Probation department admits to shortcomings
By its own admission, the county’s probation department isn’t doing a good job with high-risk offenders.
The poor success rate could end up costing the county money, in the form of fewer dollars from the state’s inmate realignment fund.
The county’s community corrections executive committee said last week that more probation officers are needed to help rectify the problem.
Acting probation chief Lori Beatley said four probation officers are overseeing more than 300 probationers in Plumas County. She added that about 40 percent of her office’s time is dedicated to juvenile offenders.
“The reality of the problems that probation is having is that they didn’t just happen yesterday. This has been going on for a long time,” District Attorney David Hollister said. “But we’ve got to address it because it’s getting worse, it’s not getting better.”
During its Wednesday, May 1, meeting in Quincy, the county’s Assembly Bill 109 Public Safety Re-Alignment Committee said the most glaring problem centers around the 27 inmates released from state prison who were under the county’s supervision.
The county currently has 14 under its watch and is scheduled to receive three more AB 109 transfers by July.
Prior to October 2011, those people would have been the state’s responsibility. But upon their release from prison, they became the county’s problem because of AB 109.
The numbers tell the story.
Of the 27 offenders in post-release community supervision since October 2011, just four have stayed out of trouble for a year or more. Of the four, two were transferred outside the county.
Meanwhile, 15 of the probationers have committed new criminal offenses — some of them multiple times. Five of the offenders were sent back to state prison.
Although the county has more than 300 people on probation, the committee said the state corrections department bases its AB 109 funding on the county’s success with the 27 AB 109 people.
The committee agreed that one full-time probation officer should be assigned to work exclusively with the AB 109 population.
“This limited class of people is going to be scrutinized very closely,” Hollister said. “And they need more hands-on work. These are the people that actually need (probation officers) showing up at their door as 6 in the morning to see what’s going on.”
Behind the numbers
The committee said part of the reason for the poor success rate is many of the released inmates never contact the county’s probation department after being released from prison.
However, those AWOL offenders still count toward the county’s overall success rate.
“The CDRC (California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections) does try to get (inmates) to the closest prison to us (when they are released),” Beatley said. “They give us a release date and that’s it. Some will show up and we never see them again.”
More probation officers
Beatley said her department is in the process of hiring two more probation officers. History shows that it takes about six months for a new probation officer to get up to speed.
However, because Plumas County pays its officers less than most counties, the new officers often find better jobs elsewhere.
Hollister argued that new probation officers, even after six months on the job, probably aren’t qualified to deal with the AB 109 population.
“We are probably going to need seasoned probationers to deal with these folks,” Hollister said. “The two brand new hires — these (AB 109) folks will eat those people alive.”
The future looks brighter
Aside from the shortage of probation officers, the county has more tools at its disposal than it did when AB 109 went into effect in October 2011.
Plumas can now offer mental health and a wide range of other services to people on post-release supervision. In March, the county launched the Daily Reporting Center (DRC) in Quincy. The center is being touted as “one-stop shopping” for people who need help turning their lives around after being released from custody.
“Yes, the numbers are terrible,” Stephanie Tanaka said of the county’s success with high-risk probationers. “The good thing is that we weren’t offering a lot of services to this population. The next round of reporting (should be better).”
Tanaka is the county’s alternative sentencing coordinator. She has received a lot of credit for helping to get the DRC up and running.
“We should see a higher rate of success, ultimately, based on the services we are providing through the daily reporting center,” she said.
“The most important thing is getting them in the door of the DRC,” Beatley said. “Of the 14 people (currently under post-release supervision), there are three or four of them who have been at warrant (for not checking in with a probation officer) for over six months to a year.”