Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Long probation lengths don't have a "damn thing to do with public safety"

More from today's Texas Sunset Commission hearing:

Probation fees make up about half of local probation departments' funding, said Bill Fitzgerald, director of the Bexar County Probation Department.

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire asked whether that economic incentive caused departments to keep people on probation longer than necessary because they needed their fees.

"Definitely," replied Fitzgerald. He said his local judges agreed that was a factor and the need for probationers' fees made them reticent to use early release mechanisms for successful probationers.

Said Whitmire, that doesn't have "a damn thing to do with public safety"

Fitzgerald: "Correct"

Whitmire: "We just want their money."

Fitzgerald: "Correct."

That's quite an admission, isn't it? Whitmire carried legislation last session that would have cut Texas probation lengths in half and encourage judges to evaluate successful probationers for early release. (It passed, but Governor Perry vetoed the bill.) Senator Whitmire concluded that support for long probation terms in Texas was "not a public safety issue, it's just getting people's money to finance probation departments."

Damn. Go get 'em, Senator.


Anonymous said...

What type of fees or revenue does a typical probationer pay to a probation department? How much revenue does a single probationer usually generate for a probation department each month or annually? Aren't probationer's usually discharged or released early from probation when and if they pay all their fees early?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Testimony from the hearing was that average fees were $46-$60 per probationer per month, plus larger special fees or restitutions depending on the offense.

Actually what this fellow was saying is that they aren't discharged early, even when they're eligible, for financial, not public safety reasons. Best,

Anonymous said...

A large number of probationers are allowed by the Judges to get away with not paying the fees, as long as they report and stay out of trouble! That's why the departments are in the trouble they're in. The Judges get paid no matter what. Not enough money to get and keep good officers. Probation officers don't have a say anyway!