Attorney Joe Padian, who represents dozens of offenders who are currently up for or out on parole, said that there is a problem with supervision.
"The problem is, they need to find a way to prioritize which offenders need heavy supervision and which don't, then concentrate on watching the potentially dangerous offenders," he said.
Padian said he believes parole officers are overburdened by large caseloads that require constant supervision for offenders who don't need it.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Parole caseloads too high to monitor ex-offenders
In Dallas a TV station has a story titled "Most Texas parole officers say they are overworked," which is based on a report from the state auditor discussed on Grits a couple of months ago. A lawyer quoted in the story identified the main problem:
The auditor not only found that parole caseloads are too high but that parole officers don't receive required in-service training and lack basic technology like voicemail on their telephones to help them do their jobs.
In 2007, the Texas Legislature changed the law to allow many probationers to earn their way off of probation early through good behavior. The same should be done for parolees so TDCJ can focus limited supervision resources on those who need it most. Otherwise, in the current budget environment it's almost unimaginable the agency can hire more POs, improve technology or provide officers more training.
Reducing caseloads would strengthen supervision for those most at-risk and avoid expending resources on those who pose little threat. From a political perspective - where lessening supervision even for low-risk offenders risks allegations that you're soft on crime - who knows if it's possible? But from a policy and public-safety perspective, though, the need to reduce caseloads both for parole and probation officers borders on imperative.
One out of every 22 Texas adults is in prison, in jail, on probation or on parole: There's no way the state can supervise nearly 5% of the population effectively through the criminal justice system, even in economic good times, much less when facing a $15 to $27 billion budget shortfall. We'd all be safer if limited resources were focused on supervising the highest risk offenders instead of trying to keep tabs on everybody and their dog.