As the opening line of a popular TV show says: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.” And with the passage of a new state law supported by Representative Bell, criminals who are convicted of these sexually violent offenses can now expect to wait longer for their parole hearings.
Under North Carolina criminal law, felons eligible for parole must be given a parole hearing at least once a year; the only exceptions were for criminals convicted of first or second degree murder — they are entitled to be reconsidered for parole only every three years.
Senate Bill 675 makes a further exception to these standards by also requiring that inmates convicted of sexually violent offenses can now only have their cases considered for parole only every two years. The Parole Commission may give more frequent parole consideration if it finds that circumstances warrant it, or the interests of justice demand it.
According to the NC Department of Public Safety, “parole is the conditional release of an offender to supervision prior to the expiration of the sentence. An offender must be parole eligible before consideration can be given. Eligibility is established by North Carolina general statute. Those offenders whose crimes were committed prior to October 1, 1994 may be eligible for parole although offenders with certain types of sentences, such as sentences of special probation and those serving sentences for health law violations, cannot qualify.”
Sexual violence can come in many forms. In order to better understand the wide range of personal violences that can occur, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has definitions on their website of different types of rape and sexual violence, as well as other kinds of violence that often arise hand-in-hand with sexual violence.
Senate Bill 675, which passed the House almost unanimously, was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in August 2015. It became effective on October 1, 2015, and applies to parole reviews conducted on and after that date.