Local Politics

Easley promises blank check to fix probation problems

Posted May 12, 2008

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— The state Department of Correction will get the needed funding to fix problems that have plagued the probation system in recent months, Gov. Mike Easley said Monday.

Easley released his proposed budget for the coming year, which included $4 million to improve case management and supervision of adult offenders on probation, parole and post-release. But he was quick to add that amount could go up.

"We're going to give (Department of Correction) whatever they need," Easley said.

The appropriation would add 21 people to manage offices in urban counties like Wake and Durham, put more certified officers on the street, establish a quality control team to check up on office performance and pay some probation officers more to serve as mentors to less-experienced officers.

Problems with the state's probation system came to light two months ago after Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, were charged with killing Eve Carson, the student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both men had been charged with other crimes while on probation but were never jailed for violating the conditions of probation.

Records obtained by WRAL show state officials cited the Wake County probation office three times in the past seven years for management problems, excessive vacancies and inadequate supervision of offenders. Durham County's probation office was cited once for the same issues.

"One would've hoped that we could've fixed those problems before now. We've been in there and we fixed the issues, and we're right back to where we were," said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Department of Correction.

Despite the repeated investigations, the management team in Wake County remained the same for the last decade. At least three senior managers in the office have been reassigned in recent weeks, following an internal investigation into the handling of Atwater's and Lovette's cases.

Geoff Hathaway, the judicial district manager in the Durham County probation office, was reassigned Monday as part of the ongoing investigation. Several other employees have resigned in recent weeks.

"At this point, (we're) committed to getting it fixed this time," Acree said.

The extra positions Easley has proposed in the budget will help, Acree said, as will $1.9 million proposed to provide female parolees and probationers access to residential substance abuse treatment services. A 50-bed substance abuse treatment program at the Black Mountain Correctional Center for Women could serve 300 to 360 women a year.

Other needs may be assessed after consultants offer steps to better manage the state's bigger offices, Acree said. The National Institute of Corrections has agreed to provide a team of advisers to the state to look at case management, staffing levels, employee training and other areas of concern.

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  • Sweetgrl3 May 13, 2008

    Management has field experience. And now Easley wants to give a blank check to the after the whole division has been asking for assistance. Easley is a joke. The only reason he has done this now it to save face. Why didn't he help in the past years when they were asking. There are good PO's out there. However, some are not. That goes for any job. This is Easley's way of looking good down the road when he tries to run for President. It has done a poor job since he has been in. I mean....look how many are in prison, probation, etc. That shows his track record.

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    It does not matter what you send to your legislators. They are in the belief that this is good for North Carolina - even if there are no facts that substantiate the claim that the DOC needs a blank check to fix it.

    What he has done is what education wants. A blank check to fix their system. The fact of the matter is that it does not matter how much money you throw at the Education system, they will have no reason to fix the problems - they just keep billing the time.

    A blank check for a government agency is not going to fix the problem - it is going to allow them to avoid them since they have the money.

  • Corvus May 13, 2008

    The probation department does not need a blank check. It needs to hire people for management jobs that have actually worked in the field. The practice of hiring people based on who they know or the color of their skin, instead of what they know and how much experience they have, needs to stop. Untill that day the problems will continue.

  • Just the facts mam May 13, 2008

    How about make prisoners serve their time (they cannot be criminals or reproduce when they are locked up), and three strikes and you are out!

  • chemtechii May 13, 2008

    The title of the story says it all, Easley, provides way too many blank checks for everything.

    Wish he would throw one of those to state employees

  • whatusay May 13, 2008

    Ironfist....I did not say people do not deserve a 2nd chance. I said eliminate the probation section of government...it serves no purpose. When a criminal has served his/her term, let them go free and leave them alone. If they are too violent to let out, keep them in jail. Probation serves no purpose except to annoy and create more animosity between law enforcement and criminals. Probation is a joke.

  • b4self May 13, 2008

    I think we could have private citzens volunteer to be probation officers and do a better job than the ones that are getting paid to do it. No it is not a high paying job neither is mine but if I did it the way PO in N C did their job it wold be a no pay job and I would be on the street.Funny how we get blank checks after all the news and an election year .Easley at his best lol

  • fireman1963 May 13, 2008

    A blank check here and a blank check there. Here a check, There a check. Everywhere a blank check.

    The biggest problem with government, especially with governors and presidents leaving office at the end of their terms, is that they want to leave a legacy. So, they spend all the money they can get their hands on. Watch out, this is not the end.

    Wait until the legislature gives Wake County Public Schools the authority to impose property taxes. Bet that one happens this summer. Hold on to you wallets!

  • OLD PIRATE 2 May 13, 2008

    I just sent a scalding e-mail to 4 legislators in my area. What are you doing to tell yours to wake up.?

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus May 13, 2008

    Wonder how long it will be before the blank check gets redirected to a private company headed by a friend of good ole Mike.

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