A budget is a reflection of values and the North Carolina General Assembly Republicans budget proposal prioritizes partisan power grabs, $13.9 billion in corporate tax breaks, and defunding North Carolina’s criminal justice system – denying justice to crime victims.
Studies have found that some of North Carolina’s largest counties have fewer prosecutors than almost any other urban county their size nationally. This leads to plea deals, case dismissals, and too few prosecutors in high-crime neighborhoods. Instead of using this year’s unexpected revenue to address this need and protect victims – Republican’s want to strip away funding from our justice system.
This lack of funding is especially harmful after the pandemic. Democratic Rep. Joe John pointed out: “The courts are going to need all their current resources and additional resources…There has been no additional help, at least not in the Senate budget.”
Read more from a recent Charlotte Observer editorial.
- North Carolina Republicans love to frame themselves as protectors of law and order. They especially love to mischaracterize progressive attempts at policing reform as calamitous cuts to police departments.
- But in our state, there’s one party that’s been dangerously shorting the criminal justice system over the past decade. Incredibly, that party appears ready to continue doing so despite North Carolina’s $6.5 billion surplus.
- According to a Charlotte Observer report, the Republican-led Senate has passed a $26 billion spending plan that would cut one prosecutor from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office, reducing the roster of assistant district attorneys to 84. Republicans also want to transfer a District Court judge from Durham to Bladen County and move two assistant public defender positions from Wake County to Robeson County.
- The result: Our courts are experiencing severe backlogs. Our prosecutors and public defenders are stretched too thin. Deals are made that shouldn’t be made in an effort to lighten caseloads. A 2019 Observer investigation detailed how more court funding would help cut down on gun charge dismissals and put more prosecutors in high-crime neighborhoods. A 2021 Observer and News & Observer report revealed how an overtaxed district court system resulted in extreme speeders getting plea deals or having their cases dismissed.
- The solution really is simple, just not in the way the Senate leader and Republicans might think. Instead of hiding behind budget formulas or suggesting larger counties should pony up more, Senate and House leaders should explain why a state with a significant surplus lags in funding courts properly. They also should explain to victims of crime how taking prosecutors and judges from urban counties is not defunding the criminal justice system and delaying or denying justice.
- Or maybe just answer this: Why doesn’t the party of law and order want to pay for it?