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Hello to all my DA and CA friends! I am sitting in an airplane writing this at about 35,000 feet while flying above our great country on my way to another consulting gig in another state. I am writing this at the encouragement of Rob who wanted me to react to your recent web posting/conversations. First and foremost, I appreciate that I am still call the �good Doc� by some of you even in the heat of the web discussions and I want to thank all of you for 20 years of support and friendship while I was in the now defunct (or disbanded, my favorite description by the newspaper) Criminal Justice Policy Council (CJPC). I used to tell the legislators that I loved my job, and I did because we had the best group of people trying to do the right thing for Texas in this area. But I also loved it because people like you taught me a lot and you were always very supportive in promoting a rational approach to some of our crime and correctional challenges � which was what we tried to do working with �the numbers� at the CJPC.
Anyway, let me react to your web conversations/postings. Unlike what somebody said in one of the postings, I have not suggested that we reduce probation terms per se. What I suggested was that we change the present early discharge probation policy so the preponderance of the process is in favor of discharging probationers early. I suggested changing the law to say that on the early discharge eligibility date presently established in the law a probationer will be early discharged unless judges decide otherwise following a standard set of criteria to be defined in the law. If the judge decides against an early discharge, the offender will be reviewed again after a year and so forth. I suggested that this change should be implemented with a package of reforms that included: funding for more residential sanction beds, development of risk assessment instruments to assist in the supervision/revocation decisions, redesign of the fee structure so that counties don�t lose money when offenders are discharged early and the extra funds can be used to reduce caseloads (maybe also consider the possibility of a reasonable balloon payment of fines or fees as a condition of early discharge). The goal is to have most non-violent probationers serving about two years under supervision but maintaining the discretion of judges to evaluate who should be discharged early.
I have said in the past and continue to say now that adequate prison capacity is necessary to make any of the reforms work. I learned this philosophy from you guys long time ago! I have not suggested a prohibition for technical revocations but I have said that we can reduce the number of technical revocations by having more effective probation and more local sanctions options coupled with the utilization of risk assessments to assist in identifying the riskier population that should be revoked. A probation system that allows 35,000 felons to be absconding from probation is a system that is showing signs of neglect. It is also a system that sends the wrong message by not providing swift sanctions for early problematic behavior, not given offenders assistance to meet the imposed �decency� lifestyle rules that they need to follow and by keeping the good probationers a long-time under supervision instead of rewarding them for their success. By the way, according to the best probation recidivism study I have seen lately, most problematic behavior leading to a revocation occurs in the first nine months of supervision (study done in Virginia last year).
Texas has the third highest incarceration rate in the country. If in the last fifteen years we would have only incarcerated people to maintain our incarceration rate of the early 1990�s and keep up with the state population growth, we would have had about 50,000 prison beds now. However, we tripled our incarceration rate. We are now locking up more people per capita --- meaning per size of the state population � than before (and this does not count the 60,000 plus offenders that we lock-up in jails). To keep our present incarceration rate as the state population increases we will have to expand prison capacity at the tune of about 7,000 prison beds for every one million increase in the state population. This would cost about $1 billion in new construction not including operations. Do you think the Capitol crowd is willing to do this every five to ten years? Well���.they have a hard time paying for health insurance for poor kids, for adequate protection against child abuse or for our schools to be better��.but they may pay for more prison����or maybe not.
If you assume they won�t, then you should provide your great expertise and commitment to find the most effective way to restructure our policies to modulate the prison population growth - growth that is driven mainly by the failures of our probation and parole systems. What is the best way to strengthen your sanction options short of incarceration and strengthen the community capacity to prevent delinquent behavior and assist in the successful re-entry of prisoners back in the community or the successful intervention of those on probation?
Increasing incarceration did have an impact on crime but at some point you get marginal returns on lowering crime with the next incarceration dollar. This is because most of the incarceration increases are now due to the impact of long sentences and admissions to prison caused by the failures of the parole and probation system. The increases are not due to increasing crime. Most offenders in Texas are on parole and probation and these systems are the ones that should be strengthened to be more effective in providing supervision and maintaining public safety.
