Albany, NY – New York has lost 3,275 of the convicted criminals who were released from prison into the community on parole.
WRGB reported that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has lost about 10 percent of the former inmates it was supposed to be watching.
Wayne Spence, a parole officer and the president of the union that represents parole officers statewide, said that thousands of bail absconders on the loose puts the public at risk.
Many of the bail absconders have violent criminal histories, WRGB reported.
Spence blamed the sharp increase on the state’s elimination of 400 parole officer positions over the last 20 years.
He said that the supervision ratio of parole officers to parolees should be about 1 to 20, WRGB reported.
However, Spence said New York State currently has one parole officer per 60 former inmates requiring supervision.
“We are still in need of parole officers out there to do the job,” Spence said.
He said that caseloads were overwhelming and made it impossible for parole officers to effectively monitor everyone they were assigned, according to WRGB.
“It’s asking a parole officer to turn water into wine. You’re asking them to do miracles, and it just doesn’t happen,” Spence said.
The agency responsible for supervising parolees, and its director, tried to dodge WRGB’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for months.
“DOCCS supervision standards exceed or are within the established American Probation and Parole Association and National Institute of Corrections recommended standards,” the agency said in a statement in response to requests for an interview with DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci.
The agency also claimed that they do take steps to keep victims safe when a parolee cuts off a monitoring device, WRGB reported.
“If there is a known threat to a victim attempts would be made to notify them,” DOCCS said.
But Karen Zieglar, director of the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center, said that wasn’t true, WRGB reported.
“I don’t think victims are being told, I don’t think they’re warned, I don’t think they’re aware they’re safety is being compromised,” Zieglar said.
She said she didn’t think the community had any idea how many parole absconders were out there potentially preying on new victims, WRGB reported.
“These are not your average pick-pocketers, these are people who are hurting and potentially devastating other people’s lives,” Zieglar said.
For example, a convicted felon on parole for manslaughter absconded from supervision in New York City only to be arrested again recently in Albany in connection with the shooting of a 16 year old, WRGB reported.
Data provided by the DOCCS to WRGB revealed that of the 3,275 parole absconders, 95 of the missing convicted criminals were sex offenders, and 50 of those were violent sex offenders.
However, those numbers were from May of 2019 and more current data wasn’t available.
WRGB has been waiting four months for information on 3,000 of the parole absconders but it appears the DOCCS is dragging their feet yet again.