North Carolina police and probation officers have had their powers expanded with a new law that responds to problems discovered in the state’s probation system after the killings of two university students, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. The reforms signed into law by Gov. Beverly Perdue will allow probation officers to access portions of a probationer’s juvenile record, previously considered off-limits because of confidentiality concerns. Police, not just probation officers, will also be able to search offenders when they suspect criminal wrongdoing without needing a judge to sign off on a warrant.
Perdue called the reforms a “critical first step” toward fixing the system assigned to supervise 114,000 people on probation and parole. The probation department still has serious stress, primarily from a growing list of vacant positions. In December, the department had 118 vacancies among probation officers; today, the number has swelled to 145. A News & Observer series last December detailed a probation system in crisis. A high number of vacancies forced probation officers to carry dangerously heavy caseloads, resulting in botched oversight of many cases and 13,000 missing offenders. Since 2,000, 580 probationers had killed while under state supervision.