Marcus Maurice Kennedy is the perfect storm of our failed criminal justice system and flawed mental health system. A raped 12-year-old Charlotte girl last week is the devastation left behind.
This is heartrending and frustrating. It's also unacceptable. This crime was preventable. This community can and must fix the system failures that allowed it to happen.
The story of 28-year-old Kennedy, charged in the 12-year-old's rape, is all too familiar. He's been arrested more than 30 times in the past decade, and charged with more than 50 crimes. He's been convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and though diagnosed with a mental disorder, has received no mandated intensive treatment.
Yet Kennedy's been in prison only once for about nine months, and served just brief stints in jail. He is one of those repeat offenders Charlotte police keep re-arresting. They get minimal punishment for crimes because the courts are underfunded and understaffed, and jails and prisons are overcrowded. Technology and treatment programs are also lacking.
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State lawmakers have failed to adequately fund court systems in fast-growing districts such as Mecklenburg County. Too few judges and prosecutors, and antiquated data systems, have resulted in clogged courts. Lawbreakers such as Kennedy often are turned loose because the system can't adequately deal with them. Things are so bad in Mecklenburg that in May the Charlotte City Council agreed to add $2 million to its budget for court needs that the state is obligated to pay for.
The state must do more to help prevent tragedies such as a pre-teen's rape by a mentally unbalanced, repeat criminal. We must demand N.C. lawmakers provide more resources. We must also demand Charlotte's police and district attorney's office aggressively pursue these criminals, and keep them off the streets.
We all pay a price when justice fails and offenders go free to offend again. Some, like the 12-year-old who was raped, pay the biggest price of all. That, we must not tolerate.