UNDERSTAFFED — PEF members Chandra Perry Patterson, Willis Toms and Clarinda Wilkins-Grant tell the Assembly Committee on Correction the state needs funding to hire more parole officers. — Photo by Bill Sachs

NYS needs 125 more parole officers
PEF testifies on dangers of understaffing Parole

PEF leaders continued their fight this summer for increased state budget aid to beef up the ranks of state parole officers.

In August, PEF Division 236 Council Leader Willis Toms and other parole officers testified at state legislative hearings in Albany and New York City, telling lawmakers that the need for help is urgent.

“Parole is short-staffed, and short staffing is dangerous,” Toms told the state Assembly Committee on Correction. “It is dangerous for our communities, it’s dangerous for our parole officers, it’s dangerous for local police and it’s dangerous for the parolees.”

Among PEF’s legislative priorities this year, the union is asking lawmakers to add funding to hire 125 more officers to handle the high caseloads.

“The parole system is on the verge of collapse,” Toms testified. “The average caseload of our officers in New York City is almost 83 parolees. With caseloads as high as these, it is impossible to properly supervise and monitor parolees.”

Toms warned the problem will only worsen if the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms are enacted. As more inmates would be released under parole supervision, parole caseloads would also grow.

And Toms added that parole supervision is a more effective criminal-justice tool than incarceration, noting that it costs approximately $3,500 annually to supervise a parolee, compared to the $35,000 annual cost for incarcerating an inmate.

“It is in all of our best interests to enhance parole supervision,” the parole leader said.

“Preventing parolees from violating parole and returning to jail is safer for the public and is fiscally responsible. Our streets and communities will be safer and taxpayers will save money in the long run if caseloads for parole officers are reduced to manageable levels,” Toms concluded. — Denyce Duncan Lacy

The Communicator Home Page