Monday, March 15, 2010

Problems with the Idaho Commission on Pardons & Parole

For 25 years, Olivia Craven has overseen how felons are paroled in Idaho, leaving prison to complete sentences under community supervision.

A former parole officer herself, Craven has survived while correction directors flip through a revolving door. Now 61, the executive director of the Commission on Pardons and Parole could have retired in 2001. "I have to keep busy," she says.

Though she lacks a college degree, Craven is admired for her experience, credited for her 16-hour days and liked for her boisterous loyalty to Boise State football.

But suddenly she's come under fire. A legislative audit says Idaho's parole process is plagued by inefficiency and personnel woes, costing the state millions.


 What can we learn from this story?
  1. Several people were embarrassed by the contents of the audit conducted by the Office of Performance Evaluation. Senator Darrington trashed the report before even he read it. Instead of holding this agency to the same standards as other agencies  who had their proposed budgets slashed, Governor Otter is protecting this political appointee.
  2. Based on the results of the audit, there is a morale problem in this agency.
  3. Senator Darrington was the primary author of one of the worst criminal justice policies - mandatory minimum sentences. Lots of other states also adopted this policy, but many are now backing off.
  4. There is a definite problem between the Idaho Department of Correction and the Pardons and Parole. The state spend $6.8 million in less than two years keeping inmates beyond their parole dates. Inmates are not getting the treatment necessary to win parole.
Is the criminal justice system broken in Idaho? I would respond yes. It is plagued by a multitude of problems, not the least of which is the lack of rationality in the decision-making process. Instead, ideology has been the basis of policies that are producing growth in the number of adults under correctional supervision.  Despite continued budget cuts, the legislature is resistant to slowing this growth. Such intransigence in light of the evidence does not bode well for the citizens of this state.

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