Criminal Sentencing Part 1 - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Criminal Sentencing Part 1

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  When it comes to sentencing criminals some pine belt judges are taking a more non-traditional approach. Along with jail time some are sentenced to finishing their education or attending a re-entry program.

Judge Keith Starrett is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. He's been a judge for almost 20 years and has sentenced thousands to prison. Now, he gives those criminals an additional sentence when charging them... something to help better their lives... something to challenge them to become better people. "When a judge hands down a sentence, the goal is to change behavior," says Starrett.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice about 10 thousand prisoners are released each week from prison. "It's proven that if someone completes a program - in a prison institution is reduces their chance of recidivism by 50 percent," says Starrett. By choosing the sentence, he's trying to keep that person from falling back into the system again. "People going to the penitentiary most of the time come out worse than when they were in." That's why he challenges them by giving them an additional sentence. "You tailor the programs that they're put into in supervised release, geared towards that individual looking at what would work for that particular individual," says Starrett.

Lester Carpenter is a forty-seven-year old business owner of "Get It Right" construction. Successfully making his way through Hattiesburg rebuilding homes destroyed from the February 10th tornado. He's come a long way since 2006 when he became a convicted felon.

"I was convicted of possession with intent and Judge Starrett sentenced me to 37 months, I did 32 months on 37 month sentence therefore it was mandatory to do 500 drug hours," says Carpenter. He served three years at Maxwell Air force Base in Talladega where he worked as a painter and landscaper. "Judge Starrett, when he sentenced me he believed I didn't get enough time, that I wouldn't learn my lesson that was my motivation." After being released from prison in 20-10 carpenter entered the re-entry program. "Re-entry program is where they do a lot of monitoring, you meet once a month and the goal is to steadily get you back into society functioning."

Carpenter says it's 15 percent mental and 85 percent action when completing the program, but if you don't have the mindset to change the program won't work for you. "If the individual is not going to change, I don't care what kind of program you go through he's not going to change." It took time in prison and losing years off his life to realize his faults. He attributes the re-entry program and Judge Starrett for giving him that extra push to reach success and freedom. "He's going to push you to that limit… that's what it is, is about having someone to push you," says Carpenter.

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