Ever since the Texas Legislature first began discussing the idea of reducing probation revocations by letting offenders earn their way off supervision through good behavior, local probation departments have had one overarching concern - because they were paid per probationer, letting offenders off early, even if for a good reason, reduced their agencies' overall budgets.
In the big picture it costs the state a lot of money to pay to incarcerate revoked probationers, but the funding structure for local probation departments gives them perverse incentives to keep offenders on the rolls for no other reason than to keep getting their fees.
HB 3200 by Madden is the legislation that supposedly will fix that conundrum, giving probation departments incentives to participate in progressive sanctions intiatives. Here's how the bill's fiscal note describes Maden's solution:
The bill would amend the Government Code by establishing a new funding formula for basic supervision probation for the Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The bill would collapse the funding mechanisms for per capita funding for felony probationers, misdemeanor probationers, and pre-trial defendants into one funding formula. The bill further specifies that in establishing the new funding formula, the CJAD would include the following:So bottom line, funding for supervising each probationer is front loaded so departments get less money per supervised person the longer they're on probation. Departments face slight but collectively significant financial penalties for each technical revocation, and also rewards for offenders terminated early. Those parameters benefit departments who successfully supervise probationers through the rehabilitation process, where the current system encourages them to milk probationers for money for years on end.
1) Higher per capita rates for those defendants supervised by a department who were serving the early years of a term of community supervision than for those defendants who were serving the end of the term of community supervision;
2) Penalties in per capita funding with respect to each defendant supervised by a department whose community supervision was revoked due to a technical violation of an applicable condition of community supervision; and
3) Awards in per capita funding with respect to each felony defendant supervised by a department who was discharged following an early termination of community supervision.
The first two factors would be applicable to both misdemeanor and felony probated cases, the third factor would apply only to felony probated cases. Under the present funding formula, state funding for misdemeanor cases is limited to 182 days. The bill would authorize funding for the duration of the term of the misdemeanor case. Current policy includes that CJAD award funding to departments on a biennial basis, however the bill would require CJAD to develop a new funding formula each year.
Finally, the bill would authorize the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to adopt a policy limiting the percentage of benefit or loss a department could realize as a result of the operation of the per capita funding formula established under this measure.
Congrats to Rep. Madden and whoever helped him develop this plan. Some solution like this was needed for his HB 1678 (discussed here) to work, and it appears to me this will do it. HB 3200 is an elegant and clever solution, IMO, to one of the stickiest problems confronting Texas' efforts at probation reform.