Judge's decision to release convict on shock probation raises questions
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Jefferson County judge's decision released a convicted criminal who police say then went on to commit a dangerous crime spree.
The policy is called "shock probation" and not every state allows it.
Non-violent offenders can go to a judge one month after their prison sentence has started, saying they've been essentially "shocked straight" by the prison experience and they've learned their lesson.
"Basically it's a way to get out of prison early and its up to a judge's hearing rather than the Department of Corrections," said assistant Commonwealth's attorney Leland Hulbert.
Mark Hambric, 29, had been in prison for just a matter a months serving a 10-year sentence for robbery, when Jefferson County Circuit Judge A.C. McCay Chauvin granted him shock probation.
Hambric was released September 13. Just two days later, police say he started a bold crime spree that lasted for a month.
"It took detectives from all over the city to catch him," Hulbert said.
Hambric is charged with 28 robberies at Louisville gas stations and convenience stores.
"Gentleman coming in and ordering a black and mild and ordering a pack of gum or some sort. Once the clerk would open the cash register, he'd do a snatch and grab push the clerk back," said LMPD Det. Jason Schweitzer.
"I'm sad for my employees that went for the first time through this," said victim Martin Masri.
Hambric's case was back in front of a judge Monday.
His probation was revoked when he was re-arrested in December.
But it begs the question: Why was a person like Hambric eligible for shock probation in the first place?
"I don't think any judge necessarily has a crystal ball. He was charged with one robbery I believe and now has 28," Hulbert said.
WDRB web reporter Jason Riley has done extensive research on the number of people who were granted shock probation in Jefferson County who quickly broke the law again.
"I looked through all the cases for a year and found out there were 260 cases that about half of the people within a year had been charged again," Riley said.
But he offers this reason as to why judges may be pressured to offer so many pardons.
"What I learned was judges felt hamstrung -- they're supposed to cut down on jail or prison overcrowding -- and this was a way they were doing it and then people were coming back and criticizing them for letting too many people out. But it was a tool used to try and control jail population."
As for Hambric, he's back in prison on his original robbery charge. He now faces the possibility of spending another 20 years to life in prison in connection with the latest crime spree.
"Anyone who commits this many offenses is a threat to the community and dangerous," Hulbert said.
Hambric confessed to police he committed the robberies to support his drug habit.
WDRB reached out to the judge who granted Hambric shock probation but he declined to comment.
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