by Angela Chagnon
Vermont’s State Auditor, Tom Salmon, presented his audit report of the state’s Sex Offender Registry (SOR) and sex offender supervision to the House Judiciary Committee this week.
“There were a sizeable number of serious errors in the SOR and the currency of the system’s data could not be determined,” the report reads under its Findings.
Fifty-seven offender records were chosen at random, and most of the records had one or more errors.”The organizations…and processes used to support the SOR did not work in a seamless manner, which limited the State’s ability to prevent errors, omission, and outdated registry date,” the report continues.
Of those errors, 28% were critical (errors that have or would have resulted, if not corrected, in persons being incorrectly omitted, added, retained, or deleted from the Registry or Internet Registry), and 51% were significant (sex offender identification, location, coding, or other data). The errors that were discovered were immediately corrected when brought to the attention of the commissioner.
As for the sex offender supervisors, the report revealed that seventeen parole officers (59 percent) had data errors in offenders’ records that affected how the total active caseload number on the Historic Resource Allocation Report was calculated. This caused some cases to be counted incorrectly.
The Department of Corrections places blame partly on the outdated system used to track sex offenders, and had previously asked for funds to implement a new system.The report reveals that, “as of December 13, 2010, this funding request was still under consideration.”
However, Salmon believes that accuracy can be improved by implementing standard written procedures and making sure that personnel are properly trained to use the system. “We need to wait until changes are made to re-audit,” said Salmon. A grant has been secured to make the changes.
“My expectations are that audit will be presented to the legislature before any action is taken,” said chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. William Lippert (D-Hinesburg). “When legislators became aware that interface was so dependent on human interaction, errors were likely to happen.”
There are a total of 2,633 persons on the Registry.There is no national standard for the error rate, but there is a confidence rate of 95%.”System and process improvement should drive the error rate down,” said Linda Lambert, Auditor of Accounts.
Twenty-nine designated parole officers are handling sex offender cases. Each officer is limited to handling 45 cases which include non-sex offenders, since there are no specifically designated sex offender supervisors. While 28 of the officers were under the caseload limit at the time of the audit, one of the parole officers had a caseload of 51, which is 13% above the limit.
Salmon attributes this to the DOC not having “an effective reporting mechanism for monitoring caseloads,” warning that more significant problems could happen in the future due to “reports containing incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading data [sic] used in making PO staffing decisions.”