Criminal justice reform initiatives continue in Pitt County

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) - A national conversation is making a mark closer to home as criminal justice reform is playing out in Pitt County.

A new Pretrial Release program could change the way people currently facing charges are processed before their trial.

At a recent Greenville City Council workshop, members were given an update on a program that could drastically change the workings of Pitt County's criminal justice system.

Proposed changes could excuse bonds and cut down on jailing costs while putting in place strict guidelines for determining who's eligible.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Marvin Blount II is leading the initiative. Blount said, "Either they make the bond and get out of jail or they don't make bond and they stay in jail."

This program could change that.

Blount said criminals meeting a specific list of conditions could be excused from their bond and released until their court date.

Those conditions could include the severity of the crime, risk of harm to the public and criminal history.

Blount said a bond isn't designed to be a punishment considering a magistrate issues one before a person is found guilty or innocent.

Blount said, "It is designed to assure their appearance in court."

The program could require defendants to meet with their attorneys before the trail; something that is not currently required.

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly shared his desire to be a part of the proposal. Connelly said, "We want to have an understanding and we want to be sympathetic to those people. We don’t want them getting into a life of crime."

More than 37 percent of arrests in Pitt County come from Greenville. Judge Blount said that’s why the city should have a seat in shaping this proposal. The county will have the final say in implementing any changes.

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