Probationers in Sacramento County, California, according to recent reports, are going largely unsupervised. In fact, it is reported that about 92 percent of the county’s 22,000 probationers are not being supervised. That means drug tests, random searches, and probation services are not taking place, thereby doing little to help them break free from criminal behavior.
County officials say that, as a result of this lack of supervision, probationers in Sacramento County are far more likely to re-offend than in other areas of California. Among California’s largest counties, Sacramento County has the most probationers per officer, resulting in an overwhelmed system and certainly overwhelmed probation officers.
The Stark Reality of Budget Cuts
Within Sacramento County’s Probation Department, there are 620 employees and an operating budget of $115 million, which is a decrease from 888 employees and a $127 million budget just 5 years ago.
As a result of the cuts to the department’s budget, which is provided mainly by federal and state sources and was cut by the Board of Supervisors, there are now a whopping 124 probationers per probation officer, which is far more than other counties in California, such as Los Angeles County, which has 82 probationers per officer.
The Board of Supervisors has chosen to cut the county’s probation budget in lieu of programs for sheriff’s deputies and similar programs. Further, it is anticipated that there will be additional cuts to the budget this year, resulting in a loss of $5 million, or about 4 percent of its budget.
The result of a lack of supervision is clear: In 2012, about 6.2 percent of all probationers in Sacramento County were sentenced on a new offense; that’s the second highest rate among the state’s largest counties. A study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center also found that the City of Sacramento had a higher percentage of crime committed by probationers and parolees (30 percent from 2008 to 2011) that the state’s other largest cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Redlands.
It is reported that Sacramento County’s Probation Department is now unable to supervise about 34 percent of its high-risk probationers, some of which include gang members.