As pressures build to reduce the “mass incarceration” in the United States, more attention should be paid to “starved probation and parole resources,” contends William Burrell, former New Jersey probation and parole official. Speaking yesterday to an American Probation and Parole Association conference in Washington, D.C., Burrell said that about 70 percent of government spending on corrections and only about 12 percent to probation and parole even though probation and parole agents handle high caseloads. The probation staff in Sacramento County, Ca., is facing a 50 percent cutback.
Agents should focus on high-risk and moderate offenders and spend less time with low-risk offenders, who “chew up resources,” Burrell said. Speaking on the same program, criminologist Faye Taxman of George Mason University called for an overhaul of probation and paole practices, partly by doing things more quickly. Offenders should be assessed within the first 15 days of supervision, and treatment should start within two weeks, she said. Taxman lamented that compared with other criminal-justice issues, few studies have been done to establish what would make for good probation and parole practices. Mark Carey, a consultant who formerly headed the probation and parole association, said that agents need to improve their skills to deal with probationers and parolees more successfully.