For years, the signs of a North Carolina probation system in dangerous disarray have been stacking up in a file cabinet a few steps from state probation chief Robert Guy’s desk, says the Raleigh News & Observer in the third of a series. At an average of more than 30 times a month for the past five years, the fax machine in the probation chief’s office suite has spit out ominous reports: another probationer out of control. Other alerts begged for review, with probation officers and their supervisors imploring top administrators to send in reinforcements for jobs that had gone unfilled for months.
Guy, at the helm of the state system for the past 11 years, and his boss, Correction Secretary Theodis Beck, didn’t act on the warnings. They allowed vacancies to pile up in urban areas with heavy caseloads without using all available options to recruit replacements. They failed to convey to legislators the growing difficulties of keeping track of dangerous probationers. Since the start of 2000, as harried officers juggled high caseloads and vacant positions went unfilled, 580 people were convicted of murder or manslaughter committed while under the watch of the N.C. Division of Community Corrections. Beck said his department should have paid more attention to the problems. “I wish we would have looked a little deeper,” he said. “We dealt with what was on the surface, but we didn’t look to see if there was a pattern.” There was a pattern. Many serious crimes have been committed by probationers under weak supervision, a News & Observer investigation shows.