Audit calls for better debt collection of probationers

TRENTON – A state audit of Probation Services showed that there was an outstanding debt of $364 million from 149,957 probationers as of June 2011.

The Division should improve its collection of fines, fees, and restitution, according to the audit released today.

A majority of that $364 million in debt – $268 million – is restitution due to victims of crimes.

Efforts such as better verification of Social Security numbers would help improve debt collections, the audit concluded.

Part of that overall problem, according to the state Auditor’s office, is that a database analysis showed 8,956 individuals with an invalid Social Security number entered in the system. The outstanding debt of those people is $11.4 million.

More than 6,500 of these individuals were given a generic Social Security number like 888-88-8888 during intake for immigrants or when the correct number is not immediately known.

The audit recommended that the Division acquire the proper software and train personnel better as steps to address the problem.

Overall, annual collections have declined from $38 million to $33 million from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2010, the audit stated. 

In a response to the audit, Glenn Grant, the acting administrative director of the courts, acknowledged the issues identified and said that among other things, the database is being enhanced to automatically detect duplicate Social Security numbers and alert probation officers, staff are being trained to investigate invalid numbers, and the Judiciary will develop procedures and use software to identify when Social Security information is associated with someone who has died. Audit calls for better debt collection of probationers