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Budget includes $2.5M for probation improvements

The money is to go to help the system keep better track of offenders, but spending will have to wait for a national agency's recommendations.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The murders of UNC undergrad Eve Carson and Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato exposed problems in the state's probation system. Now, lawmakers are answering the call for change with a special earmark in the state budget.

In the 2008-09 budget approved and sent to Gov. Mike Easley this week, lawmakers set aside $2.5 million to keep better track people on probation. Easley had proposed $4 million. The House of representatives had included $3 million in its version of the budget

How to spend the money, however, depends on recommendations from the National Institute of Corrections, a federal agency in the Department of Justice. The institute agreed to provide a team to look at case management, staffing levels, employee training and other areas of concern.

Probation officers did not properly track the men charged with killing Carson and Mahato. The suspects were arrested repeatedly while they were on probation for serious crimes, then released on bond.

The Wake and Durham probation offices are under pressure to do better, and temporary managers are overseeing that process.

In addition to the additional $2.5 million for probation, lawmakers set aside $140,000 to upgrade computer programs.

Law enforcement agencies don't automatically know if a suspect is on probation when arrested, and probation officers don't automatically know if someone on their list has been arrested for another crime.

A recently announced computer system improvement aims to connect the various state systems to alleviate the problem.


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