At any given time, there are 6,000 offenders serving a type of supervised probation through the Probation and Parole Office in Wyoming. If you compare that number to the office's 116 field agents across the state, you can understand the amount of room left for error.
Defense Attorney, Don Fuller says he often refers to probation as having one foot in jail and one foot out. Probation is essentially a sentence, without the confinement. Many consider the program rehabilitative. But take the case of a Casper teen convicted of an armed home invasion in October 2012. Austin Ideen recently had his felony probation revoked, after seven probation violations.
Natrona County District Attorney, Michael Blonigen says, "At times, it does seem we tolerate a little too much."
Blonigen says there is obvious tension between the law enforcement side and the treatment side of probation, adding the treatment side always wants to give alleged criminals one more chance. He says, "You can't give them one more chance constantly, on the back of the community."
In June 2013, Ideen was convicted of a DUI, and in the months that followed, he tested positive for various drugs and alcohol on six different occasions.
Fuller was Ideen's defense attorney, and says "At the time of being put on felony probation, something that didn't really come out at that point in time, was... Problems with addiction."
However, Fuller adds the ball wasn't dropped in Ideen's case, saying he went in with the goal of trying to help his client succeed.
Probation and Parole Office Deputy Administrator Bill Pain says prosecutors and attorneys handle the courtroom side of it, while community supervision is left in the hands of field agents.
Unfortunately, both Fuller and Blonigen agree the state doesn't have enough probation officers.
Probation and Parole Office numbers show the total number of offenders in the state on supervision at any time is roughly 6,000 with only 116 field agents.
There are nearly 60 probationers per agent, sometimes even more, depending on specialized case loads. Pain doesn't see the numbers as a problem, saying, "If you compare Wyoming to other states, that number is among the lowest and best offender to agent ratio."
There are different kinds of probation, some requiring maximum supervision, and others not expecting much. One-third of people on supervised probation are on minimum supervision which Blonigen says involves calling and filling out a piece of paper every month. He says that isn't supervision.
People who do well on probation say accountability is key.