Sounds like more of a FUBAR than a SNAFU.
Let me get this straight: the fact that one supervision office has "lost" thousands of probationers proves that folks who argue against weakening the terms, duration and condtions of probation are wrong?
The study says the judges, despite their management responsibility, don't function as a team. They have a jumble of policies for monitoring the people they sentence, records show.
One major area of difference is judges' response to offenders who fail to check in at probation offices. Several jurists tell officers not to file a violation report if someone fails to report once. Some say to wait until there have been three straight failures.
It seems the study makes exactly the opposite point the poster intends.
A probationer who is released early from probation due to "probation reform" is just as free to "run wild" as a probationer who abscounds from probation--so how is the public better protected by early release from probation?
In fact, however, the abscounding probationer is not as free to run wild as the probationer who is no longer on probation. An abscounder runs the risk of being stopped by police--for example for a simple traffic problem--and being sent back to jail. The crook let off probation early has nothing to worry about.
Of course, those ignorant of how probation works might argue: probation reform was intended to only release early those probationers who had been model probationers and had finished all their conditions of probation (except for restitution). If probation officers didn't have this unneccessary caseload, they would have time to concentrate on their problem probationers.
In fact, model probationers do not take up much probation dept. time, because such probationers usually only report 4 times a year, and then their visits are very brief. What such model probationers do, is help pay for probation with P.O. fees, which the article says accounts for half of probation department income. If "Probation Reform" had been signed into law, Dallas Probations problems would be even more dire.
Real probation reform would have meant the legislature coming up with more money for probation, and more money to build more prisons, so that those who violate probation can be sent where they belong. If probationers know that they are going to the joint if they don't obey probation conditions,you'd probably have fewer abscounders, and more protection for the public.
I don't know why we worry about these "technical
Missing an appointment is a "technical violation"
We need to spend less time supervising
these "technical violators" and focus our
resources more on those that need the help.
Please. What planet are these people on?
One thing I would point out is that I doubt that the Dallas situation is any different than what is going on in most counties to a greater or lessor extent.
I believe this because the people that are working in Dallas are no different than people that are working in Harris County, Pecos County, Bexar County, or even Williamson County. People are people. And the resources that they have available, and how they use those resources, are probably no different from one county to the next. The scale involved is just different.
I think that if you look closely at your own counties you would probably find a similar situation -- 25% or so of the probationers being unaccounted for with a miss-mash of policies or regulations (of course, in a small county with, say less than ten judges, it is much easier to coordinate policies and expectations so you have uniformity).
But the point that I am trying to make, and what the article touched on, is that the system, as it is being run now, is broken. While the probation reform bill was not a magic wand, it did seem to have the support of many people in the probation community, as well as those in the criminal justice academic community that have done studies and looked at what other states are doing.
You make some amazing generalizations. Perhaps as a law student you still have the luxury of assuming everyone is the same everywhere. Do you feel the same way about all the students in your class? Why, then, is it that not everyone will be graduating?
Did you ever actually read the "reform" bill or did you form your conclusions based on who you thought was supporting it? I hope that your ongoing legal education includes some critical thinking lessons.
It seemed to have the support of many in the "probation community"? My "probation community" which I presume refers to people who actually work in the field, were scared to death of the bill. Some of them were going to lose their jobs because the bill would have ultimately caused a decrease in funding for probation departments due to reduced probation fees. The people who supported this WERE THE ACLU for God's sake!!!! What does that tell you?
No one that I personally know in the probation field supported the probation reform bill and the problem with absconders is not the probation systems fault. The probation reform bill would likely have had little or no impact on the absconder problem. No matter how good, well thought out, well funded, planned, implemented, or whatever attributes of any system of supervision, it all comes down to the individual on supervision. The problem is a societal problem whereby individuals are no longer deemed responsible for their own actions. It has to be someone or some things fault. The true problem in my humble opinion is the criminal justice systems inability to closely relate in time offense/violation to punishment. There is a way to eliminate absconders altogether, GPS.
