Governor goes on probation patrol

Gov. Bev Perdue

February 10, 2010 7:24:07 AM PST
Probation reform has been one of Governor Bev Perdue's priorities.Tuesday, Governor Perdue went on the job with Probation Officer Kenya Huger - driving through Durham to check on people who are on probation.

Some people were shocked to see the governor at their door.

"They were appalled, they were stunned," Perdue said. "One woman didn't want me in her house, I understand that."

The governor has conducted unannounced visits in the past to check in with state workers across North Carolina. She's been to mental hospitals, prisons, unemployment offices, but Tuesday was the first time she allowed a camera along.

"This is really hard work I can understand why people burn out," Perdue said.

While the Governor went along, Officer Huger focused on low risk offenders.

The governor thinks overall, probation officer's caseloads should be more focused on the state's high risk offenders.

"I'm glad I did this, I see it with a different set of eyes," Perdue said. "I understand why we need to look at their caseload, refine who they're seeing."

The governor also believes - as a society - we need to help convicts break the cycle - getting them away from a life of crime.

"One man we saw how do you fix him, he's been in system since he was 16 he's 50, how do you fix him," Perdue said.

For years, North Carolina's probation system has been under fire.

Governor Perdue says she wants to improve the system.

"I've got to figure out a way to pay people better," she said. "I've got to figure out a way to lighten the case load."

Officer Huger says she hopes the governor reduces probation officers' caseload.

"Also get the vacancies filled and help the offenders, hopefully we can do that," Huger said.

The governor says this is just the beginning; she'll be back on probation patrol again to check on violent offenders.

"I owe it to myself and the people who elected me and to these folks who put their lives at risk every night they go out," Perdue said.

The governor has made a list of ideas to help overhaul the probation system.

She says she thinks more offenders should be monitored using electronic bracelets.

Perdue also says she wants the officers to have GPS units in their car to help them get around more easily.

She is encouraging probation officers to keep in touch with her about other ways to improve the system.

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