HARRISBURG - The state Board of Probation and Parole is failing to properly oversee how well its officers are doing their jobs, which could result in parolees being inadequately supervised by the state, according to a report released today by Auditor General Jack Wagner.
The audit also found that parole agents did not always react timely to missing parolees - and that once those people were declared "absconded," officers failed to properly attempt to locate them.
The audit did not examine whether any of those parolees went on to commit crimes.
"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," Wagner said. "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."
Officials from the Board of Probation and Parole did not respond to requests for an interview.
But Wagner's audit indicates that its top officials disagree and rebut many of the findings.
Wagner's auditors write in the report that the board could not provide them with nearly half of the documentation required to be completed by supervisors who evaluate parole officers.
Auditors also said that in some instances, parole agents failed to make the required number of face-to-face contacts with parolees. For instance, from a sample of 24 parolees declared absconded or missing, nine had not met with their parole officer for three years and four had not met with their parole officer for five years.
Wagner's audit also states that auditors could not independently corroborate how many cases parole officers are assigned. Auditors specifically requested Philadelphia's case-to-staff ratio, but were denied the information.
In an interview today, Wagner said that the audit illustrates a "breakdown in the board's management system," and that he believes that parole officers are trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability, given their increased caseload over the years.
He also said his office believes the board's top officials have been resistant to using technology, including global positioning systems (GPS), to help them track offenders.
In fact, that is one of the recommendations in the audit: using GPS to monitor sexually violent offenders.
Wagner's auditors also recommend that the board improve its procedures for verifying that parole officers are attempting to locate missing parolees in a timely fashion: officers have up to 30 days to conduct a diligent search for offenders before declaring them "absconders."
Wagner's office also advises the board to stop destroying documents that show its employees are properly following protocol, and develop a retention policy for such records.