The discovery of an Aberdeen woman’s body near the county landfill, and her live-in boyfriend’s subsequent murder arrest, this week have a lot of people in the area shaking their heads with dismay. The boyfriend, Michael Berger, had been convicted in JUNE for attempting to strangle ANOTHER girlfriend to death. According to authorities, Berger spent “a brief time in jail” and got two years probation for the crime.
That was JUNE. The body of Berger’s current girlfriend, Crystal Smith, was found on AUGUST 22. Berger was arrested on AUGUST 23. We’ve got people serving two year sentences in our jails and prisons for failure to pay child support. But a guy convicted of trying to murder his girlfriend gets almost immediately dumped back into society? How does this happen?
I spoke with a trusted source who is quite familiar with law enforcement and the court system. This source told me that Berger was likely a beneficiary of the Justice Reinvestment Act — passed by a GOP controlled legislature in 2011 and signed into law by Governor Bev Perdue:
“This legislation forces the system to take a lot of people who would normally be dumped into a Department of Corrections facility somewhere, and puts them on supervised probation. The problem is: the state does not have the resources to properly supervise all of these people getting dumped back into society. Basically, these convicts are being told to promise to behave themselves. ”
That information meshes with what I’ve heard from a friend who recently retired as a state probation officer. He told me that he — at times — was personally responsible for keeping track of as many as 92 people at one time. Imagine having to personally ensure that 92 people — with suspect manners — scattered around the area will behave themselves at all times.
Alternative punishments are an interesting idea. Not all offenders necessarily need to be locked up. (Though, someone who tries to murder his girlfriend needs a little more than “a brief time in jail” to think about what he’s done.) But politicians are famous for unfunded mandates — passing new laws, but offering no extra money to pay for their enforcement or implementation. Do THIS, but God knows how you’re going to pay for it.