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Lapses in Oversight of Parolees

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Auditor General Jack Wagner Faults Board of Probation and Parole for Lapses in Oversight of Parolees
Cites Failure to Monitor Missing Parolees and Parolee Treatment Plans

HARRISBURG, June 11, 2009 – Auditor General Jack Wagner faulted the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole for lapses in oversight of parole agents and parolees, which could result in parolees not being adequately supervised by the state, according to a special performance audit released today of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.

Auditors found that, from a sample of 24 parolees declared absconded, or missing, 9 had failed to meet with their parole officer for 3 years and 4 had failed for 5 years.

“This inadequate oversight by the Board of Probation and Parole is a serious potential threat to the safety of the public, especially at a time when crime is rising due to current economic conditions. Now more than ever, government must step up and be even more vigilant and do all that it can to protect the public from paroled criminals,” Wagner said. Wagner added, “While we recognize that the challenges faced by criminal justice agencies are numerous, it is our hope that our audit recommendations will heighten the safety of both the residents of Pennsylvania and the various law enforcement officials entrusted with protecting our communities.”

The audit also found that the Board of Probation and Parole failed to adequately monitor rehabilitation treatment that parolees were required to attend. Wagner said the board failed to ensure that parolee treatment information was timely entered into its computer database, failed to establish and implement adequate policies and procedures for documenting treatment received by parolees, and failed to exercise senior-level accountability over monitoring rehabilitation treatment for offenders. Instead, the board designated individual supervisors solely with this responsibility.

“Failing to have an effective system to monitor parolee treatment activity limits the Board of Probation and Parole’s ability to assess the adequacy of parolee treatment programs, and to determine whether adjustments are necessary to improve treatment outcomes,” Wagner said. “Assuring the proper treatment and completion of parolee rehabilitation plans must be a priority of the board, and it should also be monitored at the senior level.”

In addition, Wagner’s auditors found that the Board of Probation and Parole failed to provide evidence that parole supervisors reviewed parolee case file records for nearly 50 percent of the supervision checklists requested.

Furthermore, Wagner said his auditors identified case file deficiencies consisting of incomplete and inadequate supervision plans, incomplete records of interview, and failure to make the required number of face-to-face-contacts with parolees and collateral contacts. Wagner’s auditors also found that the supervisor case review checklist did not address the requirement to ensure that parole agents complete quarterly searches for absconders, nor did the checklist require supervisors to verify agents reacted timely when declaring a parolee an absconder. Parole agents have up to 30 days to conduct a diligent search for an offender before declaring him/her an absconder. Parole agents have 48 hours to file a delinquency request form once the parolee is determined to be unavailable for supervision to request the board declare the parolee an absconder. This request results in an arrest warrant being issued for the absconder.

Based on a sample of 24 absconder case files, auditors determined that parole agents failed to timely react in 13 percent of the cases, or three parolees, who missed appointments or were unaccounted for; one parole agent waited 53 days to file the delinquency request form after the parolee failed to show up for a scheduled appointment.

Wagner also said that his auditors were unable to validate the Board of Probation and Parole’s assertions about the ratio of cases per parole agent due to the board’s failure to provide his auditors with agent and caseload information that was requested during the audit.

“Residents of the commonwealth have a legitimate expectation that their government will make every effort to ensure the safety and well being of the general public,” Wagner said. “Failing to provide agent and caseload related information purports a sense of secrecy as opposed to a sense of openness with regard to citizens’ confidence in government, and that must be changed.”

The audit, which covered the period July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2006, included follow-up procedures performed and concluded as of May 15, 2009, to determine if a study commissioned by Governor Edward G. Rendell impacted any of the audit report’s findings. Wagner’s auditors found that the study did not pertain to the stated audit objectives contained in the audit report, which is available at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us. Wagner’s audit included a total of four findings, and 11 recommendations.

Wagner’s recommendations for improving the Board of Probation and Parole’s oversight included that the board:
Cease destroying documents that evidence proper internal controls, and develop a retention policy for checklist and other monitoring documents
Monitor rehabilitation treatment plans at the senior level, and ensure timely entry of treatment information into the Parole Follow-up System
Improve monitoring procedures for verifying that parole agents attempt to locate absconders and ensure compliance with the 30-day and 48-hour requirements
Take the necessary action to achieve and maintain a sufficient level of case-to-staff ratios.

Wagner’s audit report also contained an observation, encouraging the Board of Probation and Parole to implement the use of global positioning system (GPS) technology to monitor sexually violent offenders. Wagner recommended that the Board of Probation and Parole request that the General Assembly amend current law to require five years of GPS monitoring for all sex offenders released on parole who are caught after failing to register with state or local police as required, and for sexually violent predators whose victims are children.

“GPS Technology has been used effectively in many counties in Pennsylvania. It is time for the Board of Probation and Parole to adopt this technology as a tool in the process of monitoring parolees,” Wagner said.

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits, and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts approximately 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s Web site at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

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