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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

December 17, 2015, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: State Must Improve Oversight of Most Dangerous Sex Offenders

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) is not adequately monitoring the state’s most dangerous sex offenders, often failing to make the minimum number of required monthly contacts and not performing mandated curfew checks, according to an audit issued today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit examined compliance with the state’s Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act (Act) at regional DOCCS offices in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Elmira, New Rochelle, Northeast (Albany), Peekskill, Rochester and Syracuse.

Under state regulations, DOCCS is responsible for closely monitoring sex offenders’ compliance with court-ordered conditions of their release. The Act applies to offenders who have been legally determined to suffer from a mental abnormality that predisposes them to committing a sex offense and that results in their difficulty in controlling this behavior. Many of these individuals are subject to a Strict and Intensive Supervision and Treatment (SIST) program by department personnel. SIST respondents are expected to demonstrate acceptance of responsibility for their behavior and to develop appropriate strategies to prevent reoffending.

“There’s a reason New York keeps an eye on convicted sex offenders who are released from prison,” said DiNapoli. “These regulations keep our communities safe and any failure to properly monitor these high-risk individuals could have dangerous results. DOCCS officials agree with our key audit findings and have appropriately indicated they will take immediate action to improve oversight of the program.”

By law, DOCCS parole officers must make a minimum of six face-to-face supervision contacts per month, which includes two home visits and two curfew checks. In addition, officers must make six “collateral” contacts per month, such as meeting with a respondent’s mental health treatment provider. DOCCS also requires officers to obtain an updated digital photo of each SIST respondent every 90 days and any time a respondent has a notable change of appearance, such as change of hairstyle or weight gain or loss.

DiNapoli’s audit, however, found the minimum total of six monthly face-to-face contacts did not occur in nearly a quarter of the 92 cases tested. For example, in the Bronx regional office, officers did not make the minimum number of contacts in 119 of the 278 months that were reviewed (43 percent). Similarly, the Northeast office failed to meet the monthly criteria in 73 of the 117 months tested (62 percent).

DOCCS officers also failed to perform required curfew checks in a quarter of the 92 cases. In the Northeast office, 78 percent of monthly curfew checks were not performed. And in the New Rochelle office only 42 percent of the checks were completed. By contrast, the Rochester office made all of the curfew checks as required.

Auditors also reviewed the timeliness of SIST offender photo updates. Photos of SIST offenders are supposed to be updated at least every 90 days, but only 38 percent of 113 required updates were done on time while 15 percent were more than a month late. At the time of the audit, one respondent’s photo had not been updated in almost a year.

The Comptroller’s audit also revealed:

  • Documentation when respondents are first admitted to the SIST program was not properly completed in 29 of 94 cases tested (31 percent). These reports include photos, fingerprints and setting up electronic monitoring when applicable;
  • Initial interviews with respondents were not completed within the required time frame in 71 of the 94 cases (76 percent);
  • Officers did not always maintain proper documentation when responding to alerts triggered by a respondent’s electronic monitoring device; and
  • Although DOCCS officers appeared to have completed certain training requirements, the department did not have proper documentation to verify their attendance.

DiNapoli recommended DOCCS make adjustments to its procedures to ensure compliance with the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act. This includes:

  • Evaluate the reasons for variations in regional office compliance with the act and department requirements in order to identify potential best practices;
  • Identify and implement strategies to improve regional offices’ compliance rates;
  • Monitor compliance rates among the regional offices and assess the effectiveness of steps taken to improve compliance;
  • Take steps to improve documentation of supervision activities, among them reminders to staff about the importance of maintaining complete and accurate records, including the nature and extent of their responses to electronic monitoring alerts; and
  • Periodically assess the effectiveness of the steps taken.

For a copy of the final audit and view the performance of each DOCCS regional office, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093016/14s50.pdf

For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 50,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.

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