Yes, I know what you guys say. Crime has decreased in Texas since we have been incarcerated more offenders. But, hey, crime has declined in every state, with some states having seen steeper declines in crime than Texas while barely increasing their incarceration rates. If incarceration was so directly related to reducing crime, Texas should have the lowest crime rate in the county and we don�t. As I visit the Great Plains, All-American, conservative states, I see states with shorter probation terms, lower incarceration rates, and more treatment and community interventions than Texas. In all these states the crime rate is lower than Texas. For that matter, 37 states in 2003 had a lower violent crime rate than Texas and all these states had lower incarceration rates than Texas. And by the way, most of these states spend more per capita in mental health, children insurance, substance abuse treatment and schools than Texas. A lot of these states are not liberal states, for the record, as that is the usual accusation when people nowdays want to dismiss arguments.
I see in these All American Double Red states prosecutors comfortable with their systems and doing a good job in protecting society. I see a consensus that violent and sex predators should be locked up for a long time but I also see an emerging consensus that we will put our tough-on-crime policies in jeopardy if we don�t do a better job in managing correctional budgets by the prudent use of incarceration and the most effective use of parole and probation. This is what we have to do in Texas and all of you should provide ideas to accomplish this goal.
Finally, my friends, I have to take a friendly stab at your favorite mantra: �the number one function of government is to maintain public safety.� I have heard this so much from you guys as a preamble to justify building more prison like if building more prisons is the only way to achieve public safety. This is my mantra: �the number one function of government is to maintain our freedoms and safety.�
We need a balance of policies that should consider all sanctions that can most effectively provide public safety, of which incarceration is only one, and perhaps, the one that should be used more prudently. Sorry about the little stab but, my family fled Cuba, a place with hardly any crimes under Fidel Castro, except that you have no freedom. The struggle in this country to maintain the right balance between freedom and safety is what makes this nation great, and I see our debate here as essential to maintain this balance.
Thanks again for all you have done for me personally and for your commitment to make Texas better.
Why is it desireable to encourage early termination of probation?
Supporters of doing this in the legislature state or imply that TDC is being filled up by probationers who have long ago reformed their lives, but, before their extremely long and unnecessary probation was over, have violated
some trivial condition of probation, and ended up in the joint with a very long prison sentence. The only evidence given to support this position is the claim that there is a judge in Harris Co. who routinely sends otherwise outstanding probationers to the joint, if they are 15 minutes late for a probation appointment.
Those who wish to change the status quo have the burden of proof. Do you have any real evidence that there are significant numbers of prisoners in TDC for such trivial probation violations?
I have prosecuted in 4 jurisdictions in Texas, and I have never heard of anyone getting sent to the joint for trivial probation violations. I have asked several defense attys who routinely take cases in several jurisdictions around the state if they have heard of this, and they all say the same thing: no one gets sent to TDC on a probation violation unless they work at it.
I have heard it said that good probationers who have straigntened out their lives, and yet must continue to report to probation officers for years, are diverting probation dept. efforts away from the more dodgy probationers who need more supervision.
Anyone who knows how probation works knows this is nonsense. Our probation dept. gradually reduces the reporting requirements until a no-problem probationer finally reports only 4 times a year. I also know that Prob. Officers allocate their time with probationers according to their needs. A visit with a no-problem probationer takes just a few minutes, a few times a year. A more difficult case will require a lot more face to face time, a lot more often. Letting all these straight-arrow probationers off probation early will not appreciably lower the workload of probation officers.
The problem with shortened probation is that it is difficult to determine who the truly reformed probationers are. Every time I do intake, I find cases where a crook has committed a new felony, and his criminal history discloses that he has previously "successfully completed probation." Frequently I find crooks who are presently on probation. It is not at all unusual to find that they have been on probation for several years at the time of their arrest. Had they been early released from probation, we often times would not have the leverage we need to quickly dispatch them to the joint--where they belong.
