North Carolina Helps
Parole Officers Track Offenders
The average probation and parole officer in North Carolina manages a caseload of nearly 70 offenders. The officers have to visit each offender at home, and make sure offenders are regularly tested for drugs, make court appearances and ensure they haven’t committed additional crimes. The sheer number of offenders in each caseload made that a daunting task.
The Probation/Parole Officers Dashboard, one of this year’s Innovations Winners for the Southern region, has made that task a lot less daunting. The Dashboard, in place since late 2008, is a computer program that compiles vital information about each offender on every officer’s caseload. Urgent information, such as new arrests or missed court dates, is highlighted in red. Upcoming appointments, like a home visit or drug test, are highlighted in yellow. The program can even give officers the most direct driving route to visit offenders, saving time and money.
Bob Brinson, chief information officer for the North Carolina Department of Correction, said officers used to have to go through several databases to gather information about each of their cases. Finding out if one of their parolees or probationers had been rearrested in any of the state’s counties was particularly difficult.
“A probation officer really had to key in each county to see if there was anything new about their offender,” Brinson said. “… We talked to the courts and said, ‘Can you send us your information nightly?’ We get system wide, everything in the state, anything that’s happened in the courts or law enforcement for the last 24 hours. We do that every night. We do the match against the probation officer’s caseload every night. They have to confirm they’re the right person, then take action.”
Probation Officer Kimberly Headley of Raleigh, N.C., said the Dashboard has helped her become more efficient.
“It is literally a timesaver, because we don’t have to log into multiple screens now to see what’s going on with the offender,” Headley said in a video presentation supporting the program. “… We get so busy sometimes, now we can prioritize who needs to be seen first.”
The Dashboard is similar to the other Southern region Innovations winner, also from North Carolina, the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services program. While both programs help keep law enforcement officials informed, they differ in some respects.
“If our officers or correctional staff need to see a full criminal history of their offenders, they can look them up one at a time in CJLEADS, which shows our correctional data combined with court data,” said Cindy Cousins, applications systems manager. “… Where our application is different is once supervision starts for an offender, this Dashboard keeps up with all of the requirements that need to be done for supervising each individual. The rules and requirements varies depending on assessments of their (the offender’s) risks and needs.”
The Dashboard is a Web-based program, so officers can access their caseload data from any computer. State computer programmers are now working to create a mobile version that can run from smart phones. Brinson said the application also will allow officers to record notes directly into their smart phone to be transcribed at a later date.
The cost to develop the Dashboard was surprisingly inexpensive, both Brinson and Cousins said. The original development cost, using in-house programmers, was just $75,000. The only continuing expense is the salary of one programmer, who continues to refine the program based on probation and parole officers’ input.