UNC?s Harvey Award winner to develop app to improve sentencing process

Posted on Jan 25, 2013 in Government and Law

Faculty member Jamie Markham of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will lead a team creating an innovative mobile app to improve the accuracy and consistency of North Carolina’s criminal sentencing process.

Faculty member Jamie Markham of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will lead a team creating an innovative mobile app to improve the accuracy and consistency of North Carolina’s criminal sentencing process.

Markham, an assistant professor of public law and government in the UNC School of Government, won the 2012 C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities, a campus-based honor that included $75,000 to fund the project.

The app will help North Carolina’s legal practitioners identify the correct sentence that should be given to an offender under the state’s Structured Sentencing law.

The law, first passed in 1994, established statutory charts—also known as sentencing grids—that provide judges with options for the type and length of sentences that may be imposed, based on a crime’s severity and any prior criminal record on the part of the offender.

But recent revisions to the law have made it more complex, according to Markham, leading to confusion and mistakes as evidenced by state Division of Adult Correction data showing an uptick in erroneous sentences.

The app will guide users through the sentencing process, from choosing the proper grid to the ultimate decision of whether the defendant will go to prison or be placed on probation.

“Errors and inconsistencies in the administration of justice—even if accidental—can call into question the fairness and integrity of the system,” Markham said. “When liberty is at stake, we should strive for perfection.”

Content for the app will stem from Markham’s expertise in the field. He teaches sentencing law to new North Carolina judges and prosecutors as part of the School of Government’s annual training programs for new officials. He also offers similar instruction to defense lawyers, probation officers, law students and others throughout the year.

The app will also tap the expertise of other project team members, who include legal practitioners from around the state.

“It is critical that courts apply the correct sentencing laws in every case,” said team member Allen Baddour, superior court judge for North Carolina’s 15B district. “As sentencing laws have become more complex, it has become increasingly difficult to render a proper judgment. This app will help judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys get closer to the goal: a correct and legal sentence in every case.

“I feel confident that this app will save the State of North Carolina money by reducing the number of re-sentencing hearings, which take court time, attorney time and often involve the transportation of inmates. This app will help judges and lawyers in the courtroom, in real time.”

Targeted for a December 2013 release, the app will be free and available for iOS and Android.

The C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities is an annual award recognizing exemplary faculty scholarship that reflects one of UNC’s top priorities and addresses a real-world challenge. A selection committee led by UNC’s Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost chooses the winner from a pool of faculty applications.

The award’s namesake is C. Felix Harvey, chairman of Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates and founder of the Little Bank Inc., both in Kinston. He graduated from UNC with a degree in commerce in 1943 and went to the Navy midshipman school, then served on a PT boat in the southwest Pacific theater during World War II.

In 2007, along with his family, Harvey made a $2 million commitment endowing the award to acknowledge UNC’s significance to them and the important role Carolina has played in their lives. Members from five generations of Harveys have earned UNC degrees. These include Felix and Margaret Harvey’s daughters Leigh Harvey McNairy and Sunny Harvey Burrows, sons-in-law John McNairy and Lee Burrows, and several grandchildren.

The family’s commitment supported the Innovate@Carolina Campaign, a $125 million drive to help make Carolina a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.

Photo: http://uncnews.unc.edu/images/stories/news/government/2013/jamie%20markham.jpg

Development Communications contact: Scott Ragland, (919) 962-0027, scott_ragland@unc.edu
News Services contact: Susan Hudson, (919) 962-8415, susan_hudson@unc.edu
School of Government: http://www.sog.unc.edu