NYS lost track of over 3,200 parolees, including violent sex offenders

ALBANY, NY (WRGB) Thousands of parolees unaccounted for!

It’s the job of the State to keep track of inmates it releases from prison to community supervision, but CBS 6 has learned the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision lost track of nearly ten percent of the convicts it was supposed to be watching!

The people wandering free are called parole absconders and some of them are dangerous!

Karen Zieglar is Director of the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center.

“Wow. I don’t think anyone in the community is aware of that number.”

The number she’s reacting to is 3,275, the number of parole absconders New York State reported to CBS 6 in January. Absconders are people convicted of crimes who are supposed to be finishing out their sentences at home on parole, but stopped reporting to their parole officers, and got away.

The number she’s reacting to is 3,275, the number of parole absconders New York State reported to CBS 6 in January. Absconders are people convicted of crimes who are supposed to be finishing out their sentences at home on parole, but stopped reporting to their parole officers, and got away.

“These are not your average pickpocketers, these are people who are hurting and potentially devastating other people’s lives,” Zieglar said.

CBS 6 was alerted to one absconder who was on parole for manslaughter in New York City when the State lost track of him. He was found later in Albany and re-arrested in connection to the shooting of a 16-year-old. The NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says it arrested an average of 175 parole absconders every month of 2019, but the total number is still higher than it was 8 months ago, an increase of 72, thousands of parolees still unaccounted for.

Anne: “What questions do these numbers raise for you?”

Karen Zieglar: “I would certainly want to know what they’re doing to find them.”

We went straight to DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci with our questions, but his team of security tried to stop us from getting anywhere near him at a public hearing.

Anne: “Commissioner are you concerned about the number of parole absconders in New York State right now?”

When we got near the commissioner, he would not get off his phone to acknowledge us.

Anne: “Commissioner can we have a few minutes with you?”

His staff directed us to call his public relations director, who a week before declined our request for an interview.

His staff directed us to call his public relations director, who a week before declined our request for an interview. The agency did answer some of our questions by email. When a parolee cuts off a GPS device , the agency says, “If there is a known threat to a victim attempts would be made to notify them.”

Karen Zieglar disputes that claim.

Anne: “Do you think victims are aware there are this many people unaccounted for?”

Karen Zieglar: “I don’t think victims are being told, I don’t think they’re warned, I don’t think they’re aware they’re safety is being compromised.”

I tried to address the issue with the commissioner, but he continued to walk away from our cameras up the stairwell.

Wayne Spence is a parole officer and President of the New York State Public Employees Federation, the union that represents 900 parole officers statewide.

Anne: “When somebody absconds, is it putting the public at risk?”

Wayne Spence: “Absolutely.”

Spence believes a loss of parole officers has led to an increase in absconders.

Since the early 1990s, Spence says the state moved to eliminate 400 positions through attrition. Because of reductions, he says officers are overwhelmed with their caseloads.

“We are still in need of parole officers out there to do the job,” Spence said.

He says one parole officer should be monitoring 20 high-risk parolees, but he says the actual ratios are more like 60 to 1.

Wayne Spence is a parole officer and President of the New York State Public Employees Federation. He says one parole officer should be monitoring 20 high risk parolees, but he says the actual ratios are more like 60 to 1.

“It’s asking a parole officer to turn water into wine. You’re asking them to do miracles, and it just doesn’t happen,” Spence said.

DOCCS wrote us saying, “DOCCS supervision standards exceed or are within the established American Probation and Parole Association and National Institute of Corrections recommended standards.”

It took the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision four months to answer our Freedom of Information Law request for information on absconders.

By the time we got it, some of the numbers were dated. DOCCS said 95 of the missing parolees were sex offenders and 50 were considered violent sex offenders, but those numbers are from May.

We also requested information on more than 3,000 absconders, but it’s been four months and we are still waiting.

Originally Reported by CBS 6 Albany

I Demand A Fair Contract!

Dear Commissioner,

New York Public Employees Make Life in New York Possible. I want them to receive the salary, benefits, and quality of life they deserve! Public Employees in your agency and others need the fair contract that PEF is fighting for. 

You have the power to make a lasting impact on the State of New York. I hope you take this opportunity to improve the quality of life for hard working New York Public Employees. 

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]