Convicted criminals from the Charlotte area – sentenced to years in prison for murder, kidnapping and other crimes – have gotten out of prison on the weekends even though they weren’t finished serving their time.
“It makes a mockery of our court system,” said Judy Williams.
Williams co-founded a support group for the families of murder victims.
“No victims’ family should have to worry about seeing that person in a grocery store or a golf course before that minimum sentence is served,” Williams said.
However, a Department of Corrections program allows it. A DOC document states that inmates qualify for the Home Leave Program if they’re “within 12 months of a release or a parole eligibility date.”
The program has allowed felons like Cynthia Butler to get out of jail on the weekends even though she is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.
“My reaction was disbelief,” said Sen. Joel Ford.
Ford said the U.S. Senate leadership is asking the governor to stop the program. He said some lawmakers just learned about it.
“It was discovered because someone saw one of the convicted criminals playing golf,” he said.
Department of Corrections officials declined an interview Friday, but said the program has been around since the 1970s. Officials said it helps criminals who are close to release reconnect with families and prepare for their transition back into the community.
The Mecklenburg County district attorney doesn’t buy it.
“I'm not sure what a weekend out where you can play golf does for an adaptation into the real world,” said district attorney Andrew Murray.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys is also asking the governor to end the Home Leave Program.
It stated the Department of Corrections has a lot of programs and DOC isn't required to notify DAs about the programs.