A brutal crime spree in February that left three Michigan residents dead has thrown sharp scrutiny on the state’s parole system. Arrested last November on a parole violation, Patrick Selepak was released erroneously on Jan. 10 – only, according to police, to commit a string of robberies and murders with his girlfriend slightly more than a month later. Predictable – and understandable – calls to restrict parole have come forth in tandem with evidence of the corrections department’s error in the Selepak case. Denying parole to more inmates, however, would likely necessitate the construction of still more prisons. The state needs to have a functioning parole system and has little choice but to provide more support to its overworked parole officers.
Among the details brought into focus after the crimes Selepak allegedly committed is the fact that there are roughly 5,000 more felons on probation and parole in Michigan now than in 2000. Yet the state is trying to monitor them with essentially the same number of parole officers and 348 fewer probations and parole support staff, according to The Detroit News.
An outside audit last summer concluded that the state needs to hire 350 more parole officers. Aware of Michigan’s tight finances, the corrections department is cautiously requesting 46 more officers in this year’s budget. Paying for enough parole officers to keep caseloads reasonable seems a good way to avoid the sort of errors –