Change in state probation supervision praised by prof after being panned by DA, state rep

East Tennessee State University Assistant Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Jennifer Pealer is applauding the Tennessee Department of Correction’s new supervision standards, which include less supervision for low-risk offenders who are on probation and parole, reports Johnson City’s WJHL-TV.

“When I heard about it I was actually very happy that DOC has implemented this type of policy, because it’s actually bringing Tennessee aligned with what the research shows we should be doing and this research has been around for many years,” she said.

The major policy shift now dedicates most of the state’s resources to supervising higher risk offenders, while giving so-called lower risk offenders, including some convicted first and second-degree murderers in our area, a longer leash. TDOC determines an offender’s risk using an assessment program.

Although some fear the change increases the risk to the public, Dr. Pealer, who specializes in corrections, believes the new policy is best for public safety.

“It’s what the research calls the risk principal,” Dr. Pealer said. “Research is pretty clear that the severity of crime is not that big of indicator about whether they’re going to go out and re-offend. Most murderers do not go out and re-offend. The beauty of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s policy is that they are not basing it on their gut.”
Dr. Pealer has read much of the same research that prompted TDOC to make the significant change in supervision standards. Instead of checking in regularly to a probation office, she says lower risk offenders should be allowed to work and surround themselves with others who are actually productive members of society.

…Since our stories first aired earlier this week, TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield has reached out directly to Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus and Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-District 1). Both men tell us they received a letter from the commissioner giving them the chance to clear up any of their concerns about the new policy directly with him.

On Friday, News Channel 11 confirmed that Governor Bill Haslam’s office was notified of the changes by TDOC.

DA Staubus and Rep. Lundberg previously said they were outraged by the new standards and told us TDOC implemented the change back in August without asking for their input or even giving them a heads up it was on the way. TDOC’s deputy commissioners previously admitted the agency could have done a better job of letting “key players” know the change was in the works.