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Budget cuts problematic for New York DWI probation officers

DWI probation officers in northern New York are concerned that budget cuts proposed by Gov. Paterson could make their work less effective.

Paterson proposed a 10 percent cut across the board, which may lead the probation officers with a lack of resources to properly rehabilitate an offender after a DWI arrest. The cuts, which are proposed on top of 18% of cuts in the last two years, mean the officer have less resources. At the same time, an increase in penalties for DWI offenders in the state often means they have a higher case load.

The probation officers are forced to make compromises. The state has mandated risk assessments for each individual on probation. This is to allow officers to determine how much assistance the individual is likely to need along with potential for problems. The state has also mandated more supervision for offenders, including an ignition interlock requirement for all offenders to take effect this summer.

Each time an ignition interlock signals an alert, a probation officer has to carry out an investigation of the incident. This was enough work with just felony offenders, according to probation officers, without adding misdemeanor offenders. Numbers estimate as high as 11% of all DWI cases require investigation by probation officers. That is over 70 investigations a year, and numbers are expected to grow.

Paterson would like to add mandatory DNA collection for all convicted criminals, misdemeanors included. There is no current proposal for who would shoulder the expense of the DNA testing. The probation officers would be responsible for collecting and saving the data, however, which could place too much burden on some counties, such as Jefferson County, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

At the same time DWI and DUI reform is passing in high amounts across the country, most states are experiencing budget crises due to a decrease in tax base with the recession. The results are similar everywhere – there is simply too much work for the budget to allow.

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