Part three – Under Supervision: Freedom or Failure
DELAWARE – After two former probationers and the executive director of the ACLU of Delaware sat down with 47 ABC and told us about flaws in the probation system, the Delaware Department of Corrections is defending themselves, saying the system works and that’s proven by the percentage of probationers who successfully complete their term. Two leaders at the department say the idea that a person messes up and is simply thrown back into jail is just flat out false.
“The narrative that probation violations are on the rise is not true, we’re seeing a drop in probation violations alongside a drop in the actual probation and parole population in general,” Joanna Champney, with the department, said.
After a recent report by the ACLU of Delaware highlighted what the organization described as flaws in the state’s probation system, leaders at the Department of Corrections are saying their system is designed to help those in it and it works.
“Probation and parole officers are equipped now more than ever to provide supportive services to people who have left prison and who are starting their probation term,” Champney said.
Tara Taylor, the Deputy bureau chief of community corrections, says her office has taken specific steps to make meeting requirements easier for probationers, including changing the requirements of face to face visits from being strictly in the office.
“It would give flexibility to those probation officers to allow them to have those face to face contact visits where the probationer is at, whether it be their employer or their residence,” Taylor explained.
In the report by the ACLU, the organization spoke of how probationers are given a set list of requirements they all must meet. Taylor says that’s not true, and the number of requirements is set by what risk the probationer poses.
“For example, your level one and level two probationers have nine standard conditions of supervision,” she explained. “Thirteen conditions of supervision are for level three, or higher risk probationers.”
Champney says that some of the data suggested in the ACLU’s report, including the number of probationers being sent back to prison on technical violations, is incorrect. When asked where that disparity in data would come from, Champney said it could just be old numbers.
“Some of the information that advocates cite in reports may be a little bit outdated, if data comes from the bureau of justice statistics, that’s always a few years behind, so that’s one possibility,” she suggested.
Both Taylor and Champney argue that the data they look at, the data they say is correct, shows high numbers of probationers completing their sentence and moving on with their lives.
“The bottom line is that more than ¾ of probationers do succeed, and so successfully close out their term of probation, and that’s the story that the department is very proud of,” Champney said.