Parole officers face extensive caseloads
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 8:19 AM
Read more about Cedric Poore’s
past and details related to the
Fairmont Terrace slayings.
Last fall, Probation and Parole Officer Robert Humphrey was supervising about 150 offenders on parole in the Tulsa area.
One of those was Cedric Dwayne Poore, now jailed on allegations he was involved in the January execution-style slayings of four women in the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex.
Assuming a 40-hour average work week, a caseload of nearly 150 offenders left Humphrey just over an hour per offender in October, when Poore was convicted of a misdemeanor.
Shortly after that conviction, Humphrey began submitting a report to his supervisors to determine whether Poore's parole should be revoked. That process ultimately took two months in the Department of Corrections system, which uses paper records mailed between offices.
For the type of misdemeanor Poore was convicted of, a decision to revoke his parole is not automatic, Humphrey said.
"We don't really request a warrant for many misdemeanors," Humphrey said. "It was kind of like a freak incident, it involved an argument over his daughter. It wasn't a life-threatening issue."
A police report for Poore's April 2012 arrest states he threatened to assault someone, saying, "Just wait, my people will be here to take care of all of you all." Poore pleaded guilty to obstructing an officer in October 2012.
Humphrey began writing the report on Poore's parole violation a few weeks after his conviction, talked it over with his supervisors and submitted it for their approval.
Once finalized, the Tulsa District office submitted the report by mail Dec. 11 to the state parole administrator in Oklahoma City. That office ultimately decided to issue a warrant revoking Poore's parole Dec. 28.
On Jan. 7, Misty Nunley, 33; Julie Jackson, 55; and 23-year-old twin sisters Rebeika Powell and Kayetie Powell Melchor were shot to death at Fairmont Terrace, a federally subsidized apartment complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.
On Jan. 14, Poore reported to the Tulsa County District probation and parole office for his monthly check-in with Humphrey. Poore was arrested that day on the warrant to revoke his parole - for the October misdemeanor conviction.
Humphrey said he knew nothing of Poore's alleged involvement in the quadruple homicide until he saw Poore's face splashed across news pages on Feb. 6. That was the day Tulsa Police announced Cedric Poore and his brother, James Poore, were jailed on accusations they bound and killed the four women at Fairmont Terrace during a robbery.
"When they said his name, I couldn't believe it - he was already incarcerated," Humphrey said.
He said he was shocked to learn of the crime police said Poore committed days before he was arrested at Humphrey's office.
"It's been a rough week since then," he said. "I feel a lot of sympathy for those families."
It took more than two months to get Cedric Poore back in prison after his misdemeanor conviction, but ultimately it was the state of Oklahoma that let him out of prison after serving 16 years of a 35-year sentence.
Poore was paroled in 2011 after serving less than half of his sentence for armed robbery. He was convicted in 1995, several years before a state law took effect requiring convicts of violent crimes to serve 85 percent of their sentence.
After receiving a unanimous recommendation by the Pardon and Parole Board in December 2009, his parole was approved by Gov. Brad Henry on June 3, 2010.
When Gov. Mary Fallin took office, she reviewed several of Henry's paroles that weren't certified before he left office. She denied at least 38 of Henry's paroles but approved Cedric Poore's and signed it in March 2011, records show.
Court records paint a portrait of Poore as a career criminal on parole from an Illinois prison sentence when he was convicted in 1995 of robbing employees at gunpoint in a Tulsa strip club. He was a member of Chicago's powerful Gangster Disciples gang and went by the street moniker "Insane," according to a case report.
The reasons Poore was recommended for parole in 2009 aren't listed on documents in Poore's massive file at the Tulsa County District Supervision office.
"We just supervise them; we don't get to determine which ones we supervise," Humphrey said.
Records from an earlier parole hearing note he wasn't recommended due to the violent nature of his offenses, a history of assaults and a prior failure on his Illinois parole, Assistant District Supervisor Kathy King said.
Currently, Tulsa County District supervision has about 30 officers supervising nearly 3,000 inmates.
Last year, Oklahoma legislators passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a package of reforms designed to reduce future prison spending. Among other things, the law requires that all inmates sentenced after Nov. 1, 2012, receive nine months mandatory supervision upon release from prison.
Right now, less than half of Oklahoma's inmates are supervised after they leave prison. But the massive increase in supervision in the next few years will require additional probation and parole officers - which will require funding.
Included with the $67 million budget increase the Department of Corrections sought for fiscal year 2014 was $3 million for additional probation and parole officers to handle the increased caseloads.
"In order for the justice reinvestment reforms to be successful (in increasing public safety and reducing the prison population), adequate funding must be secured. For example, the law now requires everyone transitioning from incarceration receive at least nine months supervision post-release," former Speaker of the House Kris Steele said in an email. "The state should hire additional parole officers, provide adequate training and reduce caseloads for effective supervision to occur. Research validates adequate supervision reduces crime and increases public safety, yet sufficient resources must be provided to achieve these goals."
Last week, Fallin recommended a $1 million increase - just 0.2 percent of the department's $464.7 million budget.
"Like every year, the governor's budget is a starting point," said Preston Doerflinger, secretary of finance and revenue, in an emailed statement.
"We are confident there will be more funds available for final appropriations than the figure we used to build the governor's budget, and we expect corrections may see more funds in the final budget than what we were able to propose earlier this month in the governor's budget."
Turnover is an issue for the Tulsa County District supervision office, King said.
Employees haven't had a pay raise in several years, so some leave for better-paying jobs in private security or federal probation, King said.
Parole officers at Humphrey's level make about $43,000 per year, records show.
But the officers' biggest challenge is their caseload, she said. Officers would prefer to have caseloads closer to 80 offenders, not 150, King said.
Larger caseloads affect officers' ability to closely monitor inmates released from prison, she said.
"They're pulled in so many directions," King said. "They're expected to get their clients on the path to being a better citizen - but between home visits, arrests and court dates, the high caseloads just kind of throw that into chaos."
1993: Cedric Poore is paroled from drug distribution and auto theft convictions in Illinois and reports to Oklahoma for interstate supervision.
1995: Poore is convicted of armed robbery in Tulsa County and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
2005: Poore reportedly participates in a deadly prison riot in which one inmate is killed. A charge of first-degree murder, later amended to rioting, is filed against him in Payne County. The charge is later dismissed.
March 2011: Poore is paroled from prison in Oklahoma, approved by Gov. Brad Henry and Gov. Mary Fallin.
Oct. 8, 2012: Poore is convicted of a misdemeanor in Tulsa County District Court.
Oct. 22: Poore's parole officer asks for parole revocation.
Dec. 11: Finalized revocation documents are sent to the parole administration office in Oklahoma City.
Dec. 28: A warrant is issued for Poore's arrest.
Jan. 7: Four women are shot to death in an apartment at Fairmont Terrace.
Jan. 14: Cedric Poore is arrested at the Tulsa County District supervision office.
Original Print Headline: Parole problems
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Parole officers Robert Humphrey and Venetta Douglas talk with Laura Bricker (left) Friday at a house where a parolee will stay after being released from jail.
Parole officers Robert Humphrey and Venetta Douglas finish paperwork at a location check on Friday. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Parole officer Robert Humphrey and partner Venetta Douglas get their Kevlar vests and guns ready before heading out for a location check Friday. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World