Budget cuts are imminent and the Department of Corrections is just one state agency making preparations for those cuts. The state has asked agencies to make budget proposals should their financial allotment be cut by both 5% and 10%. Though the DOC is hoping they won’t see cuts as drastic as these, they have submitted proposals for the significant cuts nonetheless—proposals that suggest big changes to who is supervised after their release from prison.
The worst case scenario, one in which the DOC would lose 10% of its funding, the agency would respond by stopping supervision of 12,000 of the 17,000 parolees currently under supervision. This would save the department $92 million over the next 18 months and would also result in the loss of 510 parole officers and members of support staff.
The agency has already cut $250 million over the past three years by closing three prisons and eliminating 1,200 jobs. While they’ve suggested other cuts, including increasing inmates’ medical co-payments, the biggest hit would be in the area of community corrections.
In the alternate proposal submitted by the DOC, the one where they would only lose 5% of their funding, they have suggested reducing the length of community supervision from an average of 16 to 6 months. This would save around $45 million over the next 18 months.
It’s no surprise that the number one concern of those opposed to the proposed cuts is public safety. Not only would former inmates lack supervision, under the 10% cut plan, they would also lose access to vocational, housing, and treatment assistance. One union spokesperson put it pretty accurately when he said, “We would be the Department of Prisons.”
Public safety is always an area of concern for corrections officials, particularly in our state, where the department has been sued in the past for failing to supervise parolees adequately. According to the Seattle Times, the DOC paid $4.25 million on 2010 to a woman who suffered head injuries when she was struck by a mentally ill offender who was under DOC supervision.
Community supervision is used as a way to both ensure public safety and assist former inmates with reintegration into society. Probation is used in a similar manner, but is commonly ordered in lieu of prison time rather than on the back end of a prison sentence.
For many, community supervision represents a positive alternative to serving time. When you are faced with criminal charges in Washington State, probation can seem like a blessing when compared with prison. While every case is different, a first offense criminal charge is far more likely to carry probation than a second or subsequent charge.
If you are accused of a criminal offense and curious about your chances of probation, contact our offices today for a free consultation.