- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Growing caseloads are pushing the limits of North Dakota’s supervisory standards for ex-convicts, parole and probation officers say.

“We’re struggling to keep up,” said Leslie “Barney” Tomanek, director of the state Department of Corrections’ parole and probation division. “Our numbers continue to go up every month.”

The number of parolees and probationers in North Dakota was exactly 5,900 on Tuesday, up from about 4,825 in 2010, Tomanek said. The number of out-of-state offenders rose from 440 to 565 during that time under an interstate compact that passes on the supervision of criminals to the state where they reside.

Out-of-state-felons and parolees and probationers released from the North Dakota prison system are either coming to North Dakota or staying because of the state’s strong economy and thousands of unfilled jobs, officials say.

There are 75 sworn officers who supervise offenders throughout North Dakota, or an average of about 78 cases per officer. Tomanek said an ideal caseload would be about 60 offenders per officer.

“We’re doing the best with what we have,” he said. “We’re trying to identify our most high-risk people - that’s where we are focusing our resources.”

The North Dakota Legislature last year provided funding for six additional officers. Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, who heads the House Appropriations committee that examines such budgets, said lawmakers are going to “have to take a long hard look at this again. We seriously have to help those guys out.”

Pollert said he has taken a ride-along with a parole officer and came away with newfound appreciation for the job.

“It’s most definitely a tough job, and I told them there was no way I could do it,” he said.

Officers perform record checks, verify employment, administer drug tests and visit offenders’ homes. They also conduct presentencing investigations, which are used by judges when sentencing an offender.

Williston parole and probation officer Lloyd Haagenson said there are at least four presentencing investigations pending on murder charges in his district, in the northwest part of the state.

Haagenson and two other officers each monitor about 80 ex-cons, most of whom have come to the region to find work in the booming oil patch. His office also investigates about 120 out-of-state parolees annually who want to move to the area. About half of them are denied, he said.

“Some of them are not very nice people,” he said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the state’s top law enforcement officer, said intense supervision is needed for parolees and probationers.

“It’s important to have the staffing they need,” Stenehjem said. “Those who are unsupervised are much more likely to reoffend and then they become our problem.”


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