Criminal Law in North Carolina

Justice Reinvestment Act Resource Page

The Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) of 2011 made major changes to the law of sentencing and corrections in North Carolina—the biggest changes since the enactment of Structured Sentencing in 1994. This page collects JRA resources prepared by the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Background.  Justice Reinvestment is a national-level project of the nonprofit Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. The goal of the project is to reduce state spending on corrections and to reinvest the savings in community programs that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. The group, which is active in about 15 states, came to North Carolina in 2009. CSG analysts studied the North Carolina criminal justice system and made several key findings including:

  • Probation revocations account for more than half of new prison admissions.
  • Too many inmates leave the prison system with no community supervision following their period of incarceration.
  • Community supervision resources are not allocated in an evidence-based way.
  • North Carolina is unsual in the number of misdemeanants housed in its prison system.

A complete review of the CSG findings is available in the group's Analysis and Policy Framework to Reduce Spending on Corrections and Reinvest in Strategies to Increase Public Safety.

Legislation. In response to those findings and others, the General Assembly passed the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011. Links to the JRA and several related bills are available below.

Justice Reinvestment Act, S.L. 2011-192 (HB 642)
Technical Corrections Act , S.L. 2011-412 (HB 335)
Justice Reinvestment Clarifications, S.L. 2012-188 (HB 1021)
Clarifying Changes to the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011, S.L. 2013-101 (HB 361)
Changes to Post-Release Supervision for Sex Offenders, S.L. 2011-307 (SB 684)
Other changes to probation (including repeal of tolling), S.L. 2011-62 (HB 270)
G.S. 90-96 returned to discretionary status, S.L. 2013-210

Summary charts.

Justice Reinvestment Essentials Chart
Effective Dates of JRA Provisions
Summary Chart of Maximum Sentence & Post-Release Supervision Rules After Justice Reinvestment

Frequently Asked Questions.

FAQs on Justice Reinvestment

Online module. A free one-hour module by John Rubin and Jamie Markham on JR frequently asked questions is available here.

Webinar. A free two-hour webinar provides an overview of the new law, including practical exercises. The webinar was prepared for and presented in collaboration with Community Corrections (probation) personnel from the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction. For a small fee, the webinar is available here for 1.75 hours of CLE (but not CJE) credit.

Sentencing grids. The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission prepares sentencing grids based on the tables of permissible punishments set out in Structured Sentencing. The latest version of the grid (and prior versions, which are necessary for offenses committed before December 1, 2011) are available here.

Publications. The new book, The North Carolilna Justice Reinvestment Act, can be purchased here.

Smartphone App. A handheld reference guide on Justice Reinvestment is available as a mobile app for Android devices. It can be downloaded from the Google Play store here.

North Carolina Criminal Law Blog posts related to Justice Reinvestment. The following aspects of the JRA and related legislative changes have been explored in posts on the North Carolina Criminal Law Blog:

Overview of the law:

Justice Reinvestment Act: An Overview (June 30, 2011)
Summary of Justice Reinvestment Clarifications Act (July 18, 2012)
FAQs on JRA (October 24, 2012)
More Justice Reinvestment Clarifications Become Law (June 26, 2013)
A Sampling of Justice Reinvestment Statistics (November 27, 2013)
North Carolina on Probation (January 27, 2014)
Spring Break Sentencing Reading List (April 22, 2014)

Changes to front-end sentencing, including the addition of post-release supervision for all felons and the creation of a new early-release program called Advanced Supervised Release:

Changes to Post-Release Supervision on the Way (July 19, 2011)
Changes to Post-Release Supervision for Sex Offenders (July 21, 2011)
Consolidation Across Effective Dates (February 2, 2012)
Advanced Supervised Release
New Details about Advanced Supervised Release (October 8, 2012)
Advanced (Un)Supervised Release (April 25, 2012)
New Table of Maximum Permissible Punishments (July 7, 2011)
Offense Date Ranges: Which Sentencing Law Applies? (September 25, 2012)
Revised Drug Trafficking Chart (August 1, 2012)
New Felony Sentencing Grid (October 1, 2013)
Avoiding Post-Release Supervision (March 12, 2014)

Changes related to probation:


Changes related to how a sentence is served:

Where to Serve a Sentence (October 5, 2011)
Jail Fees (January 4, 2012)
The Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program (February 23, 2012)
Changes to the Single Sentence Rule (how consecutive felony sentences are served) (March 1, 2012)
Time Served (July 31, 2013)

Changes to habitual offender statutes, including the creation of a new habitual breaking and entering status offense:

Changes to the Habitual Felon Law (November 10, 2011)
Habitual Breaking and Entering (November 22, 2011)

The expansion of drug possession diversions under G.S. 90-96:

The New G.S. 90-96 (November 29, 2011)
G.S. 90-96 Probation (July 12, 2012)
G.S. 90-96 Limbo (February 4, 2014)


Contact. School of Government faculty members Jamie Markham and John Rubin can field questions related to Justice Reinvestment.

Topics - Courts and Judicial Administration