According to a new report published by the Office of Legislative Services, containing data regarding the supervision of registered sex offenders in New Jersey, parole officers tasked with this responsibility are currently failing to meet the requirements of New Jersey laws.
Under the New Jersey Criminal Code, statutesN.J.S.A. 2C:47-1 through N.J.S.A. 2C:47-10, known collectively as the “Sexual Offender Act”, govern the sentencing of sexual offenders. The act contains multiple components, including: community supervision for life, Megan Law’s registration, and a psychosexual evaluation also known as an “Avenel evaluation.”
Specifically, Megan’s Law was implemented on October 31, 1994 and is included in the under statutes N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 through N.J.S.A. 2C:7-21. The law governs sex offender registration, requiring those convicted of specific sexual offenses in New Jersey to register their addresses with the local police, while providing updates as to any changes in their address, employment, or schooling.
Auditor Stephen Eells conducted the recent study, which revealed the following: parole officers failed to meet in-person with 32 of the 60 registered sex offenders in the study’s sample population in the period during which the audit was conducted. Further, of the violent offenders who are subject to mandatory parole supervision, officers did not make face-to-contact with 48 of the 100 sampled parolees. In both cases, approximately 50 percent of those included in the report were not regularly monitored per the terms of their parole.
In many cases, the terms of the offender’s parole include provisions such as: visits to their home, which vary in the regularity required from bi-monthly to once every six months, depending on the specific case; conversations with neighbors and living partners to validate the actual residence of the parolee; mandatory drug and alcohol testing; and polygraph testing, which was instituted in December of 2007. The recent findings reveal that a great deal of these requirements were not met during time period tested.
As a result of the report’s findings, Eells warns that this “could result in an increased risk to the public and a reduced likelihood that the offender will achieve long-term behavioral reform.”
According to New Jersey State Senator Linda Greenstein, who sponsored a piece of legislation last year to increase the restrictions pertaining to sex offenders in the state, a key provision through which parole officers would monitor a maximum of 40 parolees was not included in the bill, due to push back from the Parole Board and the Christie administration. The legislation was recently approved by Governor Chris Christie without this provision, leaving the current ratio of parolees to parole officers as 50:1.
David Thomas, the Parole Board’s executive director, cited changes in the “best practices” of parole officers to include more unannounced visits, a practice supported by researchers, as one of the main contributing factors to the study’s findings. He also criticized the time period in which the study was conducted, arguing that it was too short. However, Thomas ultimately admitted that the newly published data reveals some significant failings in the monitoring of those currently on parole for after being convicted of sexual offenses in New Jersey.
For more information pertaining to this matter, access the following article: NJ parole officers not keeping regular tabs on sex offenders, audit shows