Haslam expects increase in Correction spending after monitoring of dead parolees

Friday, November 2, 2012 at 2:54pm

Gov. Bill Haslam said he expects to increase spending on the state’s Department of Correction next year in light of problems that probation and parole workers were monitoring dead ex-convicts.

The agency is also likely to see additional taxpayer money to account for more people serving time in county jails than the state had planned for, he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Corrections is in an area that you see the budget take a jump up,” Haslam told reporters after a wreath laying ceremony honoring President James K. Polk’s birthday outside the state Capitol building Friday.

This budget year, legislators threw an extra $80 million at the agency, including $40 million for increases in local jail payments. The agency’s total budget this year is $853 million out of the state’s nearly $31.5 million budget, according to state officials.

Haslam said he is asking each state agency to offer him budget plans as early as next week that include 5 percent cuts — reductions he said he doesn’t expect many agencies will have to make.

The governor said he wants to increase state dollars in higher education, add more money into the state’s rainy day fund, invest in some underfunded departments and weather increases in health care costs.

Probation, parole and correction officials became the focus of legislative ire last month after a state audit found the Board of Probation and Parole was monitoring more than 80 parolees and people on probation who had been dead for as long as 19 years. The audit also found that 80 percent of GPS-monitored offender alarms “appear unmonitored.”

Duties to monitor people on probation and parole are now under the Department of Corrections, although the chairman of the state’s probation and parole board told a legislative committee that it would “take Superman” to correct those and other problems before the state performs another audit next year.

Commissioner Derrick Schofield told lawmakers an abundance of paperwork, a growing number of offenders on parole and probation and now new workers to monitor them have contributed to the problems found in the audit. His assistant commissioner resigned a day later.

The governor will hear the agency’s budget proposal Thursday as part of a three-day string of budget hearings.

Tuesday, Haslam is expected to hear budget proposals from the departments of safety, tourist development, military, veterans affairs, agriculture, education, environment and conservation and health. The annual hearings will continue through Thursday and pick up again in mid-November. See the full budget hearing schedule here.

6 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 11/2/12 at 1:27

"The agency’s total budget this year is $853 million out of the state’s nearly $31.5 million budget, according to state officials." That's some interesting math. I think you need to swap an 'm' for a 'b' there.

By: Ask01 on 11/4/12 at 4:21

I don't suppose firing those employees too lazy or incompetent to properly perform their assigned duties and hiring officers who would actually work ever crossed Governor Haslam's mind?

It's funny how, despite maligning the concept of "Big Government," Republicans are as guilty as Democrats. The only difference is the Republican model seems to center on controlling the public with more police, more laws, and more incarceration facilities while the Democrat ideal focuses on providing adequate medical, mental health, and social services, helping those in need, and in general improving conditions for the masses.

By: ancienthighway on 11/4/12 at 7:28

The way I read the story, with all the money spent already, they are having problems tracking those dead parolees. Thus spend more money to track them.
It doesn't take Superman to correct the problems. Assuming the records system is computerized, it's simply a matter of searching databases of parolees and death records. If it's not computerized, I'll bring in a team to set up the hardware, software, training, and system maintenance for a lot less than the $80 or $120 million they've tossed at the problem already.

By: cookeville on 11/4/12 at 11:23

Just goes to show that pubs are no better than dems in spending the taxpayer's money. I have a suggestion. There are thousands in jail for being caught with a piddly amount of pot. They aren't selling it, so just let them be. Turn them loose! Also, stop with the serving of time by prostitutes. It doesn't work or they would all be doing something else by now. Concentrate on the child beaters, molesters, murderers; those that abuse animals; those that shoot before they think. Leave alone those who are harming no one but perhaps themselves. It does say something about our society and values when we incarcerate more than all of Europe put together.

By: Ask01 on 11/5/12 at 5:04

You are 100% correct cookeville.

The mania with locking folks up is a direct result of public frustration with ineffective police work and judges trying to protect their jobs, having to do something to justify their jobs.

Lets face it, an arrest and conviction looks good on everyone's record except the person locked up.

If police, prosecutors, and judges would concentrate on dangerous, violent offenders and those who perpetrate real crimes against, and white collar crime, we could ensure those posing the greatest danger to society.

Honestly, who would you consider safer to arrest, prosecute, and lock up; a violent drug pusher or domestic abuser, or some kid with a bag of pot?

This is all about people taking the easy way out, to borrow a phrase from Mel Brooks' classic, "Blazing Saddles," " protect their phoney baloney jobs."

By: Moonglow1 on 11/5/12 at 9:16

Moonglow1: Unfortunately, corrections is big business so companies like CCA make more money when jails and prisons are full. They, with the help of ALEC help to write legislation and influence policy such as long incarceration time for small petty crimes like possession of pot. What the public does not realize is the amount of tax money being spent on prisons and jails. I am sure the audit is only part of this story. It is possible that more tax dollars will flow to private companies like CCA without addressing the problem cited in this article.