Local News

Federal consultants prepare to review state's probation system

Posted May 5, 2008 7:22 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2008 10:30 a.m. EDT

— A federal review team Monday began working to identify problems in the state's probation system and suggest ways to eliminate them.

An internal investigation of the system's oversight of the two men charged in the killing of Eve Carson, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president, pointed to problems, including staffing, training and communication.

Demario James Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., charged with Carson's slaying, were on probation when she was killed. The men were improperly tracked by probation officers despite other arrests and missed appointments.

After the Carson case brought problems to light, the National Institute of Corrections, a U.S. Justice Department agency, agreed to review probation management in the state's urban areas.

State officials, seeking advice on improving the system, met Monday face-to-face for the first time with NIC consultants.

“We're not here to try to look at a single office to say this is a good office or a bad office,” said George Keiser, chief of Community Corrections at the NIC. “Part of what we'll be looking at is what is North Carolina doing right now."

Advisers will examine case management, staffing levels, employee training and other areas of concern within the system.

A big challenge for probation offices is technology. When police agencies pull over or arrest a suspect, officers cannot find out immediately if that person is on probation.

Attorney General Roy Cooper announced last week he is trying to correct that by moving probation and parole information into a State Bureau of Investigation database that police access.

Cooper wants the SBI Division of Criminal Information's system to alert law enforcement officers about people on probation, parole or under post-release supervision.

Since 2006, 932 people have been arrested for a serious crime while they were on probation.

Keiser said he hopes NIC consultants will be able to release recommendations within three months.

As a federal agency, the NIC will also pick up the cost of the review. The agency does as many as 70 consulting jobs a year, but reviewing the state probation system is considered to be among the most complex.