This article is not exclusive to sex offenders; however, it gives a good illustration to our insane attitudes about incarceration and punishment in America.
Special Report: Pardon and parole
Updated: Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 10:03 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 10:03 PM CST
Photojournalist: Robert Brown, Riccardo Montgomery
(WALA) - When prison overcrowding is so bad that early release is granted to well-behaved prisoners, and judges are told to punish with the least jail time possible, more criminals get out of jail sooner than they should.
[Comments: Alabama gives ridiculously long sentences for petty offenses, and the USA in general gives the longest prison sentences in the world on average. By "sooner than they should," they mean anything LESS than the maximum penalty]
The State of Alabama has the highest case load ratio of officer to parolee in the country. Once inmates are free, the state doesn't have enough parole officers to keep track of them. Cynthia Dillard heads up the Pardon and Parole Board in Montgomery. She said they catch a lot of blame for people getting out of prison and then re-offending. "When people are released from prison, everyone thinks they must be on parole. But over a third of them are getting out on a split sentence probation that's ordered by the judge, nothing to do with the parole board. Another third are getting out end of sentence neither probation or parole," Dillard explained.
[Comments: I was floored. A third of inmates do every day of their sentences! Split sentences are common in Alabama. Split sentencing is a form of determinate sentencing. For example, if you get a 10 split 3 (10/3), you do three years and the rest on probation. Notice also the caseload for parole officers, yet they still find the time to arrest someone for being unale to pay the $30 a month probation fee.]
Prisoners who are serving a split sentence, life without parole, or are facing the death penalty are the only ones who are not eligible for parole. Dillard said every single other inmate is guaranteed by law to be considered by the board for early release. Dillard put the parole consideration process in perspective. "Their sentences are coming up. Say, they are going to EOS (end their sentence) in two years. The board has to look at them and say, 'Now, do I really want to parole this sex offender who could get out and the next day molest another child? And have that on my conscience and have that child damaged? Or do I want to look at is as if I let this person out a year early we could get him registered as a sex offender, we could help him get established where he needs to go, making sure under condition that he not have any contact with children, that he not go certain places? And we tell him where he can work, tell him where he can live, and make it lot less likely he is going to violate another child.' That's a big decision, you know," she said.
[Comments: This is the typical mentality of society, and it is sad to see this coming from the mouths of those in charge of rehabilitating former offenders. Let Big Brother tell you where you can work and live. Every sex offender is suspected of being a threat]
The complications in the system only get worse. The Board of Pardon and Paroles budget has been cut by $10 million in state funding. The lack of money is forcing each officers case load to get heavier every month. But the numbers show that someone who is paroled or on probation and under strict supervision has a better chance of staying out of prison than someone who walks out end of sentence and has no contact with an officer. Thirty-eight percent of people released EOS return to prison within three years.
[Comments: I'd like to note that is a general recidivism rate, which means that any parolee that commits any type of crime, as opposed to a parolee who commits the same crime. A bank robber who later gets busted with a joint is a "general recidivist" but not a "specific recidivist." Yes having supervision is important but having a positive support network is better.]
Alabama employs fewer than 300 officers who supervise 67,000 parolees and probationers. The question is: How strict is the supervision? "Our average case load per officer right now is 196 per officer, plus they have to write these mandatory pre-sentence investigations and that's a major problem," said Dillard. "So one parole officer who is working out in the field is responsible for making sure that about 196 people are coming to him, being drug tested and have a job and are following the rules?" FOX10 asked. "Exactly. And there's usually a lot of rules. It is scary," Dillard added. Dillard said her officers do great work even against the odds.
[Comment: There is a lot of rules on parolees. Unfortuntely, POs have nearly godlike powers and can impose very strict rules]
Much like the prison system in Florida, the parole/probation arm of the corrections system in Florida is fully funded by the state. Florida law mandates that each parole officers case not exceed the range of 70-90. If that figure is exceeded, the state is responsible for providing money to hire more officers.
The American Probation Parole Association recommends no more than 70 cases per supervising officer. Once again, Alabama ranks in the highest percentile of overloaded correction systems. The problem now is too many people in the State of Alabama are on probation or parole because there is no room for them in prison. It's also a bargain for the state to keep on probation or parole. It cost about $41 a day to keep someone in prison vs $1.87 to supervise them on parole or probation.
In Mobile County alone, there are more than 500 people who are wanted for violation of their parole or probation. With the number of outstanding cases parole officers don't have enough time to track down everyone.
[Comments: Maybe if Alabama did not inarcerate people for such long periods of time, there would not be such a problem. Alabama prisons are at twice the intended capacity.]