Troubling news for many in the state came when Tennessee’s Board of Probation and Parole reported that dozens of dead offenders were alive and being monitored, according to a state comptroller report released earlier this month. The office claimed that at least 82 dead people on probation or parole were still alive. In a stunning understatement, the state’s comptroller attributed the mistake simply to “inadequate supervision.”
State Senator Brian Kelsey boiled the problem down quite well, saying, “With that many dead people supposedly being supervised, it makes you wonder how many live people were also not being supervised.”
One good example of the kind of problems revealed in the report is a criminal who died in October 2011 but who was reported to be bedridden at home by the Board of Probation and Parole. In another instance, an officer continued turning in documentation of visits with a parolee who, the auditors later learned, had been dead for 19 years.
The individual officers responsible for the shoddy work have not been identified and the Board has not said if anyone has been disciplined for the errors. The Comptroller did admit that the report raises concerns about how the office’s nearly $100 million budget is being spent. “If parole officers are supervising dead people, this is a waste of taxpayer dollars and makes us wonder about the supervision of parolees living in our communities.”
Supporters of the Board have pointed out the economic downturn has stretched the office thin. With increasing numbers of criminals added to the rolls, some officers have found themselves supervising about 100 offenders. Many say this number is simply too large to do a good job.
So far, the Board has said only that staff would be trained to better detect deceased offenders by the end of the year. We can only hope it doesn’t take that long to train officers to be able to detect if a parolee is dead.
The full report is available here
(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 266-0605.)