How, then, does early termination of probation protect the public better than longer terms of probation?
You state that there are Great Plains states with lower incarceration rates than Texas, and yet they have lower crime rates. But have you controlled for two important factors: 1) the fact that Texas has a very long border with Mexico--with all the attendant problems of narcotics smuggling, human smuggling, illegal aliens, etc--that are almost unknown in Great Plains states; & 2) the fact that Texas has 6 large cities, each of which have large disfunctional neighborhoods where the family and other civil structures have broken down, and where crime is rampant; while none of the Great Plains states have these problems?
I am completely astounded at a comparison between Castro's Cuba and Texas. Perhaps Cuba's crime rate is low because her criminal justice system is efficient in locking up criminals. If so, that is fine. But Cuba also locks up thousands of people for political and religious reasons. Texas could not be more differant. There is no one in the TDC who is there for political or religious reasons. They are there because they are committed criminals. How does locking up felons harm our liberty?
Finally, you imply that we could lower our crime rate if we diverted more money to education and social work, and reducing poverty. Yet our current budget spends well over 70% on education and welfare. 12% is spent on economic development. Less than 7% is spent on law enforcement. Moreover, even if the state could reduce poverty by spending more money on education and welfare (a dubious proposition), there is no evidence this would reduce crime. Ireland, for example, until about 15 years ago, was the poorest country in western Europe. Her citizens' standard of living was well below that of the US. And yet she had an extremely low crime rate. Today, Ireland has a higher per capita income than the 4 biggest counties in the EU, and yet, it's my impression that crime has also gone up.
Thanks Doc; it is a pleasure to see that one can debate the issues and maintain a good humor. I do take issue with the assertion that a probationer in prison is a failure of the probation system. Isn't it a failure of the probationer? I sign off on early release documents three or four times per month...most are officer initiated. I know that there are many, many times that I put someone on probation KNOWING that they will never make it; but hey, they are eligible and all they want is out. I can't tell you the number of times I sign a petition four or five months later. Some never report for intake! Should I be more selective? I can spend about 28-32 trials per year and I do not want to spend them on some state jail or third degree dope case. What to do?
This is a quick reaction to some of the comments. First, to Mr. Breen who said �I am completely astounded at a comparison between Castro�s Cuba and Texas�. Then he goes on to say something about Texas not locking people for political and religious reasons like Cuba like if I remotely even suggested that. I suggest Mr. Breen that you read more carefully what I said about Cuba, and when you do, I hope you realize that I am using the example to praise the system of check and balances that we have in this country � last time I check Texas was still part of this country, so I am also praising our system here. Remember, unlike you, I am the one that fled Cuba so I am pretty clear on the differences between Cuba and Texas.
It seems that one of the main reasons given for not shortening probation is that when prosecutors need to �quickly dispatch them [probationers] to the joint� then they can do that while if the offenders were not on probation it will take more work. So, it is OK to keep probationers for a long time as no-problem probationers take �a few minutes, a few times a year� to supervise but just in case��.we may need to dispatch them quickly.
Well, I finally understand what probation is all about. Having a large number of probationers just provide a pool of people that can quickly �be dispatched� to the pen if necessary. Since it �is difficult to determine who the truly reformed probationers are� according to Mr. Breen and according to Mr. Leonard there are many times that he puts people of probation �knowing that they will never make it; but hey, they are eligible and all they want is out� then probation is a just a mechanism to move low level offenders quickly in our mass processing system. About half of the probationers will do OK no matter what the supervision is and about half are going to screw up no matter what and prosecutors even know this before they put them on probation. Well, at least we have an efficient way of �dispatching� them.
My new recommendation: Cut probation funding!! Make it even cheaper!! Have caseload of 1 to 400 as this does not matter at the end!!! Have probation terms of 20 or 30 years providing for an even more extensive net to �dispatch� offenders more efficiently to the pen!!!
