CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 News investigation has found a crisis at the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
The agency's Charleston County office is experiencing a severe shortage of agents.
The shortage, according to officials stems from a hiring freeze.
"Several years ago, state budget tanked and we've been in a hiring freeze," explained Agent Teela Fleming.
The hiring freeze is forcing agents to take on an enormous caseload.
The numbers are staggering.
Right now, there are 14 cases agents in Charleston County.
Each agent is assigned between 250 and 275 offenders.
That means it's difficult for agents to give extra attention to some offenders who need it more than others.
"We are focusing right now on the fires to be put out, which ball we really can't afford to drop," Fleming said.
The shortage is really being felt by the folks who have to go in the field and make sure offenders are at home.
In most cases, they have to do it without any backup.
"As soon as they open the door, we're there all by ourselves, we're exposed," said Agent Jeffrey Rillorta.
That also means more potential victims are exposed, according to Fleming.
"We want our people on probation and parole to do well, to change their lives around and for those who refuse to do that we don't want them to create new victims and the public will be the victim."
Probation and Parole officials are hoping the legislature will hear their plea for more agents.
Otherwise, agents and the public are going to continue to feel the pressure.
A Probation and Parole spokesman said the House version of the state budget contains funds for additional agents, but the Senate version does not.
Officials are hoping there will be an agreement to fund the positions.