I certainly hope that Gov. Larry Hogan can take some time from appearing on the Sunday talk shows and his very predictable pointing the finger at Baltimore’s elected leaders to actually do his job. It is a disgrace and total hypocrisy to knock the efforts of city leaders when you allow the state public safety agency charged with supervising convicted offenders in the community to have as many job vacancies as reported in The Sun. This is a clear dereliction of duty (”The high cost of Maryland’s understaffed state government,” Jan. 21).
The Sun has reported well over 100 vacancies in the Division of Parole and Probation. I assume that not all are in Baltimore, but I’m pretty sure that the majority are.
I believe that it would take a much greater number of employees to do the important job of supervising convicted offenders in the community. For over 30 years, I supervised Parole and Probation agents with very large general caseloads. I also supervised a specialized unit of Parole and Probation agents who supervised male parolees under the age of 26 who had committed stranger-to-stranger crimes. As a new parole agent, I was assigned to a special unit housed at a drug research and treatment program. I had a metro-wide caseload in Baltimore as well as Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. I had 35 active parolees, and they kept me very busy. The drug program was open 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, as parolees were expected to work and would only be able to report in the evening. On as many as four nights a week, I would hold report days for my parolees. Parolees had my home phone number and would call me for various reasons, usually on weekends.
Maryland must fill all vacancies but must also increase the number of staff in high crime areas in order to reduce the offender caseload. Currently, many Parole and Probation agents are only able to react to crime as their job entails so much paperwork. High crime areas result in many violations that must be investigated and reported to the courts and Parole Commission. The goal should be to allow the agents to be proactive and not simply reactive. There have been several efforts over the years, but all of these efforts must be multiplied as the need for public safety is so great.
Parole and Probation agents are capable of establishing good relationships with offenders while monitoring their behavior and compliance, but they need much smaller caseloads. Also, Maryland has grossly underpaid professional staff. Prior to my retirement, I checked the salary of my federal counterpart. It was double my salary year after year. Maryland has a terrible record of underpaying Parole and Probation agents, which will clearly force competent people to look elsewhere. Will a Hogan tax break make any of us feel safer in our communities?
As a nation, we need to invest more in our people. We need to invest in children in preschool and throughout their academic careers. Not all parolees and probationers who commit serious crimes are unknown to the public. Some of Baltimore’s movers and shakers, their children and other family members, sit in Parole and Probation waiting rooms on their report days. Drugs have helped to level the playing field in a very bad way.
All criminals in Maryland who have been placed under supervision must have the appropriate degree of supervision matching the likelihood of recidivism. I am glad that Mayor Brandon Scott and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby have called Governor Hogan’s deep and dangerous failures to the attention of the public. Let’s hope that Governor Hogan starts to do his job.
Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore
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