In most cases, according to a chart on p. 5 of the auditor's report, TDCJ parole officer caseloads exceed the maximum ratio allowed under the Texas Government Code. Parole officers with regular caseloads by statute should max out at 60 offenders per officer, though departmental policy sets the ratio at 75. Departmental policies allow 35 offenders per officer overseeing electronic monitoring compared to 20 under the statute. Parole officers with special needs and sex-offender caseloads also exceed statutory mandates regarding caseloads.
What's more, TDCJ has been underreporting parole officer caseloads to make it appear they were complying with state law:
For example, in its April 2010 report to the Legislative Budget Board, the Department reported an overall caseload ratio of 63.5 offenders per parole officer. Using the Department’s methodology, auditors calculated that the Department’s overall caseload ratio was 78.8 offenders per parole officer, which more accurately reflects the resources needed to manage caseloads with offenders requiring differing levels of supervision.
In addition, using the Department’s methodology, auditors calculated that the Department’s average caseload for fiscal year 2009 was 77.2 offenders per parole officer, which exceeded the guidelines.The caseload problem is interfering with the agency's supervision function, the audit found. A whopping 51% of parole officers surveyed disagreed with the statement, "I have enough time during the work week to perform all offender contacts as required," while 63% disagreed with the statement, "The number of offenders on my caseload allows me to effectively perform my job responsibilities." A like number disagreed with the statement, "Adjustments are made to the number of offenders on my caseload when the current number of offenders exceeds the standards set by Department policy."
Further, TDCJ is not providing required in-service training for parole officers. Here's a notable excerpt on that score:
None of the 883 parole officers required to complete 40 hours of in-service training during the 2008-2009 biennium completed the required 40 hours of training (see text box for information about in-service training). The maximum number of in-service training hours completed by a parole officer during this time period was 28 hours, and the average number of in-service training hours completed by parole officers was 20 hours. Overall, 830 (94 percent) of the 883 parole officers hired before September 1, 2007, completed at least some in-service training during the biennium.In response, TDCJ granted that it is not providing this training, but only agreed "to review its in-service training policy and determine available resources and ability to consistently provide all employees 40 hours of in-service training biennially." That's a long way from agreeing to meet minimum training requirements. By contrast, when TDCJ wants to find money for other un-budgeted projects they're usually pretty resourceful.
The Parole Division’s In-Service Training Department offered one 8-hour class in fiscal year 2008 and one 20-hour class in fiscal year 2009, which is less than the 40-hour biennial requirement. Only 222 (25 percent) of the 883 parole officers hired before September 1, 2007, completed the 8-hour class in fiscal year 2008. However, 970 (91 percent) of the 1,066 parole officers hired before September 1, 2008, completed the 20-hour Parole Violation and Revocation course in fiscal year 2009.
Finally, here's an example of a simple change that would make it easier to keep tabs on offenders if it were widely adopted: Letting them leave voicemail messages for their PO.
Auditors noted that only 4 of the 10 district parole offices visited had voice mail installed so that offenders could leave messages; the remaining offices had a central number available that offenders could call during business hours. At the four offices with voice mail, the system can provide a report that supervisors could use to track each parole officer’s new and total messages in their in-boxes; however, several supervisors were not aware of this monitoring tool.Notably, in its recent Legislative Appropriations Request that included a 5% across the board reduction, TDCJ suggested cutting parole supervision by $5.26 million per year (though they also requested "exceptional items" to increase parole supervision funding). I've argued that legislators should expand community supervision funding at TDCJ and cuts should come from the agency's institutional division through closing prison units to reduce costs. These caseload data only confirm that sentiment.
See the full audit report here (pdf). Via the Houston Front Page Examiner.