Indiana’s Parole Board has seen its caseload more than double during the past decade, while it has gained no new staff to help review whether inmates should be kept in prison, the Associated Press reports. The board does not track how many people have had their parole revoked. Prosecutors say at least two women – a retired librarian and a jail guard – were killed in the past two years by men who had been released early from prison. The board held about 2,100 parole violation hearings last year, up from fewer than 900 in 1994. During that time, the state increased the number of parole officers to 72 from 62 but added no staff for the board. “We’re spread thin. That’s not an excuse; that’s an explanation,” Earl Coleman, the parole board’s assistant, told The Indianapolis Star.
Given the kinds of prisoners the board oversees, Coleman said, mistakes are inevitable. “They’re walking time bombs,” he said, “because you know you’ve got some fraction that’s going to do something, but you don’t know which ones.” Of the 5,206 adult inmates paroled in 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available, about 2,500 have been sent back to prison for new crimes or parole violations. One expert said probation and parole services have been underfunded as laws have required more petty criminals to be locked up. Under the current conditions, any parole board is bound to make some bad decisions, said Dan Richard Beto, director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University. “If your parole board is being used as a release valve, this is going to happen,” he said. “It doesn’t take brains to build prisons; it takes brains to come up with alternative solutions.”