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State probation system lacking resources, director says

Posted June 5, 2008

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— The head of the state's troubled probation system told the Governor's Crime Commission Thursday that system is not broken, just lacking resources.

Robert Guy, director of the Department of Correction's Division of Community Corrections, blames vacancies, turnover and poor pay for many of the problems the system is facing.

He made an impassioned plea to the commission, asking for its help in influencing state lawmakers to properly fund the probation system.

"We can't seem to retain them because of money and fear factor," Guy said. "It's a tough job to be paid $30,000 a year to work these streets."

The governor's budget included $4 million to help bolster the probation program; the House has passed a version that includes $3 million for the same purpose.

Problems with the state's probation system came to light in March 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.

Lovette was also charged in the shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in January.

An internal review of their probation cases found a number of failures and oversights in how the two cases were handled.

As many as 10 staff touched Atwater's case file and did not address red flags, the investigation found. Probation officers also lost contact with him for more than a year.

Lovette's probation officer was handling 127 cases although she had not completed basic training and never met with him. She had also been on duty although she was charged with driving while impaired.

Guy said probation officers are carrying heavy caseloads due to constant turnover.

"If every position were filled, we're still able to manage, but the problem is vacancies," he said.

Department of Correction Secretary Theodis Beck said the probation division desperately needs more funding so they can raise officers' salaries.

"By and large, we've got a lot of good people trying to do a tough job," he said. "And for the most part, they do a good job under difficult circumstances."

"Let me tell you, when you start having to go into some of the places they have to go into at night knocking on doors, $50,000 may not be enough to keep them," he said.


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  • OneWarnin Jun 10, 2008

    Robert Guy is a typical bureaucrat. The system went south on his watch - why is he still in office. You want to solve the problem then put GPS locators on all of them - around their necks. Make removal of the GPS punishable by 40 years in prision. Have independent contractors track the bumbs and call the cops if the leave an assigned area without permission. Parole is a substitute for jail. Treat it as such. If parole officers don't make enough then eliminate the number of officers required to free up enough money to pay the remainder a decent wage (but increase the requirements for employment). Robert Guy can solve this problem with no increase in funds but he doesn't know how, and he wants us to pay for his ignorance. Get someone in the job who has the foresight and ability to do more than whine for money and blame his failures on a "lack of funds"! Funding isn't the problem a lack of vision and purpose is! Fire Robert Guy!

  • kaizon7 Jun 9, 2008

    I think every offender deserves a chance at rehabilitation, even a parolee. If, they aren't deserving of another chance, then why not just get rid of them. Wouldn't it be cheaper to execute them and by doing so, we will have solved at least two problems, ie. lowering prison/jail cost; reducing crime on the street by eliminating repeat offenders. What do you say?

  • whatusay Jun 6, 2008

    kaizon7...you are still missing the point...the most qualified person employeed by the Probation Section serves no purpose...meeting with a felon will not prevent him/her from committing future crimes. The state is wasting money by employing anyone to supervise a parolee. Fire them all..eliminate the probation section entirely. Those released early should be required to have a job or stay in jail.

  • kaizon7 Jun 6, 2008

    First of all, the state of NC wants the best probation/parole candidate to start at the least qualified pay. Does that even make any sense? Secondly, the judicial system puts repeat offenders on probation knowing they are not good candidates to be placed on probation, hoping that the probation officer can persuade them to obtain and keep a job even though most of them haven't worked in years. Court appointed attorneys, don't meet the person they represent until the day of court, yet when the judge asks them, how much time have you spent with this offender, its always between 2 - 6 hours. How can an attorney say they've represented a client for that long when they just met them a few seconds ago, and still get paid for representing them for hours? The money is being spent in the wrong direction. I know there is no immediate cure, but something needs to be addressed at a higher level than dealing with the foot soldier in the field. Don't look to blame the foot soldier to blame.

  • whatusay Jun 6, 2008

    ELIMINATE THE PROBATION DEPARTMENT ENTIRELY, it serves no purpose except to provide income at tax payers expense. It does not keep future crimes from occuring. I agree with oldschooltarheel...parolee's should have a job before being released early, and they should be required to stay at a half-way house. NC could save lots of money for more emportant things the citizens need by getting rid of the probation section all together.

  • oldschooltarheel Jun 6, 2008

    Time to re-think the entire probation concept. What we've got is clearly not working & no amount of $$$ or pointing fingers is going to rectify it. Clearly there is a population of probationers fail the terms of their probation. members of this group have recently committed some spectacularly heinous crimes - murders, vehicular homicides...
    I suggest changing the system. Convicts eligible for probation have to secure jobs before release. This could be done through Employment Security office. Upon release they should be required to live for 12+ months in 1/2 way houses - their behavior monitored on the job & at 1/2 way house. No show, back you go. They should be required to document their whereabouts & maintain house rules - or back to prison. This could be expanded to provide seasonal farm work & road maintenance work. A portion of their pay goes for their rent/supervision requirements & all of it is taxable. Ankle GPS bracelets could be incorporated. Violation = prison.

  • voiceofreason32 Jun 6, 2008

    I have applied for two positions. I have a Bachelors in Business (I know its not criminal justice) and six years of experience as a sworn law enforcement officer. I never heard back at all, you would think I am highly qualified.

  • Its All Right Here Jun 6, 2008

    The job requirements need to be re-evaluated. There is definitely something to be said for a combination of training and experience. A college degree is not the beat all end all solution when it comes to managing convicts.

    Some of the best correction employees I have witnessed came from the blue collar segment of society. Corrections is a daily game. What is needed are good game players, rather than highly educated suppositories of knowledge. When you're dealing with criminals that are street-wise, you need supervision that is street saavy to be successful.

  • Its All Right Here Jun 6, 2008

    Excuse me Secretary Beck and Director Guy, but rank and file law enforcement officers work with these offenders daily for much less than $50,000.00 per year. These same offenders are not even within the Department of Correction system yet and therefore include the more violent offenders that would be incarcerated rather than probationed or paroled. Even the correctional officers that supervise the most violent offenders in the Division of Prisons don't make that amount of money, even after attaining the rank of Correctional Captain.

    Truly, it is a poorly managed system. No one that spends the money and time required to attain a Bachelor's degree is going to be satisfied with an entry level position of $30,000.00 per year; however, you can find some seasoned correctional officers that are capable of doing the job appropriately that would be most happy with a promotion from a pay grade of 62 to a pay grade of 66 with the State of North Carolina.

    The job requirements need to be re-eval

  • twc Jun 6, 2008

    I'm kind of missing the logic here I believe. If there aren't enough probation officers paying them more won't help.