Related to the crime rate, yes, Mr. Breen is correct. Unlike the Great Plains states, Texas has a massive border and six large cities with large dysfunctional neighborhoods and this is why we have a higher crime rate. This is also why continuing to increase incarceration rates may not do much to reduce the crime rate � maybe better border enforcement, maybe better social and justice interventions in the dysfunctional neighborhoods � can be another policy to consider. We are precisely trying in Kansas and Connecticut better models of social and justice intervention in the dysfunctional neighborhoods with the backing of very Red officials and faith based communities in an attempt to impact crime more effectively.
Finally, �we only spend less than 7% in law enforcement� means what? This is the question: how can we allocate public funds (and private funds for that matter) to produce the infrastructure to enhance social and human capital to support the development of productive citizens?
Oh, I forgot, why Ireland? But if you insist: Ireland�s incarceration rate per 100,000 is 62. Texas incarceration rate is over 700 per 100,000. Crime is bad in Ireland? Not even close to the US crime rate. Hey, and they drink a lot - I presume this is not a prohibition in their probation rules!
For your reading pleasure check:
Boston Irish Reporter
An Irish Times series on crime in Ireland throws up some interesting
statistics. Despite talk of criminals being out of control we still have
one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. Also the claim that we need more
garda does not stand up as we already have more garda per 100,000
population (308) than Scotland (298), the Netherlands (290), England and
Wales (241) and a number of other countries. Italy, Portugal, Spain, France
and Austria are more heavily policed than us. Linking police with crime
levels, only in Spain is there a lower ratio of the number of ...
I guess I spoke too soon about the good humor. I was sincere in my question: should I be more selective in my offers of probation? A cursory examination of my post will reveal that I did not say I knew 50% of the folks I put on probation will fail. The exact words were many, many so let me clarify: a significant minority; something on the order of 20%. How do I know they won't make it? Because I can tell that all they want is out of jail TODAY, because they balk at SAFP, because they have no regular job, no responsible family. As I heard a defense lawyer tell a judge about late to court client one day,"Judge, if he was functional we wouln't be here. I have four choices in a criminal case: a diversion program (if eligible), community supervision, prison or dismissal. So, yes, I see probation as a way to keep low-level cases moving. If there is a better way to keep low level cases moving I am (again, sincerely) open to suggestion.
[This message was edited by BLeonard on 03-11-05 at .]
You served the State well back in 1993 and for the decade after that. Your objective statistical descriptions of the criminal justice system helped break down myths and legends and brought prosecutors and defense attorneys together in their work to create a better punishment scheme.
But then, you thought it was your job to decide how people should be punished.
My objection to the debate over probation, triggered by your last report that suggested there were too many people on probation for too long, is that it no longer includes prosecutors and defense attorneys in the discussion. It also has abandoned any deeper discussion of the purpose of confinement and probation as punishment.
Legislators grabbed onto your report, hijacking it for the fiscal purposes. Bottom line, they want to reduce the budget for criminal justice. They are not going to have a serious debate over punishment. They are going to place money over public safety.
I am sorry that you were removed from the debate, Tony, as you always added a voice that kept us focused on the numbers. But, there is far more to this debate than numbers.
Probation is a far more complex topic than confinement, and it just doesn't wash to conclude, as you did, that too many people are on probation for too long.
I also am disappointed that you never took a stronger stand on the meaning of "technical violations." I know that I voiced my complaints to you many times (over many years) over the use of that phrase. Yet, you never took the extra step of bringing in prosecutors to give some depth and detail to the meaning of that phrase.
So, again, legislators have grabbed that phrase and use it as a sword to cut into the midsection of probation, killing the very organism they claim to be surgically correcting.
Let me finish by saying this. Tony, if you were still Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Council and fully funded, I have no doubt that this debate would have developed appropriately. I also believe that the various parties would have come together and found a rational solution to the pressure that exists in the use of probation.
