The state Corrections Department has seen a significant drop in the number of inmates being placed on agency-supervised probation and parole over the past several years.
Jerry Massie, department spokesman, said the decrease in probation clients is due to a 2005 law change that allows individuals on felony probation to be supervised by district attorneys instead of the prison system.
At the beginning of 2006, the Corrections Department supervised more than 30,000 individuals. Today, that number has dropped to 20,934.
The decline has been steady over the years for the prison system and is generating tens of millions of dollars statewide for district attorneys.
Last fiscal year, the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council estimated that nearly $14 million was generated through probation supervision fees charged to offenders. The eight-digit figure represents 20 percent of the district attorneys' budgets, according to the council.
Today, the state's 27 district attorney offices are supervising 27,600 people charged with misdemeanors and another 10,500 charged with felonies.
Like private probation supervision companies, which are relatively small in number in Oklahoma, district attorneys charge probationers $40 per month in supervision fees.
Supervising an individual using a Corrections Department probation officer costs $1,026 each year, for each person.
Massie said the loss of probation clients is not a bad thing for the Corrections Department, especially as the prison system continues to fight overcrowding and face budget concerns.
“If anything, it saves us money,” he said.
Parolees are fewer
The number of inmates being supervised by parole officers following release from prison also has dropped steadily since 2006.
In January 2006, there were 4,421 parolees under state supervision. That number is now 3,046.
“I think the board has just gotten more conservative,” Massie said. “In 2005, there were like 1,500 or so people released on parole. In 2010, there were like half of that.”
Massie said an electronic monitoring program, which was expanded in recent months, may contribute to further decreases in the number of parolees.
“The GPS (monitoring) program was moving along at 300 to 400 people a year, but they expanded the criteria on that last November so now there's about 700 people on it,” Massie said. “It could also be more 85-percent crimes or just less people coming up for parole. It's hard to say.”
Staff Writer Jaclyn Cosgrove