When Jaycee Dugard escaped from captivity in Oakland, California sex offender Phillip Garrido's backyard, it became apparent that both state and federal parole officers had missed multiple opportunities to discover and rescue her during the 18 years she was held captive. At that time, a state investigation put partial blame on the heavy workloads of the parole agents responsible for Garrido's supervision. A blue ribbon task force recommended that parole agents' sex offender caseloads be dramatically reduced to a maximum of 20. This was never done. California parole agents often have caseloads exceeding the state's own limit of 40 per agent.
"This is criminal negligence ... you cannot do that," said retired state parole supervisor Michael Taber who was on the task force. "When you do that, massive things are going to happen. People are going to die."
Unfortunately, people have already died. Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicated that the parole agents overseeing two Orange County men currently charged with the murder of four women sometimes supervised over 40 sex offenders and more high-risk offenders than the state rules permit.
Franc Cano and Steve Gordon were arrested in April 2014 and charged with the murders of Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, Martha Anaya, 28, and Jarrae Estepp, 21. The women disappeared in October and November 2013, and March 2014. Estepp's nude body was discovered March 14, 2014, on a conveyer belt in an Anaheim trash facility near the state parole office once used by both men. It is the only one of the women's bodies recovered. Anaheim police believe there is also an unidentified fifth victim.
In 2012, Cano and Gordon cut off their state-issued GPS monitors and fled to Las Vegas. This resulted in them being placed on federal probation. On November 12, 2013, the same day law enforcement officials believe Anaya was raped and murdered, Gordon, who had completed his state parole, appeared in federal court to argue against being placed under close supervision. Cano remained on state parole while under close supervision on federal probation.
"I don't understand how they could go on for months without being caught or being under suspicion," said Anaya's boyfriend Jesse Fisher. "When two guys are like that together, shouldn't alarm bells be ringing?"
California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (CDRC) spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said parole agents only occasionally exceed the 40-case limit, mostly when covering for other agents who are on vacation or during holidays. She said the department had given "considerable consideration" to reducing parole agent workloads to the levels proposed by the task force, but rejected the proposal as being too costly.
Cano was assigned to a different parole agent on average once a year. This shuffling among agents makes it more difficult for an agent to recognize subtle changes in a parolee's behavior which might signal trouble. A veteran agent in Southern California, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said caseload reassignments, exacerbated by parole agent layoffs, are a problem. He also noted that overworked agents might not have time to review a sex offender parolee's daily GPS track carefully. The negates the usefulness of GPS monitoring.
Meanwhile, the CDRC is negotiating with the parole agents' union to raise the ceiling for supervising high-risk parolees from 20 cases per agent to 30.
Sources: www.latimes.com, Associated Press
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