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Outgoing probation chief: More needed than leadership change

Posted January 9, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— The outgoing director of the state probation system says new leadership, alone, won't fix the issues facing the troubled institution.

"They've got to find the money to provide the resources for these probation officers," Robert Guy said this week. "They've got to find the money to provide the pay raises to keep good people. If we do not do this, then it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Probation chief leaves post Probation chief leaves post

After 12 years as head of the Division of Community Corrections, Guy is retiring from the post, effective Feb. 1 – a decision he made late last year after more than 10 months of controversy and heavy scrutiny of how effectively the agency tracks offenders on probation.

Problems were brought to public attention in the wake of the shooting deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in January and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson in March.

Two suspects from Durham who are charged in the slayings were on probation at the time of the crimes, and an internal probe into their case files found their managing officers overlooked them, partly because of being overworked and undertrained.

Durham and Wake counties' probation offices were disorganized, inefficient and "in a crisis situation" with their work forces at the time, according to investigative reports.

Since then, though, Guy says the program has undergone numerous changes, including new district management and a stronger leadership team.

"There are multiple things we've accomplished," Guy said. "We've put very good people in positions of management. We've had problems, but they've been addressed."

In addition, the General Assembly has allocated $2.5 million for jobs to alleviate understaffing and to fill more than 160 vacant positions across the state. Probation officers are also using a new $75,000 Web-based information system to help them more efficiently track their caseloads.

And despite the negatives of the system, Guy says his staff does a lot of good that the media have ignored.

"They don't talk about those lives we save every day, how many victims we've protected from being victimized again," he said. "The success stories don't get told."

Guy has also been the target for criticism from local leaders, some of whom have said the probation issues are an embarrassment to the state and have called for Governor-elect Beverly Perdue to "clean house" in her administration.

Her transition office announced last Friday that Guy would not return. He said he was told the administration likely would not ask him to stay on in his role.

Guy maintains the blame can't be placed on only him, however.

"As the head of the agency, I've accepted the responsibility. But at the same time, the system has to accept the responsibility of our failures," Guy said.

The work that probation officers do is limited, in part, by resources – funding and staffing needs, he says. Judges' decisions in courts, where offenders are sentenced, and state laws, which shield juvenile criminal records, are also factors that play into the broken system.

"From the Legislature that passes the policy and writes the laws to the whole, entire court system that's underfunded, I think there's some room for improvement there," Guy said.

And the community plays a part, too, in the form of job skills and training programs – partners Guy says the agency does not have.

"Everybody thinks this is a state problem or a probation problem. No, it's a community problem," he said. "It's everybody's responsibility in the community to do something about this."

22 Comments

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  • clickclackity2 Jan 9, 2009

    There's obviously flaws, but sick of hearing about this. It's not his decision and the head of the department can hire who she feels like. I'm sure he got the job that he's had for 12 years, the same way that he's losing the job. Stop crying when it now affects yourself in a negative way.

  • james27613 Jan 9, 2009

    Most of these criminals should not be on probation.

    You use a firearm in a crime, NO DEALS, NO PLEA,
    12 Year in jail. No early release, no mtv, no espn, no nothing.

    Already a convict on probation and you do more crime,
    go back to jail, no deal no plea no nothing.

    No need for expensive jails, put them in tent city jails,
    out in the country with three tall electric fences,
    put security collars on them, if they leave the third fence,
    the explosive charge takes them out fast.

    No I am not joking, it will work.

  • dhamma Jan 9, 2009

    Its funny that the folks that are blaming Mr Guy have no idea what they are talking about. They simply base all their facts on what they see on TV. The Media including WRAL only wants to focus on what will sale a story and get folks fired up. I cannot even recall when they reported on any of the positive measure DOC has implemented. I worked for DOC under Mr Guy and I know first hand the difficulties he has faced. Only now is the state providing the resources Mr Guy has asked for , for the last 10 years. It took someone getting killed for them to do this. If you ask me he should not be taking the blame for some of the lower managers inability to do their jobs. It all sounds easy, but if you have ever worked a government job thats full of politics and favors you may start to understand. Simply puting less folks on Probation? Then you will complain about paying taxes for the new prisons they have to build. Remember this situation 2 years from now when the new administration fails.

  • micckmac Jan 9, 2009

    Do not agree a PPO needs to find an offender a job. More enforcement/accountability on the offender, less of the social "hug-a-thug" policies. Back to basics and what the Court judgement orders. Probation needs to go to Crime Control Public Safety and away from prisons, 2 entirely different systems. Court system overhaul, less pleas by ADA'a, Judges over/over putting same on probation. Make all PPO's armed and create uniformity/accountibilty across the state, initiate a admin/court intake section, so PPO can focus on supervision/enforcement. BUT ALL THAT MAKES SENSE.

  • littlegramma Jan 9, 2009

    He is right that it will take more than a chcange of leadership! Let's hope BP realizes this an fund the department and the people of the state finally realize they can't keep reelecting the same ol' same ol' to lead the state and try someone new! Maybe in '10 we can get some conservative Republicans elected and we can change this state into something not to be laughed at! Think about it!

  • Sweetgrl3 Jan 9, 2009

    we all know they system needs to be updated. However, Robert....you just need to hush and go. All we are hearing is Poor Poor Robert. I don't understand why you were not shocked. The whole state knew and was praying you would leave. This is the first positive thing we have seen.

  • ifcdirector Jan 9, 2009

    Too bad his last day didn't come before Eve Carson's.

  • IfByWhiskey-a-go-go Jan 9, 2009

    I agree with w703. This system is designed to be a cash-cow for lawyers. Lawyers and the courts make money when people are on probation, and the public is at risk. Lock 'em up, and the cash cow dries up. Shame on the legislature for putting citizens at risk so the lawyers get rich. 20% OF CONVICTED CRIMINALS COMMIT 80% OF VIOLENT CRIMES, it's been proven. You think the lawyers and those that lobby for them do not know this? Lock these people up for good and the crime problem starts to go away. Can't do that, lawyers make less in fees. DIGUSTING.

  • RebelRabbi Jan 9, 2009

    Well, the new Administration will lose one of the few "Good" Managers left in State Government. I hope that they will drop the Social Worker act and hire Law Enforcement Certified people in the future. PPO needs to take a shrp turn in the direction of enforcement. My 2 cents!

  • w703center Jan 9, 2009

    I was a probtion officer for 13 years and I was present when Mr. Guy left eastern NC to take his post in Raleigh. Mr. Guy should not be crucified for a system that has always had serious pitfalls, both in court, manpower, and low pay. The caseloads were often unmanageable and judges would refuse to put offenders in jail even when it was obvious that's where they belonged. Efforts were made to keep people on the streets and the officers struggled to keep track of their people. But probation officers did their best, even with antiqated equipment. I was proud to be a probation officer and did my best to make the system work.

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