Greensboro News & Record
Tuesday, February 8, 1994
COALITION STRESSES CRIME PREVENTION, NOT PUNISHMENT
JAY EUBANK Raleigh Bureau
A special session of the General Assembly begins its quest today to gain a toehold on crime.
The stage is set for the General Assembly to approve new and stricter punishments for criminals, but a coalition of activists on Monday warned that it won't be the answer to the problem of crime in North Carolina. today begin a $50,000-per-day special session called by Gov. Jim Hunt to address the public's growing fear that crime is becoming far too pervasive in North Carolina.
"The thrust of this special session should be crime prevention - combating crime before it happens," said Wade Byrd of the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers.
That group, along with 18 others, fears that won't be the case during the special session.
Byrd and others say lawmakers should take two key steps:
Fund immediately, instead of in 1995, a structured sentencing program that would force violent and repeat offenders to serve longer time in prison.
Less violent offenders would be funneled to alternative punishments.
Put more money into prevention programs, such as alcohol and drug treatment and job training, instead of building more prisons. The group supports Hunt's "Save Our Students" program in his crime bill that creates after-school programs for middle school students they face an uphill battle, given the public's get-tough mood. "That is the way the train is rolling in the Senate," said Sen. Frank Ballance, D-Warren, who supports the coalition. is no time limit on the special session. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, is appointing three special committees to handle all crime legislation.
He will evenly divide the Senate to serve on committees dealing with punishment, prevention and court reforms.
WANT TO GO?
The special session begins at 11 a.m. at the Legislative Building at 16 W. Jones St. in Raleigh. Seating available in both House and Senate galleries, on the second floor of the Legislative Building.
WANT TO WATCH?
The man who called the General Assembly back to Raleigh - Gov. Jim Hunt - will address a joint session of the House and Senate at noon. That address will be carried live on North Carolina public television (WUNC).