Forget blame,

Published 4:53 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

By Staff
fix the problem
Gov. Mike Easley contends that problems with North Carolina’s probation system are a result of lax sentencing laws that let too many criminals avoid prison.
The governor may have a point. If he’s right, why didn’t he at least try to do something about those weak laws during his eight years in office? With about a month left in office, it is easy for the governor to point his finger at what he considers to be a key cause of the probation mess.
That mess didn’t happen overnight, and the governor had plenty of time to attempt to correct the problem. And if he was not aware that such a problem existed until just recently, he should have been aware of it much sooner.
Easley, a former attorney general and district attorney, is right when he says there are many people on probation who should be in jail or prison for their offenses.
The governor’s remarks followed reports by the News &Observer of Raleigh that the state’s probation system lost contact with thousands of criminals since 2000. In the case of one unsupervised probationer, he is accused of murdering Eve Carson, who was the student-body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was on probation at the time of Carson’s murder, but he had not yet met his probation officer.
Of course, there is plenty of finger-pointing be done.
The News &Observer reported that the state’s prison officials failed to ask for additional employees and that in 2005 they increased workloads for probation officers instead of hiring 135 new people. If that’s the case, that’s not solving the problem. That’s making the problem worse.
The governor has said his administration requested that the N.C. General Assembly appropriate more money to build prisons and hire more probation officers. Perhaps the governor and his staff should have done more than asked. Perhaps the governor, or an aide that knows how to get things done, should have lobbied, cajoled and pressured state legislators into correcting the problem.
The governor, according to The Charlotte Observer, also took legislators to task for requiring the probation system to find funding within its budget from jobs that have not been filled. Easley contends the probation system does not have those unfilled positions and has been forced to cut funding instead.
Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Apparently, someone was talking the talk but not walking the walk when it came to fixing the state’s probation system. Now that the state has been somewhat embarrassed by the revelations concerning its probation system’s failings, it is a safe bet that state officials and legislators will do something to correct the probation system’s deficiencies.
They would be too embarrassed not to do so.
For victims like Eve Carson, those remedies will come too late.