Legislators hammered corrections and parole officials Wednesday for running a system that allowed officers to waste time and tax dollars “monitoring” 82 dead criminal offenders. The revelation raises many questions, among them is how closely tabs are being kept on former inmates who’re actually still among the living, they said.
“Its troubling enough to find out that we have employees who are supervising dead people. But those dead people aren’t exactly a menace to society today,” said outgoing Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, during the Government Operations joint subcommittee on Capitol Hill.
“So my greater concern is what about the employees who are claiming to supervise people who are a threat to society, who are a menace to society. How do we know how much of this is taking place, that we have people who are claiming to check on folks and they’re not actually doing that?” he said.
The issue, one of eight highlighted in a damning state report released this week, prompted lawmakers to set a one-year deadline for the state Department of Correction and the Board of Probation and Parole to fix the problems. Pending approval from the Legislature, both agencies will be under the microscope of auditors in a year with a report due back to the Legislature in 2014.
But state officials say the timeframe is not realistic.
“It would take Superman to do that, and we don’t have Superman. He’s a great commissioner, but he’s not Superman,” Charles Traughber, chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole, said of DOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, whose department is taking over monitoring parolees. Previously, the probation board did that.
The findings were “egregious” and “of such a magnitude that they require an immediate and urgent response,” Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said.
The state report found that Probation and Parole Board workers were still checking in on parolees who had died, some 19 years ago. The report by the Comptroller’s office also found that 80 percent of GPS-monitored offender alarms “appear unmonitored.”
Assistant Correction Commissioner Gary Tullock said the agency fired two parole officers responsible for much of the faulty reporting on dead offenders, but Schofield said other employees likely contributed to the high number of erroneous reports.
According to the Department of Correction, the state monitors 13,000 offenders on parole and 56,000 people on probation. The state also supervises 7,500 people in community correction, a program that keeps less violent offenders out of prisons.
Overall, that’s 3,175 more offenders under state observation this year than last year, though the number of parole officers has not increased, Tullock said.
However, Schofield said it’s too early to say whether he’ll ask the governor to add to his department’s yearly budget.
“The first thing we say is we’re short-staffed. If you look at and examine how we supervise and how we do things, there’s always opportunities to find resources. If we need those resources, we will present that to the governor,” he told reporters.