When I first read this article, I had trouble deciding whether to believe it or not.
I kept thinking this had to be hoax, such as the one that occurred many Halloweens ago, when Orson Welles made a radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds," pretending to be news coverage of an actual event.
Just in time for Halloween, on October 29, the state of NC will release 20 inmates who were sentenced to life for violent offenses.
The news article was dated October 15. They didn't give us much time to prepare for it.
"How can they do that?" I kept asking myself. Surely they don't intend to release dangerous criminals back into society. But that's what it says. Five pages of Google Search shows the same news story on many different websites. If this was intended to scare us, it is certainly working on me.
WRAL is a news source that I trust, and I like Gerald Owens. I read what he had to say about it, and it isn't comforting.
Visions of angry mobs storming the state courthouse flash through my mind, with torches and pitchforks like in old movies I've seen.
Visions of murderers and rapist turning up in our towns are even more disturbing, with more victims, and more horrible deaths.
"They can't let this happen!" I keep telling myself over and over again.
For the rest of the evening my mind desperately searches for some comfort from my fears. After serving an 80 year sentence, they must be too old to do much harm. Wrong! These have only served 30-some years. I didn't know time off for good behavior and work could cut a sentence down to less than half. If they got good behavior and other brownie points, maybe these inmates are considered less at risk for repeat offenses. Wrong! Many of them have several infractions on their prison records. So what exactly is "good behavior" anyway?
All of these inmates due to be released were sentenced for murder or rape, except for one, who was sentenced for attempted rape. Some of these rapes include victims who are children. Is this what "life sentence" means now? I don't like even the thought of it. I'd rather take my chances on vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, then to chance an encounter with someone who until recently was on death row for murder.
Finally I convinced myself that this is probably some political publicity stunt, so that the politician who manages to stop the release in time is sure to get re-elected. Yeah, that's it. That worked for me, and so I was able to sleep on it.
The next day I thought I would probably write the angriest blog I have ever written, but then decided it would be better to talk to some people, and see if I can get a better perspective on it. I decided I would bring up the subject with whoever I could talk to that I come across today.
One such person gave me a "f--- you!" and one I never thought I'd hear such words from. I was accused of being self righteous for thinking that convicted criminals who have served their sentences do not deserve the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. I tried to say that people who murder and rape are dangerous, and should never be released, but I am told that most people like this learn their lessons in prison, and they should get a chance to redeem themselves.
I was told that once a person is sentenced, that sentence cannot be changed unless another offense could be added to it. A sentence is determined by the laws that were in place at the time, and there is nothing we can do to change it once it has been passed.
I thought about Charles Manson. Wasn't he given the death sentence? Didn't that change after the State of California decided to ban it? Isn't that why he's still alive?
Another person I talked to said 'yes' to my idea of storming the courthouse, but without the torches and pitchforks. Let's leave our weapons at home and keep it peaceful, like good citizens, but make sure our voices are heard.
Even the NC Fraternal Order of Police are against the release.
We have seen in our history that whenever people loose faith in the law to protect them, they tend to take the law into their own hands. I have heard more than a few voices say it's time for vigilante justice to return. I have made a promise to never support vigilantism, and now I'm afraid it will be getting harder for me to keep that promise. I'm sure that if these inmates are released as planned, and if any one of them ever kills or rapes again, our state justice system will be blamed for it. I'm afraid to think about what would happen after that.
Citizens of North Carolina, I say that if we don't get tough on crime, then crime will surely get tough on us.
Now let's hope the scariest things we see this Halloween are bats, spiders, and pumpkins.
Special thanks (again) to NC Wanted and WRAL News.
UPDATE - Oct 22