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Officials say Clarksburg US Probation Office understaffed

December 29, 2014

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — The U.S. Probation Office in Clarksburg is struggling to keep up with an increasing caseload because of understaffing, federal officials and a lawyer say.

U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley noted the problem last week during plea hearings in two drug cases. Keeley told both defendants that she planned to sentence them in three months but that would depend on when the Probation Office completes its reports, The Exponent Telegram (http://bit.ly/13Om5aS) reported.

“The Probation Office is very seriously understaffed and very seriously overworked,” Keeley said.

Chief Probation Officer Jeff Givens said the office hires additional staff as the caseload increases but drug-released caseloads have outpaced hiring.

A lengthy hiring process and federal budget cuts also are factors, said Givens, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“The cuts in the past couple of years have made it difficult to a certain extent because you have to make sure you have money to pay these people,” Givens told the newspaper.

Givens said his successor, Terry Huffman, will look at hiring additional staff.

“Taking into account the fact that they serve the busiest court city in the district and have a vigorous supervision program that ensures compliance with the court’s bond orders and promotes public safety, a manpower deficiency can have serious repercussions,” said Alex Neville, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the Northern District,.

“While the United States Marshals Service has been fortunate with respect to increased positions to match the spike in workload that occurred in the middle of the last decade, the local Probation Office has only been able to fill vacancies as they have arisen and have not noticed increases in personnel that are needed to keep pace,” Neville told the newspaper.

Clarksburg attorney Tom Dyer said the staffing shortage and increase caseload have delayed the Probation Office’s presentencing reports. As a result, defendants are typically being sentenced 10 to 12 weeks after conviction, compared to two to four weeks after conviction in the past.

“I think the unfortunate reality of our justice system in Northern West Virginia is that we don’t have enough boots on the ground,” Dyer told the newspaper.

He said the staffing issues have not affected the quality of the office’s work.

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Information from: The Exponent Telegram, http://www.theet.com

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