RALEIGH – On the scheduled release date for Bobby Bowden and the other inmates whom the Department of Correction (DOC) deemed earlier this month to have completed their prison sentences, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) today urges the Governor and the state’s Attorney General to uphold the Due Process guarantee under both the U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution that has been a fundamental principle of our constitutional democracy since the founding of this nation.
Governor Beverly Perdue and Attorney General Roy Cooper have ordered the DOC not to release the inmates as previously scheduled and to go back through their records over the past several decades and recalculate the sentence reduction credits that had been awarded for good behavior, work release, and furthering their education.
The following joint statement may be attributed to Carlos E. Mahoney, President of the ACLU-NC and Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU-NC:
We understand that the next step in this process, as ordered by the Court of Appeals last year and as approved by the state’s Supreme Court earlier this month, is for Mr. Bowden and the other inmates who are similarly situated to go before a trial court judge and show that they have been awarded enough credits during their more than three decades of incarceration to qualify for release. And if the Governor and Attorney General believe that some of those credits were improperly counted, they may certainly argue to the court that a recalculation is necessary. But the right to Due Process guaranteed under both the North Carolina and United States Constitutions prohibits the State from retroactively changing the rules that were applied by the DOC and deducting credits now that were properly calculated under the rules that existed at the time they were awarded. At the time in question, the Secretary of the DOC was granted the clear statutory authority to establish the rules for awarding sentence reduction credits. The inmates followed those rules and were awarded credits as deemed appropriate by the DOC. So the State can double-check the math, but Due Process requires that they cannot now change the rules retroactively.
Our Governor and Attorney General have sworn an oath to uphold the laws as they were actually written at the time they were applied, not as they wish they were written. We remind them of their oath and call upon them to respect the rule of law rather than sacrifice the Constitution for political expediency.”