Vol. 5, No. 10 March 15, 2008
Nevada's Online State News Journal-- Serving Informed Nevadans Since 2003
Sex Offenders Not
Monitored, Report Says
Parole And Probation Department
Failing To Protect Public Safety
Crying poor and being unable to fill vacancies in the Parole and Probation Department of Nevada’s Department of Public Safety, Director John Gonska seemed unable to grasp the significance of a legislative audit that found his department failing across the board. At the heart of the matter is a lack of response by Parole and Probation in assessing sex offenders, monitoring sex offenders, and monitoring others coming into the system. “The Division did not perform timely assessments for high-risk offenders,” is how the report worded the problem.
On February 21, Governor Jim Gibbons appointed Jerry Hafen as Director of the Department of Public Safety and demanded that the problems in the Parole and Probation Department be corrected immediately. “The public safety is at risk” the report said in stark terms. Monthly contacts with those on parole or probation were not conducted, employer notifications were not made on sex offenders, sergeants performed limited reviews on sex offenders, at least 35 sex offenders had no review during a 21 month period.
This is a problem that has been building for a long time and it took a legislative audit to discover the problems. Nevada’s major department agency heads are not maintaining control of their agencies appears to be the most blatant answer to audits such as this. The budget problems that agencies are facing are recent in nature. Prior to slightly less than one year ago, Nevada’s budgets were overflowing with cash, to the point Governor Kenny Guinn sent rebates to the state’s citizens.
One specific part of the audit said this: “The division’s offender tracking information system did not have accurate and complete information regarding tier levels for sex offenders. We obtained a report that showed a total of 165 sex offenders convicted of felonies did not have a tier level in the system.”
One point of the blistering report deals with DNA and testing of DNA. “The system is capable of producing a past due DNA report,” the audit says, “However, the Division did not regularly utilize the report. In addition our analysis of a report listing about 640 offenders found it was not reliable. Our review of 30 offenders found 13 should not have been included. As a result the Division did not know which offenders needed a DNA sample, and which offenders should be excluded from the report. If an offender commits another crime and DNA was previously ordered but not taken, the Division could be held accountable.”
One thing the audit proves is that “someone should be held accountable.” Blaming a years’ old problem on economic stress that is relatively recent is a cop out but Hafen said before he makes any judgments he plans to do a thorough study of his own. There are about 19,000 people in the parole and probation program and 198 employees in the division. Hafen said he will not transfer anyone from other divisions of the public safety department into parole and probation until his investigation is concluded.
It appears that there are problems of other kinds within parole and probation as Hafen pointed out there have been many transfers from the division into other public safety divisions such as Nevada Highway Patrol. The legislative audit made 21 recommendations to improve the division, particularly in their case management and financial and administrative activities. They indicate serious problems in policy, procedure, and control departments, that monitoring is seriously lacking, offender tracking needs more than just improvement, and restitution and accounts receivable are lacking in methodology and performance. The accounts receivable division did not report its accounts to the State Controller as required. The division’s records indicate it had $19.5 million in accounts receivable of which $7.5 million was uncollectible and should have been written off.
Many of Nevada’s agency heads have not been held accountable during recent legislative sessions, particularly during budget hearings. Legislative audits similar to this one have not been followed through by legislative committees, and previous governors have not demanded accountability from the various state agencies. The best word for what is being seen is sloppiness at the highest levels of government. To look at problems that go back years and say it’s because I can’t hire someone because of recent economic problems is the same as putting one’s head in the sand. It is not good management technique.