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Lawmakers consider spending on probation system

Posted October 7, 2008

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— State probation officials say salaries for probation officers are not competitive and that better pay is needed to attract employees and help reduce a high turnover rate among officers.

"You are looking at $31,000 to start as a college graduate with no work experience," Division of Community Corrections Director Robert Guy told North Carolina lawmakers who met Tuesday to discuss how to allot $2.5 million from the state budget to the state's troubled probation system.

Among the 1,040 intermediate-level probation officers who work with high-risk offenders, Guy said 24 have reached a mid-grade pay of $40,000 or more after years of service.

In comparison, he said, some local law enforcement agencies begin new employee salaries at approximately $37,000.

Higher salaries was among 35 recommendations earlier this year from the National Institute of Corrections, which reviewed probation issues after the deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Marie Carson.

George Keiser, the NIC's chief of community corrections, agreed with Guy, saying hiring was key to improving the system.

"If the salaries don't keep pace, the prospects are dismal," he said. He recommended raising starting pay, training for officers and applying standardized procedures.

But higher pay rates would require action by state lawmakers and are not part of the $2.5 million earmarked to improve staffing, tracking and processes.

What is, however, is more than $1.7 million per year to hire an additional 20 intermediate probation officers and six supervisors, state Secretary of Correction Theodis Beck said.

The remainder of the money would be spent on a mentoring program within the department and on additional software and training to improve employees' efficiency.

Legislators are heard an update on efforts on integrating court records and data so law enforcement and probation officers and the court system have access to the same information.

The state is buying $2 million in software from SAS for a pilot program in Wake County that is expected to be launched by May 1.

There's no timeline, however, for it to go statewide.

Keiser and Beck both also said that better access to juvenile records would help probation officers manage offenders as they transition into the adult criminal system.

That was part of the problem with Laurence Alvin Lovette, 17, one of the suspects in Carson's and Mahato's shooting deaths. He and Demario James Atwater, 22, also charged in Carson's death, were on probation at the time they were arrested.

Probation officers had overlooked each suspect, according to an internal review of how their cases were handled.

14 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 8, 2008

    freddie cadetti 72, do you have any proof to back up your vacuous assertion?

  • CozyCake Oct 7, 2008

    What I find humourous - in a dark sort of way- is this story is just above the one about budget tightening for the state. My what ineffieciency can do!

  • james27613 Oct 7, 2008

    Lets subcontract the Probation system to Walmart,
    they have a great system to track all employees via
    an 800 number, want to call out sick, call the 800 number
    and get a secret code, then call your store manager to give
    them the code or you loose your job.

    ..................................
    "1.7 million for 26 employees? That's $65,000 each. Who are they hiring? Mary Easely?"

    Not only do you have to consider benefits, but you have to train the new personell. It's not a salary of 65K for each, that's just the total cost to the state. Would you prefer to pay someone $7/hr who doesn't care, or really try to fix the system?

  • ifcdirector Oct 7, 2008

    A good percentage of North Carolina lawmakers should be in the probation system at best.

  • freddie cadetti 72 Oct 7, 2008

    How about this time hire qualified people, and not be so quick to attain some affirmative action quota. Then set strict guidelines and oversight into their performance.

  • Mommyoftwo Oct 7, 2008

    The AVERAGE pay per officer would be approximately $40k. That is not unreasonable. Soc. Security is 7.65% of that or $3,060. Mandatiry retirement contributions is $3,200 and then health premiums, and other benefits as well as unemployment insurance and the like. Having 6 more chiefs and 20 probation officers of varying levels is a step in the right direction. Let's keep in mind that probation officers START at $32k and chiefs make approx. $43k.m I don't see where that income is "high level". If you're lucky that's above poverty level in this day and age!

  • Corvus Oct 7, 2008

    So they are going to up the starting salaries for new employees. That would mean that officers already working would be making less than the someone who is just hired. This was mentioned in the NIC report. It is not right to hire people at a higher rate of pay than Probation Officers with years of experience. Next they will waste more money on a study of officer pay rates.

  • IHave1-2 Oct 7, 2008

    Well, this is a start, but the cost should be higher... or spread out over more people to hire. The money needs to go to where it is needed, not fattening more pork spending budgets.

  • dko Oct 7, 2008

    The probation system in NC is a joke not just in Durham & Wake but Wayne County I know someone arrested 4 probation violations and failure to appear and was given a $300.00 bond he beat the cops back on the street . He is now on bail foe assault and battery . It is just ridiculous . He will kill this girl the next time he gets mad. Then he may go to jail.

  • boingc Oct 7, 2008

    "1.7 million for 26 employees? That's $65,000 each. Who are they hiring? Mary Easely?"

    Not only do you have to consider benefits, but you have to train the new personell. It's not a salary of 65K for each, that's just the total cost to the state. Would you prefer to pay someone $7/hr who doesn't care, or really try to fix the system?

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