June 10, 2012

Parole and probation agents fired after people they supervise are accused of murders

See also: State cracking down on all 70,000 parolees, probationers after series of high-profile homicides
6-10-2012 Michigan:

The Michigan Department of Corrections has fired three employees for failing to properly supervise parolees and probationers accused of committing high-profile murders in recent months.

The agency also confirmed a fourth agent was suspended for 30 days, and a fifth agent remains on paid leave amid an internal investigation.

More discipline could be meted out as the Department of Corrections -- struggling to cut costs from its $2-billion budget -- faces increasing scrutiny over how effectively it supervises the 20,000 parolees and 50,000 probationers in the state.

MDOC Director Daniel H. Heyns acknowledged a failure by parolee and probation agents to follow the department's policies or supervision standards can have serious public safety implications.

"Our parole/probation staff performs critical functions that are vital to ensuring public safety," he said in a written statement to the Free Press. "The overwhelming majority of these employees do excellent work and help to make our communities safer."

The firings and suspension involve employees who supervised three people accused of murder in two cases: the brutal killing of an elderly Royal Oak woman in her home last November and the shooting death of a 12-year-old Detroit girl in January. The MDOC did not release the names of the employees involved.

The Free Press reported in both cases that the agents supervising those offenders failed to violate their parole or probation, despite the fact that they were suspected of committing new crimes. In the case of one offender, the agent also failed to activate a court-mandated electronic tether.

The UAW, which represents the agents, said the discipline was unfounded because the agents were following MDOC policies -- keep as many people as possible out of jail or prison -- and were operating under managers who approved of the decisions that led to their discipline.

UAW representative Rick Michael, who has worked as a probation officer for 26 years, said he expects the disciplined employees to fight those decisions.

"I believe that the union will be able to prove that there is a double standard in MDOC and that management is not capable of policing themselves," he said. "There is a double standard -- one for the agent and one for the manager -- and when something goes wrong due to some shortcoming with MDOC, the agents are always blamed."

Heyns said the department is putting measures in place to improve supervision.

"The governor has made it clear that the level of violence in southeast Michigan, Flint and Saginaw is unacceptable. The Michigan Department of Corrections has a role to play in reducing that violence," his statement said. "I am putting measures in place that will improve supervision of parolees and probationers throughout Michigan. The restructuring of Ryan Correctional Facility to provide more custody beds for parole violators, aggressively going after absconders, embedding parole officers into police departments and auditing case loads are examples of some of the changes we are making that I believe will enhance public safety." ..For the remainder of this story: by L.L. Brasier

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