The City’s Adult Probation Department has gotten even worse since a blistering audit nearly seven years ago, with high-risk probationers continuing to go unmonitored, according to its new chief.
The department, which monitors adult criminal offenders placed on probation and assists in their rehabilitation, remains plagued by a poorly maintained computer system, lack of management and failure to keep an accurate tally on how many probationers are living in San Francisco, according to Jeanne Woodford, who has served as the head of adult probation for the last four months.
Woodford was the first female warden of San Quentin State Prison and recently stepped down from her post as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head of the state correctional system.
Working with Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Woodford submitted a request to the Board of Supervisors for nine new managerial and administrative positions, which would cost $1.03 million a year in salary and fringe benefits. Dufty, an outspoken advocate of beefing up the adult and juvenile probation departments, said that The City "simply can’t arrest and incarcerate ourselves out of the public safety problem."
The request comes about three months from the end of the fiscal year. Budget Analyst Harvey Rose recommended postponing the request until the regular budget deliberations for the upcoming year. The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee decided Wednesday to support four positions that Rose’s report found to have some merit for approval out of the nine requested.
"I guess I’m very passionate about what I do. And I really desire to get going to get structure in place," Woodford said as justification for making the request now.
"We need a strong framework within the department in which to grow the department," Dufty said.
In 2000, the city controller issued an audit of adult probation that found the department was failing to adequately supervise probationers and had a poor method for tracking them. At the time, there were an estimated 10,400 probationers living in San Francisco.
Woodford said that coming into her post, the department had not improved since the 2000 audit, "and in many cases we were in worse shape."
She found that seven cases of high-risk probationers were not being looked at. "It would be like leaving the gate of a prison opened," she said. The department also lacks the resources to test probationers for drugs, according to Dufty.
"Clearly this is a department that needs attention. It seemslike there is some stewardship now," said Supervisor Chris Daly, chair of the budget committee. "I’m not questioning the timing of this item. There’s some good reason why we’re here now."
The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the new positions Tuesday.