But your office got axed by a Governor who essentially zeroed out your budget. It is interesting that your office still exists in law but simply is not funded.
Maybe, in the future, some new Jedi will return and save us. I hope you are on a really nice beach, sipping a great drink with an umbrella in it.
Ouch! Looks like Terry struck a nerve with the good doc! For what it's worth Terry, I'm in your corner on this one. At the heart of this discussion is the age old debate over the true purpose of our criminal justice system. Is it designed for punishment, retribution, protection of society, rehabiliation, or maybe some combination of all of those? It seems like the Legislature is always trying to figure this out in its budgetary decisions. The problems arise when changes or adjustments to the system are made for purely budgetary reasons. Pretextual arguments are made in support of "saving money." Statistics are cited in support of whatever position one may be advocating, and you know what they say about statistics.
In the "real world," Doc, many people are placed on probation who should probably be in the pen. There are many reasons for this. Maybe the person is a drug offender who deserves at least one shot at treatment. You can tell he's not serious about rehabilitation, but do you not give him a chance? And what about folks who commit so-called "non-violent" property crimes? Like burglary or theft. In many of those instances, the only way the victims get restitution is if the offender receives probation and is in a position to pay. Or maybe we're dealing with a young assaultive offender with his first felony. Was the crime committed because of the defendant's youth and impulsiveness? Or is the defendant a young sociopath likely to reoffend? In many instances, only time will tell. The one common denominator is that they are all felons--people who have committed real crimes which the Legislature has determined to warrant at least the possibility of incarceration in a state prison. By virtue of that fact alone, they have separated themselves from the majority in society and have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.
Regrettably, the only way you can keep many of these offenders focused is to keep the "hammer" of pen time hanging over their head. Of course, in many of these instances that's not even enough. If they're determined to still use drugs, run with the wrong crowd, and live life "in the fast lane," they are going to screw up again. There's nothing the system can do to stop them other than remove them from society. Whether the defendant fails while he's still on probation or after he is discharged from probation makes no difference. In either event, the system did not work. In relation to costs, however, I would be curious to know whether it's more expensive to society to revoke a probationer after a few positive UA's and missed probation appointments, or after the person commits a new felony, "victimless" or otherwise?
As I've noted in other posts, in my county, probationers are not being routinely revoked for purely "technical" reasons. The vast majority get revoked because they've committed new crimes. The others are revoked because they've absconded or they've been given every treatment option the system can provide and they're still determined to use cocaine or meth. What are we left to do with these people?
For those who want to succeed on probation, 42.12 curently provides the court with early termination options except in the case of intoxication offenses and sex offenders. In my county, it doesn't take much effort to be deemed a "success" on probation and get early terminated.
In summary, I believe that all this talk about folks staying on probation too long, or being revoked for purely "technical" reasons, is disingenous. Let's go ahead and call a spade a spade. What we're really talking about doing is saving money. The fewer people we have to pay to keep incarcerated or supervised, the more money we save. Personally, I think that's a short-sighted approach. All the statistics in the world won't change the fact that there are real criminals who commit real crimes against real victims. We deal with them every single day, and sometimes it's really hard to explain to a real victim why their offender, who should have been incarcerated, was still walking the streets.
1) Why is it desireable to encourage early termination of probation?
2) How does early termination of probation protect the public better than longer terms of probation?
3) Do you have any real evidence that there are significant numbers of prisoners in TDC for trivial probation violations?
The answer to number 3 is what I am most interested in.
The Answer to No. 3 would require research that Tony was not able to finish. When he did a study of the system back in 1993, it focused on prison sentences. Prosecutors participated in that study by pulling files and completing very detailed questionaires on the subject. The questions had been formulated after significant discussions with prosecutors about the meaning of punishment.
The result of that study showed that criminals, for the most part, got the sentence they deserved for their criminal history and circumstances. It killed the myth that we merely sent shoplifters to prison.
