Can a person convicted and sentenced to prison in North Carolina serve the time in another state? Can a person convicted elsewhere serve his or her sentence here?
Yes to both. North Carolina participates in the Interstate Corrections Compact. Just as the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (discussed here) allows certain probationers, parolees, and post-release supervisees to transfer their supervision from one state to another, the Interstate Corrections Compact allows certain prison inmates to serve their time in a state other than the state of conviction.
North Carolina is one of 40 jurisdictions—38 states plus the District of Columbia and the federal prison system—that participate in the Compact. Our enabling statutes are codified in Article 12 of Chapter 148. Currently, there are about 30 inmates convicted in North Carolina who are serving their time elsewhere, and about the same number from other jurisdictions serving time here.
The stated purpose of the Compact is “to provide for the mutual development and execution of such programs of cooperation for the confinement, treatment and rehabilitation of offenders with the most economical use of human and material resources.” As a practical matter, one of the most common reasons for transfer is to allow an inmate convicted of a crime outside of his or her home state to serve a sentence closer to family and friends. Another increasingly common reason for interstate transfer is a sort of super-safekeeper process for inmates who need protection or raise security concerns—perhaps related to gang ties, testifying against other defendants, or a high-profile crime—beyond what an intrastate transfer can accommodate.
By DAC administrative policy, a request for interstate transfer can be initiated by prison officials, by inmates acting on their own behalf, or by others acting on behalf of an inmate. Prison officials make the ultimate decision on granting or denying the request, but by law the Secretary of Public Safety must notify the district attorney in the district where the prisoner was convicted, the presiding trial court judge, the arresting law enforcement agency, and the victim at least 30 days before any inmate is transferred out of North Carolina. G.S. 148-121. The Department grants most requests for transfer, which may be directed to Shane Tharrington, Manager of Inmate Classification, firstname.lastname@example.org, (984) 255-6100.
Do not confuse the Interstate Corrections Compact process with the process for transfer between jurisdictions after one jurisdiction’s sentence is complete, or the service of one state’s sentence concurrently with another’s. Neither of those situations requires transfer under the Compact. If a person already serving time in another state is convicted and sentenced for another crime in North Carolina, the judge may allow the North Carolina sentence to be served concurrently in the other state’s prison. G.S. 15-6.3 (“[T]he court may, upon sentencing, specifically impose a sentence to be concurrently served and direct that such person receive credit against the sentence imposed for all time subsequently served in the jurisdiction possessing physical custody of such person.”). If the judge wishes for the North Carolina sentence to run consecutively to the other state’s sentence, North Carolina will file a detainer with the other state, so that the defendant may be returned to North Carolina upon completion of the first sentence.