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Sex offenders and parole supervision: frequency of contacts

Like every other state, New Jersey struggles to find the right response to sex offenses.

Legislatures often insist on adding ever-longer sentences to the statute books. Legislatures are also often inclined to require sex-offender registration – even for relatively minor offenses.

In practice, however, it can be difficult for probation and parole agencies to find the resources needed to implement the level of supervision envisioned by the legislature for sex offenders.

In this post, we will discuss how such dynamics have played out in New Jersey. We will do this by taking note of a recent legislative auditor’s report on the supervision of sex offenders by parole officers.

The report found that parole officers often fall short of the expected number of contacts with sex offenders who are living in the community. Failure to maintain regular contacts also occurs with certain categories of violent offenders who were supposed to receive mandatory supervision on parole.

In the sample of 60 sex offenders reviewed by the legislative auditor’s office, there were 32 offenders with whom parole officers did not keep up the expected level of regular contact.

The auditor’s concern wasn’t only that face-to-face contacts were not regularly maintained for so many offenders. There were also concerns about conducting timely testing for alcohol and drugs, as well as verifying where offenders live.

The problem, however, is that probation and parole agencies often lack the resources to fulfill all of the requirements that the legislature puts on them. For example, a bill to limit the sex offender caseload size for parole officers has been the subject of contention between the legislature and the governor.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "NJ parole officers not keeping up regular tabs on sex offenders, audit shows," Ryan Hutchins, Jan. 29, 2014

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