No similar study has been done to evaluate the "appropriateness" of the sentences handed to probationers following revocation. The info, so far, simply separates the revocations into two categories:
1) revocation for commission of a new offense and
2) revocation for violoation of a condition of supervision (other than a new offense).
Now, that is not a very detailed or meaningful bit of information. Surely, any good study would want to determine some of the following:
-If there was a new offense, was it a felony or misdemeanor;
-Was the new offense violent or nonviolent;
-Did the new offense involve substance abuse;
-How many prior motions to revoke were filed;
-How many times were the conditions amended in response to a violation;
-What kinds of conditions were violated;
-How did the condition violations relate to the original offense;
-And on and on.
Rather than conducting that kind of study and having a healthy debate, we are seeing legislators misuse Tony's initial numbers to justify a wholesale change to a system that has NOT been shown to be broken.
Again, I am confident that Tony would love to have been able to conduct such a study. He has always shown a healthy appreciation for data and the need for time to interpret that data in a rational mannner.
Well, I need a couple of days to absorbed all this. I have never gotten hook of this bulletin board type of conversations but this is fun and instructive. I am already fired, so whoever gets mad, well, get mad!
Anyway, thanks John, as always supportive, and yes, with more time and effort we could have done it like the Punishment Commission, in a methodical way. And, yes, generally, I think the effort is directed at cutting the budget, like everything in the last few years. Policy should become a priority but I am not sure how this can be done given the present environment.
I get back later after more thinking.
OK, here I go again. I make one specific response and then drift into a bigger picture question.
John you said that at some point �you though it was your [my job] job to decide how people should be punished.� Well, that is one way of seeing but the way I was seeing it was that we were headed for another crisis, nobody was doing much about it, and the obvious place to look was the probation system. So, yes, I step out of bounce a little more than usual to bring the issue to the forefront. And guess what, it became part of the agenda but in the meantime I get zapped overnight and I have no ability to bring some of the numbers/more in-depth studies to the table to shape the policy. Yes, you are right; these studies were needed with participation of prosecutors and others. Now the issue is treated mainly as another way of cutting the budget, just like in the early 1980s.
I don�t want to continue in a loop over early termination, what is a technical, etc. I think all the views expressed are now clear and not surprising. I understand you all see everyday people in front of you who are real victims, and people who are real crooks. And probably you see every day just a bunch of sorry people, but not totally bad people. This is what Lee reminds me to be the �real world�. Lee, there is another �real world� of legislators, budget cutters, policy wonks, advocates, etc. that is going to affect your �real world� whether you like it or not. So, the constructive participation of you guys in guiding these policies is more important now than ever given the lack of numbers and in-depth study to guide the discussions.
Here is the question that puzzles me more than before, mainly due to all my travels across the country:
Why there are conservative states in which probation is relatively short (Kansas, Oklahoma and Georgia, to name a few) and it seems that probation works relatively well? DAs in these states work with these systems and I cannot believe that you guys are that different from DAs in these states. Or, are you?
If you don�t like any of the present proposals, what are your proposals?
Are you proposing that every seven to ten years we construct 7,000 to 10,000 prison beds at cost of $1billion or more, and operations at an additional $200 million a year? How much more you think crime can be lowered by expanding capacity? Do you think that policy makers that do not like to fun health insurance for sick kids would continue to expand our prison system?
John, regarding your �I hope you are on a really nice beach, sipping a great drink with an umbrella in it� �.well, hate to tell you, but that will be next week. Do I miss the long days and nights in the Capitol underground?? Take a guess at answering that one!!
[This message was edited by BLeonard on 03-13-05 at .]
Dr. Fabelo is dead right about at least one thing: we need to get involved in this legislation.
HB 575 is set for public comment in the Corrections Committee this Thurs., St. Patrick's Day. This bill would mandate early termination of probation after 2 years or a third of the probation period, if certain conditions are met. The court could prevent it if it decides early termination is not in the best interest of society. In other words, it reverses the present early termination presumtion of no early term unless the court acts to terminate.
