens of North Carolina and I am pleased to have sen the progress the Department of Correction and other criminal justice agencies have made in helping make this a safer state."