Audit criticizes parole division | NevadaAppeal.com

Audit criticizes parole division

A shortage of parole and probation officers is one of the reasons parolees aren’t being watched closely enough, legislative auditors said Thursday.

Prison officials said turnover and recruiting by local police departments explained some of the difficulty.

In answer, Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, suggested Thursday that local agencies reimburse the state for training costs when they steal parole and probation staff.

Auditors said parole and probation officers actually keep about 60 percent of the required meetings with offenders and that the division still has high turnover.

Parole and Probation Chief Carlos Concha said the 10 percent pay raise approved in 1997 was designed to reduce the loss of trained personnel to other agencies. He said it helped but that Clark and Washoe counties as well as federal parole offices still hire most of the state’s people away. He said that’s a problem since it takes about nine months and costs up to $30,000 before an officer is trained and experienced enough.

“But if I walk into federal probation, right now, in Las Vegas, 90 percent of the staff would be from our office,” he said.

He said the same would be true at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and other statewide police agencies.

That prompted Marvel to ask whether the Legislature should mandate those agencies to pay the state back for training costs.

A proposal which died in the 1999 session would have made the officers pay back the state for training if they leave before spending at least a couple of years on the job.

Auditor Darin Conforti told the audit subcommittee that the division has fallen far short of making timely initial visits to newly released inmates, taking an average of 123 days for the first meeting at the offender’s home.

That meeting is supposed to happen within 10 days of the inmate’s release from prison.

The auditors said some of those offenders didn’t see a parole officer at their home for 250 days.

The officers working the Reno area did the best in the state, keeping up the required contacts 79 percent of the time. Elko was the worst at just 45 percent while Las Vegas, with the majority of paroled convicts, was just 54 percent.

Conforti made it clear that this low percentage gives parolees far too much latitude.

In addition, he said Parole and Probation didn’t always mandated drug tests. Four different offenders under drug test requirements weren’t tested for 64 months.

He said another area where the division fell short was in collecting supervision fees mandated by lawmakers who say parolees should help pay the cost of keeping an eye on them. Some $900,000 in supervision fees went uncollected in 1998 because of poor practices, inaccurate records and too many fee exemptions.

Concha agreed with auditors that the caseload per officer hasn’t increased in recent years. In fact, it went down after lawmakers added more staff and increased salaries, enabling him to make more hires.

He said he and his deputies are now auditing what their officers are doing to ensure they meet appointments and monitor activities.

He said part of the problem is the number of new requirements and new programs added in recent years – including parole programs for DUI offenders and requiring collection of supervision fees.

“We’ve never collected what we’re required to,” he said.

Concha said the division is working on improving its records but that the collection of fees will continue to be a problem because many of those offenders just don’t make enough money to pay fees.

“We have sanctions for offenders who do not pay that we can’t enforce,” he said. “We’re not, and judges are not, about to send some one back to prison because they can’t pay their supervision fees.”