Our jails are more crowded than ever. To combat that, judges often give out probation instead of jail time, but with a limited number of probation officers to manage them, the number of people violating the terms of their probation has gone sky high. With jails jam-packed probation is often the most logical sentence for judges. "Judges are now putting people on probation that 15 years ago would have gone to prison,” said probation officer Jeff Long. With more than 100,000 people on probation in the state, keeping up with all of them is quite a task. As a result, Governor Perdue upped the state budget to include more parole and probation officers. “More officers would obviously help us have fewer on our case load. Our target numbers, we all exceed our target numbers as far as how many we should have,” Long said. New Hanover County has 548 probationers currently in violation of their terms; that's the highest in our five county area. In Brunswick, that number is 118, Columbus 73, Pender 66, and Bladen 49. "If they fail to check in on any given day, that's a violation, if they fail to show up for an appointment, that's a violation, committing and being convicted of a new crime is a violation,” Long added. In New Hanover County, there are 4,000 offenders on probation. Jeff Long and his partner manage 40 of them. These probationers have committed crimes like robbery, assault and breaking and entering. If they violate their probation terms, they could face immediate jail time. Long said he isn't the only officer who feels overwhelmed, so he's looking forward to bringing more officers on board to help lighten the load. "Being able to free up some extra time to spend more intensely with individual people should be better."
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