HB 575 had been set for public comment (with no notice or warning--maybe they don't really want to hear any public comment) for this past Thurs., but it got postponed due to, I think, action on the House floor concerning the Education Bill. The staffer I spoke to said there is a very good chance that the Tax Bill this coming week, will likewise preempt public discussion of HB 575.
My advice: keep an eye on HB 575 (and there are other similar bills, which are even worse), and try to come to Austin to testify when it & the others finally comes up for discussion.
My further advice: try to figure out some angle (perhaps an example case from your jurisdiction)that illuminates why this bill is a bad idea. Do a little research, and prepare a brief statement so that you have something to say besides, "I'm a prosecutor, & I think this is a dumb idea. Thank you."
Mr. Breen: I have not seen HB 575 but it sounds like the same bill that integrated my idea about early discharges during the last session.
The idea is that upon early discharge eligibility (at the same point as the present law), the probationer will be automatically reviewed for early discharge. However, a judge have to review the case and the judge can deny the early discharge if not appropriate given the nature of the case. This policy is to apply only to offenders with property and drug offenses (at least that was my idea before).
This is a responsible way to encourage more early discharges. The goal is to reduce the number of probationers by relieving from supervision those doing well; with additional funding reduce caseload and target better intermediate sanctions for those under supervision, particularly during the first year of supervision. The best research in the country shows that most condition violations leading to a revocation (about 80%) occur during the first year of supervision (see Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, Annual Report 2005).
Why is it that you are opposing this sensible and responsible policy change? Please spare me of the "poster case" as I am numb to the political uses of "poster cases" to drive policies. I know you can find a "poster case" in your large caseload to make the case against the policy but I am also sure you can find many "poster cases" to make the case in favor of the policy, although if you oppose the policy you are not going to do the later.
Assuming you can spare me of the poster case, what is the rationale for you to oppose this sensible policy? Is it that you are afraid that judges will misuse their discretion in reviewing these cases? Is it that you may have fewer offenders to "dispatch" quickly to the pen? Is it that somehow this sends the wrong message to offenders that now they can be discharged earlier even though the discharge eligility stays the same and the judge has ultimate authority to discharge, just like now? What is it????
As one who is on probation (long story, already told on this forum), I certainly support early termination in my case, but I'm curious; how does early termination save any money?
There are, what, 30-40 probation officers in the office I report to, each with a case load of about 40 probationers (or 'clients', as I read new material). Each 'client' is paying $50 per monthly visitso you've got about $80,000 per month, nearly $1,000,000 per year, generated at that single facility. I imagine direct salary doesn't exeed $160,000 - $200,000 per year, and subtracting overhead, even assuming 50% for that, surely leaves the state with a profit.
If that profit is used for something worthwhile, i.e. law enforcement/crime prevention, education, etc., then I have no problem with probationers completing the full term. For most offenses, I think we taxpayers would rather have someone out on probation, with supervision, paying some money into the system, rather than taxpayer money being used to pay for their visit to jail or the pen.
Greg1, you have hit the nail on the head. It doesn't save money, unless you charge the defendant $500 to get off probation. That's in the early termination bill.
You are correct, probation collects a lot of fees from people who, by and large, do well on probation. When we kick those people off probation, two things will happen: 1) the State will no longer have those funds and 2) without the supervision, more people will commit crimes.
It's all about money, baby, not an actual rational criminal justice system.
And it is a very bad idea to create a presumption that anyone deserves to get off probation after having served only 1/3 of their probation. We don't do that with parole, and we shouldn't do it with probation.
And, yes, Tony, there are many judges who will not review the files and just let the probationers fall off the probation supervision. And then we will have a poster boy who will commit a bad crime because no one was watching him. That is a real, justifiable basis for maintaining the current system of probation.
[This message was edited by BLeonard on 03-13-05 at .]
