County sees increase in severity of crimesThe severity of crimes in Carlton County appears to be on the rise, according to Kay Arola, executive director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections (ARC), in a report to the Carlton County Board on Tuesday.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The severity of crimes in Carlton County appears to be on the rise, according to Kay Arola, executive director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections (ARC), in a report to the Carlton County Board on Tuesday. Arola explained that a weighting system is utilized to determine how many offenders are supervised by a particular probation officer and how much time and how many tasks are required to complete that supervision.
“Some are very easy [to supervise] and some are very complex,” said Arola.
She explained if an offender is classified as low risk, he or she requires minimum contact with probation. Those weighted the high end, which includes sex offenders, prisoners on intensive supervised release, and those with long criminal histories, require supervision that is far more time and work intensive.
Arola said the more heavily weighted cases have progressively gone up in Carlton County. In 2009, there were 381 felony offenders in the county’s adult caseload, and that number has gone up to 427 thus far in 2012.
This has put increasing pressure on the county’s probation system. Arola pointed out that while the ideal ratio of clients to probation officers is 50 to 1, Carlton County averages a ratio of 138 clients to one probation officer, making it the second highest in the ARC’s five-county region.
“We’re concerned about that,” she said, “and so we’ve begun shifting resources from the juvenile caseload over to the adult side to bring that ratio down to 118 to 1.”
Arola told commissioners that she wanted to “plant the seed” for Carlton County to consider hiring an additional probation officer to respond to the circumstances.
“I know there are financial constraints you have to look at,” she acknowledged. “We have to be more discerning about who we spend our time with and in assessing where our resources go.”
In its juvenile caseload, Carlton County currently has a client-to-probation officer average of 30 to 1– a favorable balance in light of the state’s average of 48 to 1 – but after additional resources are shifted to the adult side, that average will go up to 41 to 1.
Still, Arola said, the probation system throughout the state as a whole seems to be working.
“Minnesota made a conscious decision decades ago to be very stingy with our jail cells,” she said, indicating that the state chose to rely more heavily on community supervision – in other words, probation – instead of extended incarceration within the prison system. As a result, she related, Minnesota stands 49th lowest out of the 50 states in its incarceration rates.
“Though I know you are experiencing overcrowding in your jail here in Carlton County right now,” said Arola, “statewide, our jails are fairly empty. That’s what makes it possible for you to contract for outside space for some of your prisoners.”
Arola said that while some 9,850 people are incarcerated in the state’s prison system at the current time, some 138,000 others are currently under community supervision. She said the effectiveness of incarceration versus community supervision can be measured in terms of cost and safety. Minnesota is the second lowest state in the amount of money spent on corrections, and yet the recidivism rate (measured in terms of those adults who remain free of felony convictions within three years) is 84 percent for northeastern Minnesota and 85 percent statewide.
The ARC is comprised of the five counties of Carlton, Koochiching, Cook, Lake and St. Louis and is governed by a board comprised of eight commissioners from the participating counties. It represents one of three probation delivery systems in the state.