Local News

Federal Agency Being Asked to Review State Probation Offices

Posted April 14, 2008 4:32 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2008 8:47 p.m. EDT

— The state Department of Correction is going to ask a U.S. Department of Justice agency to review training and practices of probation offices in the state's urban areas, where caseloads are heavy and courtrooms are packed.

DOC spokesman Keith Acree said an official letter of request will go out this week to the National Institute of Corrections, which provides policy development assistance, technical assistance and training to federal, state and local prison agencies.

The request comes nearly two weeks after the DOC's Division of Community Corrections released results of an internal probe regarding the probation cases of two men charged in the death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

The suspects in the case, Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, were both on probation at the time of Carson's March 5 death. The internal investigation found a number of failures and oversights in how their cases were handled.

Acree said the NIC would look at case management, staffing levels, employee training and how North Carolina compares with what other states are doing.

Three employees in the Durham County probation office have resigned in the past few weeks, including Lovette's probation officer, Chalita Thomas. She had been on administrative duty because of a DWI charge in December.

Acree said he doesn't know if the other resignations are connected to the current investigation into the offices in Durham and Wake counties.

At least three members of senior management of the Wake County office have been reassigned. Acree said further disciplinary action likely would follow.

"At this point, I'm comfortable saying there will be personnel action. What, I don't know yet," he said.

State House Judiciary Chairman Dan Blue, D-Wake, said he hopes the internal investigation will be fair.

"What you want to see in reports that are internally generated is to make sure they have a sense of objectivity about them," Blue said.

Probation officials defend their course of action, saying the internal look will help identify the local breakdown.

They hope to have take their findings to the General Assembly when it convenes in May.