OK, so according to your arguments: (a)maintaining offenders on probation for a long time generates funds for the system; (b) long probation allows for a larger population to be under the control of the system which allows you to efficiently dispatch to the pen offenders as needed; (c) technical violations are an affront to the system of many rules oriented at making these people decent so violations of any of the many rules should not be seem as trivial; (d) judges may not exercise wisely the discretion to terminate somebody early so this is not a good idea; (e) those doing well on probation after a while hardly have to do much anyway - show up a few times a year for a few minutes; and (f) processing of offenders thru the judicial system is quicker - take the plea, go to probation, and we have a hammer over you anyway, hopefully the probationer won't do something too bad before we can quickly dispatch him to prison.
This is how you see probation. All this talk about "best practices"; "rehabilitating the offenders" etc. sounds good to the public but probation is really a convenient processing, funds generating, as need to be a "dispaching system" to prison bypassing costly trials/plea proceedings.
This is what you all have said. Hell, I respect that. Given how you view this, I now understand why you don't want to change anything. Actually, the logic works better the other way: probation terms should be even longer!! Don't we have already lifetime probation for some offenders?
[This message was edited by BLeonard on 03-13-05 at .]
This discussion is disintegrating. So, let's make a couple of points to bring it back to a reasonable point of disagreement.
No one prosecutor speaks for all prosecutors. There are always extreme points of view that can be presented. Some prosecutors, for example, frequently has a point of view that is not shared by a majority of prosecutors. Unfortunately, by having that point of view posted here, some people might get the impression that is how all prosecutors think. So, be careful, Tony, and don't generalize how we feel.
Perhaps even more significantly, Tony, you are hearing from assistant prosecutors for the most part. While a few elected officials, including myself, have posted, we largely wait to express our policy opinions in the privacy of a legislator's office. That means you are not likely to get a point of view from a potential policy-maker in this forum, particularly since those in the Legislature are likely viewing this forum for clues about how to deal with prosecutors during the session.
Any system can benefit from improvements. Probation is no exception. That's why the Leg finally has added some money (tens of millions of dollars) after years of ignoring the probation budget.
As for structural improvements, I have always thought that such changes should be made only after study of the best information available. Such information is not available right now, so we are all talking through our hat.
The Legislature's biggest flaw is in believing they can shift the path of the criminal justice system with a few amendments. They pass laws by looking at the next two years when they should be looking at the next decade. They create new crimes in response to individual examples. They raise or lower punishment based on horror stories. In other words, they respond to emotion and not fact.
I think a lot of the reaction to your position, Tony, is based on the sense that you gave the Legislature ammmunition to mess with probation. And, I have to say that I share some of that irritation because I think you over-reached your role on the Criminal Justice Policy Council when you came out and made a specific recommendation that concluded probation needed to be shortened.
That conclusion was premature. You certainly had data that showed there were a lot of people on probation. OK, well, Texas is a big place. We always have big numbers. But, you did nothing in that study to explain why the big number reflected a problem.
Again, I have no doubt we would have pursued that question. But, it would have been better if you had brought the issue to prosecutors and other law enforcement officials first, asking them for input into the research.
By making the announcement you made, I have no doubt you hoped to stir public officials to do something. After all, that was your role. But, the manner in which you did it, I think, moved you in the minds of many (perhaps including the Governor) from objective public servant to a person who was trying to make policy rather than educate policy-makers.
I think it is the policy-makers job to say whether there are too many people on probation. I think it was your job to tell us how many people were on probation and why. Just a thought.
By the way, I think this also needs to be said. Tony Fabelo is a very funny person. He tells magnificent, sometimes profane, jokes. He loves people and meeting them. And he doesn't back down from a difficult job. Think for a minute how he had to meet with governors, lt. governors, speakers of the house, senators, and state reps. He faced an enormous number of very large egos and matched them all with tremendous political skill.
I have seen Tony come to a meeting in which quite a few people were well-prepared to chop off his head, and they would all leave the meeting laughing, joking and talking about the criminal justice system.
So, Tony didn't just bring numbers. He brought the whole package. I miss him.
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