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GOP state legislators propose probation fixes

Posted February 10, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Two Republican state lawmakers Tuesday announced a plan that they say can help fix the state's troubled probation system.

probation N.C. legislative GOP wants bettter probation system

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, filed Senate Bill 123, which would allow any law enforcement officer to perform warrantless searches on probationers. It would also require probationers to submit to random drug tests.

"This is a way to address our growing crime problem, our growing criminal problem," Berger said.

Of the 117,779 people on probation or parole in the state, 60 percent have court-ordered warrantless searches and 68 percent have court-ordered drug testing, according to the North Carolina Department of Correction.

Approximately 14,000 are unaccounted for, including 942 in Wake County and 832 in Durham County.

That's why Berger and Stam say they also sent a letter to Gov. Bev Perdue asking that the state publish on the Internet a list of all probation absconders and their last known addresses.

"If we put on a Web site their pictures and last known address – there are 8 million people statewide who might know where some of them are," Stam said.

Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said the governor welcomes all suggestions and that her office is looking forward to working with the General Assembly on the issue.

Sarah Preston, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said that people on probation or parole should expect less privacy. The organization's concern, however, is that others who share a house or car could be mistakenly or illegally searched.

Republican leaders say some study is needed, but hope their ideas will prompt changes.

The state's probation-parole system came under intense scrutiny last year when suspects charged in a number of high-profile criminal cases were found to be on probation when the crimes occurred.

Most publicized were the cases of two men charged in the shooting deaths of University of North Carolina senior Eve Carson in March and Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in January 2008.

Probation officers lost track of the suspects in those cases, despite other arrests and charges. One suspect was in court days before Carson's slaying, but the matter was rescheduled.

Robert Guy, then-director of the state Department of Correction's Division of Community Corrections, defended his staff during an interview in December, saying the work that probation officers do is limited, in part, by funding and staffing needs.

Since problems came to light, the state has allocated $2.5 million for new jobs in probation and parole offices.

All probation officers are also now required to use a new, $75,000, Web-based information system that allows them to better track their caseloads.


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  • Jeff_W Feb 11, 2009

    People should remember that Probation means the offender gets early release or avoids prison/jail; however, they are still subject to punishment for their crimes. (i.e.... the should be a ward of the State). Just because we are not physically housing them, does not mean they should not be subject to the same rules and requirements, searches as all the other prisoners.

    That is what probation is.... a Prisoner without the bars. It is their time to earn the right to be back in society. They should have as little right to freedom and expectation of privacy as any other prisoner. PERIOD!

  • james27613 Feb 10, 2009

    Lets put them in tent jails for the minor offenders.
    Bologna or ham sandwich for lunch, dinner is mac and cheese.
    feed them same menu they give the kids at school.
    that will keep them from being a repeat convict.

    three electric fences, build it out in the country so it
    will be isolated.

  • james27613 Feb 10, 2009

    colliedave, you are 100% correct,
    just like those that skip bail, they loose.

    Drug tests and lets add firearms search,
    test them for GSR (gun shot residue).

  • colliedave Feb 10, 2009

    A probationer has been convicted of a crime and in place of being sent to prison, he has been placed on probation. His civil rights have not been restored so he should be to be searched w/o a warrent.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Feb 10, 2009

    The problem with the probation system is not that the probation officers do not have authority to conduct searches or perform drug tests. They already have the authority to do both. Thus, this bill is not going to remedy the real problem of officers losing track of their probationers, which is not a system wide problem; only in high population counties like Wake, Durham and maybe a couple more. Another real problem is legislators who think they have to get their names on a bill for re-election purposes, which results in more worthless legislation than anything else. The true test of a piece of legislation is whether it solves the identified problem.

  • whatusay Feb 10, 2009

    oftenbad....where did you get that $10,000/day to keep a criminal in jail? Arizona houses them for less than $25/day.

  • lili64 Feb 10, 2009

    I never have understood how these folks can plead guilty and say they're not. They always have an excuse. I was with the wrong crowd or it wasn't me,well guess what? Nobody sat with a gun to make them plead guilty either on their on or w/ a lawyer. Why would any individual admit to something they honestly didn't do? Is that common sense? Most of these folks try to pass off the reason they are positive for marijuana is they are sitting in a room where it is being smoked. The public would not believe the lengths these people will go to if they think they are going to be drug tested,like strapping someone elses urine sample in a container taped inside your leg so if you are tested you can give a clean sample, but a witness is required for the test,thats when they get busted.

  • lili64 Feb 10, 2009

    To larryhorse2008:
    Start checking towards the southern most part of the state-you might find some judges/DA's/ADA's.....

    As for the system,it worked fine until Structured Sentencing came about in 1994 and took effect and that was due to our legislators, the same ones that want to TOUGHEN up now. Sounds like they can't make up their minds...and then came along more "potted plant" issues with the induction of SS and time wasted on such trival matters, then employees where darn if they do,darn if they don't and forgot all about the ones who are actually pullin the load.

  • Hip-Shot Feb 10, 2009

    "...It does not prevent future crimes. It is a waste of money. Millions and millions of dollars wasted ..."

    I cannot see that the probation officers doing their job is a waste of money. If they had been tracking their clients properly perhaps several murders by convicted felons(such as the Carson case) may not have happened. The bulk of probationers are going to follow the terms of their probation, or close to it: the one's that don't are the ones we need to track down and lock up. if they have an appointment with their officer, they need to keep it. Any breaches need to be followed up on.

    Nobody is trying to take away any civil liberties: these people gave up certain rights and liberties when they were found guilty in a court of law. To be released early or with a lesser sentence involves following certain standards, which either need to be followed or they need to be locked back up.

  • larryhorse2008 Feb 10, 2009

    If the probationer doesnt like it, go back to prison. Miss one appointment- prison. Get caught drinking or drugging- prison. Have a gun- prison. Its time we get tough with criminals and protect the rights of citizens who obey the law.
    February 10, 2009 1:45 p.m.
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    now get some of the judges that do not and refuse to revoke probationers to serve there active time to do there jobs and stop sending these scum back on the streets to kill!

    wish the media would publish the judges names that put lovell and atwater and all the other 499 dead peoples killers out there so you can see who is really tuff on crime and who is soft as a noodle!

    start at the top!