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Concerns of Pretrial and Probation Officers

FLEOA Expresses Concerns of US Pretrial and Probation Officers with Smarter Sentencing and Pretrial Release Act

September 13, 2020

Honorable Dick Durbin
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510

Honorable Mike Lee
United States Senate
361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 

Honorable Chris Coons
United States Senate
218 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 


Dear Senator Durbin, Senator Lee and Senator Coons,

We write to you today to address some concerns with your introduction of the Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act. While the goals of this act are appreciated, the unanticipated collateral impact on the judicial system, especially for U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers, must also be appreciated and addressed.

Since the Sentencing Commission began reworking federal sentencing guidelines, there has been a movement to minimize and use methods other than incarceration prior to and after an individual is sentenced. This movement was accelerated with the passage of the FIRST STEP Act which reworked and reduced longstanding drug offense sentencing guidelines and allowed thousands of convicted federal drug offenders the ability to reduce their sentences. As our nation confronted the COVID-19 pandemic, the judicial system again allowed individuals identified as high risk to also petition and receive reduced sentences or earlier releases from federal prison. Additionally, U.S. Courts have been very diligent during the pandemic to use home monitoring instead of pretrial confinement for almost all except the most egregious new criminal cases.

In total, these efforts have added thousands of federal offenders to the streets of America, many who are still on some form of supervised released or federal probation. Unfortunately, as we have notified Congress several times over the past two years, the requisite funding for staffing, overtime, and technology for U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers has not materialized. This has multiplied the workload on these federal law enforcement officers, in some cases by 100 fold. Due to the high risk and dangerous individuals these officers are tasked to monitor, the net effect has been an overworked workforce who can barely sustain the supervision of those under their charge. To make matters worse, these officers are working thousands of hours of uncompensated overtime just to keep up due to their ineligibility for compensatory time, standard overtime, or inclusion in the Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) pay system.

As a nation, we can’t in good conscious continue to allow pretrial and post-conviction individuals onto the streets of America without ensuring those tasked to monitor them are appropriately resourced and compensated. This is why we have asked the Congress and sought for years to increase funding for equipment, technology, staffing, and pay for U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers. When FIRST Step was passed into law, the federal Bureau of Prisons received an enormous amount of funding. Despite our requests, U.S. Pre-Trial and Probation Officers were left out.

Recently the House passed its FY21 FSGG bill and added language to study the overtime issue for U.S. Pre-Trial and Probation Officers. We would like to see that study language converted to a directive to implement LEAP for all U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers. We’d also like to see an appropriations package passed for U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers that includes a directive to hire more of these federal law enforcement officers and equip them with the tools necessary to perform their job.

If we allow more individuals to be out of the streets of America pre or post conviction without the ability to properly monitor them, then we are being malfeasant in our protection of the American people and the mandate to ensure those that are released on properly monitored and supported.

Thus, we would like to strongly recommend that prior to allowing any more individuals that are involved in the federal justice system to be placed on the streets of America, we work to ensure U.S. Pretrial and Probation Officers and funded and supported.

FLEOA appreciates your efforts on this legislation and we look forward to working with you to ensure our federal justice system is efficient and effective. If we can be of any additional assistance, feel free to contact us at fleoa@fleoa.org.


Sincerely,
Larry Cosme
National President
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association


Cc: Senate Judiciary members