I don't know of a single person with our probation office here that supported the probation "reform" bill either. Now's a good time to thank the governor for killing this and a few other anti-law enforcement bills that, somehow, managed to pass through the house and senate.
Probation Problems: Give officials freedom to do necessary job
Monday, August 8, 2005
At face value, the numbers cause a quick intake of air through pursed lips, indicating serious concern. But look deeper, and don't let all that air seep back out in a resigned sigh.
A study reveals Dallas County's probation department, supervised by 15 felony court judges, is understaffed and overworked, losing track of probationers at a dizzying rate, a weak link in an increasingly stressed criminal justice system. Department insiders contend the truth is closer to Mark Twain's lies, damn lies and statistics.
Our point here is not to quibble with MGT of America, a Florida-based consulting firm that produced the study at the behest of the 15 supervising judges, or with how it arrived at its conclusions. Even probation officials concede the department could do more and better.
Instead, we seek solutions.
One, ironically, is more freedom � to allocate resources more effectively.
A decade of flat state funding of probation departments caused cutbacks in needed rehabilitation programs and caseloads out of whack with realistic expectations. That should change.
The state, in fact, has as much as $2.1 million available for Dallas County. But only if it spends the money on new probation officers to reduce caseloads, provides a progressive sanctions program and agrees to reduce technical violations that take up prison space by 10 percent.
All of that sounds reasonable enough, until you consider that the county's starting annual salary for probation officers has been whittled to $28,500. That's less than schoolteachers or rookie community college police officers earn. That kind of money won't attract the quality of candidate this department needs.
Would it not make more sense for the better probation officers � the ones who, ostensibly, should handle the more difficult cases � to earn salaries that would encourage them to stay in the department? And there are other ways we could untie officials' hands.
Could the department not make more extensive use of automated check-in procedures for probationers deemed low-risk? Machines that ask the same routine questions as human officers could handle hundreds of people, freeing the humans to focus on the cases that present true public danger.
Should the supervising judges not have a more coordinated approach to their supervising? Their answer to this and other questions could go a long way toward shoring up this system.
II just have to add that I knew of no one in our CS/CD that approved of the bill. They were more apprehensive than the judges or prosecutors. In the early days of summer, when all the steam was behind the bill, I actually had a couple of defense attorneys put off pleas expecting to get the shorter probationary term for their clients.
We all know things can happen quickly in a special session. My boss got a question about this. Has anyone heard any rumblings about ressurecting some part or all of the vetoed probation legislation (in light of this article or otherwise)?
House Bill 69.
Never say never (of course), but since probation changes have not been added to the call of this special session, any bill on that topic is subject to a point of order on the floor or either chamber that would kill it in its tracks. Therefore, it is highly unlikely the legislature will revisit this issue during a special session. However, I would expect the topic to continue to be discussed during the interim (whenever that starts!), perhaps as interim studies, etc.
My boss, Mike Sheppard, came up with a brillant idea for the legislature which will save tons of bucks, and won't involve lots of arguments about watering down probation.
His idea is to pass a statute limiting the police to working criminal cases from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon. through Fri. With an hour off for lunch, of course.
If this "Reform" idea was passed, there would be no need to build any more prisons, or hamper probation in any way. State govt. could save millions of dollars. Indeed local govts. would save tons of bucks as well since they could reduce the number of cops working after-hours and on weekends to just enough to work traffic accidents. (Admittedly, saving local government money is of no concern to state legislators, but it does have that happy effect.)
Mike's Reform Idea would have exactly the same effect as Probation Reform, but it has this one advantage: it is completely honest with the public, and doesn't falsely claim that it will help law enforcement.
Along those same lines, we could have school reform. Cut the class size in half by making high school only two years long. Declare all sophomores to be seniors. As they say in criminal defense talk, Shazaam.
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