Nearly 2000 Parolees-At-Large Captured in Past Six Months
Sacramento — To better protect public safety by lowering parole agent caseloads and providing closer supervision for at-risk parolees, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) launched historic parole reforms on August 1, phasing in 2009 legislation passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and implementing a new parole supervision model.
With an overall focus to concentrate parole supervision resources on those parolees proven to be a high risk to commit a crime, CDCR is significantly lowering parolee to agent case loads from 70 parolees per agent to 48 parolees per agent. In addition, the parole division increased its efforts to capture parolees who have absconded from supervision, placed more than 800 known gang members on active Global Position System (GPS) monitoring, and launched operation Safe Playground – an effort to find and arrest sex offenders who have absconded from their parole supervision.
To date, efforts by the California Parole Apprehension Teams (CPAT) have led to the capture of 1,979 parolees – including 100 sex offenders – who have absconded from their parole supervision.
“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has taken a bold and much needed step in finding more effective ways to supervise parolees that will bring California more in line with national standards,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Along with expanded funding for new prisons through AB 900, these reforms are going to improve public safety by concentrating on those most likely to re-offend, and helping those coming out of prison to become productive members of society.”
The California Parole Supervision and Reintegration model – adapted for California from national research with proven results to lower recidivism – began on August 1st in four counties where agents will begin managing smaller parolee caseloads in order to more aggressively manage higher-risk parolees. The lower caseloads will allow agents to proactively connect parolees to community resources – such as job training and substance abuse prevention classes – during the first 60 days out of prison, which is considered the most critical time of their parole.
Caseloads in Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sonoma counties will be first to see caseloads reduced to the 48 to one ratio. CDCR has been working toward this significant caseload model since SB 3x 18 was signed last fall by the Governor, who redirected a portion of the savings from the reforms to provide additional funding to hire more than 400 additional agents. CDCR is actively training new parole agents. By this time next year, nearly 440 new agents will have been added to California’s parole ranks.
Parolees released from prison to the lower caseloads will undergo a “60-day transitional phase” that includes greater local supervision and enrollment in community based services, such as mental health or substance abuse treatment programs. Education planning and workforce preparation will also be provided during that critical period.
CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate believes the new supervision model will significantly enhance public safety by allowing agents more time to anticipate and find solutions to a parolee’s criminal behavior.
“We’re fortunate to have the most talented and best trained parole staff in the nation,” said Secretary Cate. “What they need, however, is more time to focus on those parolees who need the most attention, and follow what experts have demonstrated to be the most effective way to supervise individuals transitioning from prison to a crime-free life.”
The legislation, AB 3x 18, also authorized CDCR to place inmates who are scientifically evaluated as being low risk on unsupervised parole known as Non-Revocable Parole. This allows agents to concentrate their skills on the remaining parole population that is considered a higher risk. Together with adding more agents, CDCR can adopt the proven supervision model recommended by national experts to benefit public safety.
Experts agree that this is a significant improvement from the way California has handled parolee caseloads since the late 1980s.
“I applaud parole’s continued effort to improve parole supervision and reentry efforts, said Sheldon Zhang, Professor and Department of Sociology Chair at California State University, San Diego. “We are all aware of the fact that there are no silver bullets in reducing parolee recidivism, but that doesn’t mean we should stop exploring and testing different reentry strategies. The new parole model reflects many promising correctional strategies that have been found to produce positive outcomes elsewhere in the nation. California Parole was at one time the trend setter in the nation and there is no reason it can’t regain its leadership position again.”
CDCR’s Director of the Division of Adult Parole Operations, Robert Ambroselli, believes public safety will be improved overall the more time agents can spend with parolees on their caseload.
“The new supervision model encourages parole staff to build a relationship with parolees, which improves public safety,” said Ambroselli. “National studies show that agents need time to identify the specific reasons for a person’s criminal behavior, and then use existing community treatment and training to maximize the potential for a safe transition. With reduced caseloads, agents are in a much better position to enforce terms of parole and arrest those who break the law.”
Ambroselli’s division embarked on major reforms last year by forming the California Parole Reform Task Force, a 19-member body comprised of local law enforcement, state correctional facility and parole administrators, parole agents, treatment specialists and national public safety policy leaders. The task force reviewed a number of national studies and other state models before making recommendations now adopted as part of the parole division’s “Five Year Roadmap” designed to implement effective supervision strategies. Implementation of the projects outlined in the “Five Year Roadmap,” began last September and are being implemented throughout 2010. Other significant highlights of the “Five Year Roadmap” include:
- Tailoring supervision goals and conditions to meet each individual parolee’s specific criminogenic needs;
- Ensuring that contacts with parolees, friends and family of parolees and local agencies are substantive and geared toward addressing the offender’s criminogenic needs;
- Reserving intensive supervision for the more serious offenders;
- Placing 1,000 parolee gang members on active GPS supervision and add 2,000 electronic tracking devices for parole violators as an alternative to incarceration or sanction;
- Enhancing GPS monitoring requirements for sex offenders on parole.
- Reducing span of control for parole District Administrators from overseeing eight units to five units, essentially reducing the number of staff under their supervision in half to improve management and oversight;
- Providing specified training by field training officers to guide and mentor new agents the first 10 weeks on the job; and
- Providing promotional and supervisory experience to Parole Agent II specialists.