Parole officers say justice reform puts stress on them | WYPR

Parole officers say justice reform puts stress on them

Jul 14, 2016

Helen Humphries, a parole and probation veteran, speaks at an AFSCME news conference.

  

In October, sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system will shrink the state prison population. But that means the population of offenders on parole and probation will increase. Employees in the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation said they are worried about the anticipated increase at a news conference Thursday morning.

The Justice Reinvestment Act, signed by Gov. Larry Hogan last May, focuses on decreasing the number of incarcerated individuals by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and channeling some offenders into treatment programs rather than jail.

But with nearly 10% of parole and probation jobs vacant at the moment, Helen Humphries, a veteran parole and probation agent, says they don’t have enough people to meet the expected new demand.

"My co-workers and I, we do a tough and necessary job, but we are understaffed," Humphries said. "Right now the state does not have enough probation agents and support staff to get the job done."

Jeff Pittman of AFSCME Maryland, which represents the parole officers, said the state doesn’t know how many additional cases parole and probation officers can expect to take on once the initiative is put in motion this fall.

Jason Dubard, a senior parole and probation agent in St. Mary’s County, said he and his co-workers often have to take on extra responsibilities that have little to do with their job descriptions, like processing mail and collecting urine samples, because of the under staffing.

"Having to focus on these tasks takes us away from doing our job," Dubard said. "We should spend more time working with offenders, talking with treatment providers, and being out in the field. Not doing administrative work."

He said he only expects things to get worse in the months ahead.

The governor’s office failed to respond to a request for comment.