MD Probation Officers: Lack of Staff Threatens Justice Reform

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Maryland probation and parole officers say the state does not have enough workers to implement a landmark law designed to keep thousands of nonviolent offenders out of prison, the Baltimore Sun reports. Already, probation agents said, a chronic staffing shortage has left many agents unable to check on offenders or file court reports in a timely way. “Right now, the state does not have enough probation agents and support staff to get the job done,” said Helen Humphries, a senior parole agent. “We cannot do the jobs that we are called to do because we are inundated with work already.” Probation agents said that in addition to managing caseloads that exceed 100 offenders, well above the recommended 82, many are spending a day or two a week answering the phone or staffing the front desk in probation offices where vacant secretarial jobs have not been filled.

The problem, they said, will be exacerbated as the state adopts a sweeping criminal justice reform known as justice reinvestment that will eventually divert thousands of offenders to drug treatment and probation instead of longer prison terms. “There is no way we can continue to do our job in an efficient manner,” said probation officer Anthony Washington. “Frankly, sometimes we can’t do our real jobs.” A news conference held by the agents yesterday on the issue stoked discord between Gov. Larry Hogan and the biggest union representing state workers. For the third time in five weeks, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees publicly complained that Hogan’s administration was threatening public safety by dragging its feet in filling vacant jobs. The union has also complained about understaffed prisons and mental health facilities.

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