Thursday, November 04, 2010

Parole officers don't receive mandatory in-service training, caseloads exceed legal limit

A recent state auditor's report found that Texas Department of Criminal Justice parole officers have caseloads exceeding legal limits, don't receive required in-service training, and often aren't equipped with basic technology including voice mail to help keep track of offenders.

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.

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.
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.

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.


Texas Maverick said...

Why would this report not be sent to the Senate and House Corrections Committees? It seems to me they might be interested in the fact there is a discrepancy in reporting between TDCJ and the audit, abeit small. Most importantly is the low response rate from the parole officers and the low ratings for their training and equipment needed to do their jobs.

Perhaps $1.7 for real-time monitoring of "dangerous" sex offenders who are too sick to get out of the house might have been used to install voice mail.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Excellent point about the $1.7 million. It's used to pay for extras when they don't have the basics down.

rodsmith said...


"What's more, TDCJ has been underreporting parole officer caseloads to make it appear they were complying with state law"

Not sure about texas but here in florida filing false documents to the govt is considered a FELONY!

Anonymous said...

It seems parole officers are having the same problem as probation officers. I have been employed as a probation officer for over 12 years. Since my employment TDCJ has consistantly reduced the required number of training hours to the current 40, the same as parole officers.
It became obvious to TDCJ a long time ago money was not even available for 40 hours of annual training. Faced with a reduction in training funds individual departments had to get "creative" concerning what is considered training. In my department officers are given at least one hour of training for just attending a meeting. Many of these meetings are to discuss department policy and routine proceedures. For example we recently had a meeting in our department concerning our new pay scale. It is good to know the pay scale but it is a stretch to call it training to become a better officer. When a manager meets with the people they supervise in a group to discuss problems and disseminate information officers get credited training hours.
It's to bad budgets have gotten this bad.

Many basic services and items have been sacrificed besides training. Many departments have probation officers carrying guns. They go into the field everyday without proper equipment. They have no radios, bullet proof vests, proper backup, and in many cases even a comprehensive policy and proceedures for field visits.

Anonymous said...

8:15, wow. So many state agencies have managers (not leaders) who are not only incompetent, but facilitate cover-ups. Standards will continue to decline as economic conditions/priorities worsen.

Anonymous said...

This isn't new; turn the clock back 25 years. Same problems concerning caseloads and "managers".

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Ditto to anon at 8:15!

I have 150 direct cases and 175 total cases. I cannot keep up. We have no payscale. Most Officers dont even try to keep up with the work. We look for new jobs online most of the day. TDCJ now wants to cut probation. HAH! Just let them free..that is the same as the budget now and with cuts it will be the same. Parole at 60..please give me a break 60 is a dream!!!

Anonymous said...

And to think we just voted for four more years of this crap. I hope the buffoon tries to fed up.