By Bobby Allyn, The Tennessean
Tennessee's Board of Probation and Parole reported in the past year
that dozens of dead offenders were alive and being monitored, according
to a state comptroller report released on Monday.
state-funded office, which at the time of the audit had an $86 million
budget, claimed that at least 82 dead people on probation or parole were
still alive, a mistake the comptroller attributed to "inadequate
"It's obviously a problem," said Sen. Brian Kelsey, a
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "With that many dead people
supposedly being supervised, it makes you wonder how many live people
were also not being supervised."
In one instance, a criminal who died in October 2011 was reported to be "bedridden at home."
In another case, an officer documented contacting a parolee who, the comptroller's office learned, had been dead for 19 years.
comptroller's office declined to identify individual officers, and
neither agency was able to say whether anyone had been disciplined for
reporting errors. But Comptroller Justin Wilson echoed Kelsey's concern
that the audit raised questions both about the expenditure of public
funds and the supervision of parolees statewide.
officers are supervising dead people, this is a waste of taxpayer
dollars and makes us wonder about the supervision of parolees living in
our communities," Wilson said.
The state's Board of Probation and
Parole, which keeps track of about 60,000 offenders, has long faced
heavy caseloads and contended with high employee turnover. It also has
been widely reported that the agency's resources have been stretched so
thin that its ability to monitor some of the state's most dangerous
criminals has been compromised.
Since the economic downturn, the
agency has rarely met its supervision standards. Though more probation
officers have been added to the ranks, a high turnover rate has made
proper supervision nearly impossible, according to previous reporting by
The Tennessean. Most officers are tasked with overseeing about 100
Deborah Loveless, the comptroller's assistant director
for state audit, would not comment on whether the errors were made by
one individual or by many at the agency. How much the blunders have cost
taxpayers is unknown, according to Loveless.
The audit does suggest, however, that "tax payer resources were used in an ungrateful way," she said.
a written response included in the audit, the board admitted that
reporting dead people as alive was a problem. All staff will be trained
to better detect deceased offenders by the end of the year, the agency
On Wednesday, the comptroller's office will present the
audit to state legislators, at which point they will recommend whether
to continue to fund the agency, or relocate the probation and parole
program under a different government arm.
Cases not reviewed
83-page audit also found that half of all the case files they examined
were not reviewed by supervisors, a problem noted in the last audit of
the agency in 2006.
This lack of monitoring can result in
offenders not being rearrested for violating probation and parole, which
could be a threat to public safety, according to the report.
file problems, like having 82 dead parolees still on the agency's
rolls, would likely be caught sooner if supervisors were doing
top-to-bottom reviews, Loveless said.
In addition, the comptroller recommended that the agency re-evaluate its current method of informing the public about meetings.
now, notices about public meetings are posted in the elevator lobby on
the 13th floor of the agency's central office, which is far from being
in compliance with state law requiring "adequate public notice" of
The agency vowed that it would begin posting meetings online and elsewhere to better inform the public.