Gentlereaders: The debate throughout the country regarding parole and probation supervision is treatment versus enforcement. The discussion is decades old without resolution. With recent and encouraging research in offender treatment and reentry, it seems that we can help offenders who want to be helped to become tax payers rather than tax burdens.
Maybe the debate is pointless. Why not do both? Why not target offenders who pose a clear danger to public safety and work with law enforcement to return the offender to prison before he inflicts further harm? Consequently, why not provide the treatment services in prison and in the community to reduce the rate of return to prison (recidivism) and save taxpayer considerable sums of money?
Thirty-five of the 50 states now struggle with significant fiscal burdens and some are cutting programs that provide programming in prison and in the community. But the path to successful parole and probation initiatives now seems a lot clearer: target the dangerous for enforcement; provide programs for those who want to escape a life of drug addiction and crime.
Both make criminological and fiscal sense; but both require an increase in funds provided by states, and states are struggling to balance budgets.
The article below by Peter Herman of the Baltimore Sun offers the enforcement side of the equation. Hermann’s articles provide some the best crime analysis within the newspaper industry.
Crime in America.Net Staff.
Peter Hermann: In the details, catching the devil
By CRIME BEAT Peter Hermann peter.hermann
December 6, 2009
Baltimore County homicide detectives said they knew who pulled the trigger shortly after two men burst into a liquor store on Belair Road and fatally shot the owner in the head. The gunman had a stocking pulled over his head, but police said they could recognize him from a surveillance video.
Before making an arrest, they needed to assemble more evidence and build a conspiracy case against a gang police said was responsible for a string of city and county liquor store holdups that would total 16 in July. In the meantime, authorities wanted their prime suspect off the street.
So detectives turned to a program called Violence Prevention Initiative that was launched two years ago by state parole and probation agents to identify the area’s most violent offenders and single them out for tight scrutiny. People on this list get arrested for violating the most minor rules they must follow to be released from prison and remain free.
The man police had identified as the ringleader in the July 16 slaying and the other robberies had been paroled on a drug conviction. The parole board ordered him to get a job as a condition of his early release.
He failed, and once police linked him to the killing, probation agents quickly obtained an arrest warrant to put him back behind bars.
He got out five weeks later, and detectives, along with senior parole and probation agent Phil Rossetti, who works side by side with officers in the county homicide office, found another way to get him locked up again. He had failed to register his car.
By early November, Baltimore County police had charged that man and five others in connection with the holdups and in the shooting of 57-year-old Joon Am Kang, who had owned Putty Hill Liquors.
Being able to keep the suspect in jail bought detectives time to fully investigate – and they said not a single robbery occurred after he was first locked up on the parole violations in early August. He was held until he was charged with first-degree murder and several armed robbery counts two months later.
With 77,000 Marylanders under the supervision of state parole and probation agents, it’s impossible and impractical for all of them to be closely monitored. Each state agent typically watches more than 160 people at a time, and so-called “technical” violations, such as failing to register a car or get a job, might get noted and filed for future scrutiny at a hearing or by a judge, but rarely do such minor transgressions result in arrest warrants being issued.
Not so for the roughly 2,200 people in the Violence Prevention Initiative, more than half of whom are in Baltimore. Agents supervising these offenders watch over no more than 35 at a time, and during the past 18 months, more than 1,200 have had their parole or probation revoked.
This program for the first time puts parole and probation agents in the same offices and in the same meetings as local police. Rossetti works on the 10th floor of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Crimes Against Person section, which includes detectives investigating homicides, nonfatal shootings, armed robberies, sex offenses and other violent crime.
“Our number one priority is to get the most violent offenders off the street as soon as possible,” Rossetti said. Working closely with police allows him access to their files and their thoughts, and he knows immediately when an offender on his list is suspected in a crime.
For the rest of the article, please see http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bal-md.hermann06dec06,0,994835.story.