Sunday, December 10, 2006

Statistical source: Database profiles probationers by Texas county

Scouting around this afternoon on the TDCJ website, I found this interesting little database that lets you look up the number of active probationers in each Texas county, as well as revocations and terminations, broken down by a variety of statistical categories.

"Revocation" means probation failed and the offender went to prison. "Termination" means the offender successfully completed the full term of supervision. "Active supervision," of course, is the total number of probationers currently monitored by the probation department.

Statistics are only available so far for 2004, but if you're a data geek (or maybe a reporter looking to localize coverage of state probation issues), this database gives more local detail than I've seen anywhere else.

For example, in Bexar County (San Antonio), for example, their probation department supervised 7,971 misdemeanor probationers in 2004, and 10,199 felony probationers. Of these, 57% of misdemeanor probationers were considered "low risk," while 51% of felony defendants fit into that category.

Not long ago, under questioning from Sen. John Whitmire at a Texas Sunset Advisory Commission hearing, the Bexar County probation director said it was "definitely" the case that low-risk probationers were kept on the probation rolls years longer than necessary to milk them for fees. So some of the offenders the probation director was talking about must be in that majority of supervised offenders in Bexar labeled "low risk."

In Travis County, by comparison, only 22% of misdemeanor offenders and 20% of felony offenders fell into the low-risk category. That could be because they're doing a better job focusing supervision on higher risk offenders. But there could also be other explanations. A consultant's report issued last year analyzing the Travis County probation department found that many offenders who should have been labeled low-risk under departmental guidelines were routinely labeled medium-risk.

So far, TDCJ's database doesn't account for the new information regarding probation revocations I reported on in the previous blog post. But it's great that they've put it online. Kudos to whoever had the bright idea. Hopefully TDCJ will soon add 2005 data, and so on, to create a longitudinal look at differing rates of probation revocation and successful completion as a guide for state and local policymakers and the interested public.

5 comments:

Rusty said...

Scott,

How come Wise county is not in the data bank?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not every county has its own probation department - some are combined for smaller counties. There are 254 counties and, if I remember correctly, 122 probation departments. That's probably why, but I don't have specifics.

Anonymous said...

Wise probably opted out of state funding for probation. Multi-county depts report stats based on each county, not department.

This tool has been there for a few years at least...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If it's been there a few years, I wish they'd update it with 2005 stats!

Rusty said...

Scott,

Thanks Brother there is little doubt we in Wise county are little different! Ha! Ha! But the good thing about living here, is the fact we are always 20 years behind everybody else. So when the world ends we still got time!Ha!

Though you might get a kick out of this article my bud Peter did for us on LEAP, here is a link.
http://www.fwweekly.com/content.asp?article=3271

Best wishes to all for the holidays!