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North Carolina prisoners with life sentences to remain in prison

Last month, we discussed the North Carolina Supreme Court decision to hear the case of prisoners sentenced to life in prison during the 1970s and whether they can be released since their "life" sentence was defined as 80 years under state law when they were originally sentenced.

Now, the North Carolina Supreme Court has issued a ruling on these cases that will impact many prisoners in the state. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that offenders convicted of murder, rape and other crimes that were sentenced to life in prison during the 1970s will not be released early even though life terms were defined as only 80 years in prison.

The North Carolina Supreme Court heard the defendants' arguments that they should be released from prison through the credits they had earned for good behavior and work they did in prison instead of remaining in prison for the rest of their lives.

The main issue at hand was the fact that prisoners sentenced to life in prison during the 1970s were still able to receive credits for good behavior. The Division for Adult Correction in North Carolina has a system that allows prisoners to earn credits for good behavior and work they have done while in prison. These credits can help reduce prisoners' sentences.

For offenders who were sentenced to life in prison, these credits were supposed to help determine their eligibility for parole. North Carolina said that these were supposed to apply towards reducing custody restrictions and their incarceration if they were re-sentenced later on. However, offenders who were sentenced to life in the 1970s were not banned from receiving the credits to help reduce their sentences, which is why the State Supreme Court was hearing the case.

The state said that there are 122 prisoners in North Carolina sentenced to life in prison defined as 80 years. The Supreme Court ruling means that these prisoners will remain in prison and not be released early, despite how many earned credits they have received while serving their sentences.

Source: WRAL, "NC Supreme Court affirms life sentences from 1970s," March 8, 2013

Our law firm represents individuals facing criminal charges. To learn more about our law firm, please visit our Wilmington Criminal Defense Attorney page.

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