Most local probation departments that received new diversion funding have seen their felony revocation rates decline significantly, according to an analysis by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (pdf), but three counties receiving grants saw increases in revocations (p. 20):
- Bexar: 79.9%
- Nueces: 10.7%
- Collin: 91.6%
I don't know why the Bexar County judges keep probation chief Bill Fitzgerald around at this point. Not only has he alienated the bulk of his employees, he's doing an incredibly poor job running the agency as measured by these outcomes. His probationers simply are less successful now than they've been in the past, and that makes everyone in San Antonio less safe.
Other large jurisdictions did much better - both Dallas and Harris Counties saw a double digit decline, and Travis County, which reported no decline in revocations last year, this time around improved their performance and reduced them by nearly 20%
We also discover from this report that caseloads declined and the number of early discharges from probation increased overall thanks to 2007 funding and changes in the law.
Still, I was interested to learn how rapidly the number of probationers is growing statewide given that crime overall is declining. The number of new probation placements in 2008 was 7.7% higher than the statewide number 2005, TDCJ reports, with the largest county departments witnessing even greater increases (p. 18). That makes little sense to me: If there's less crime, why are there more placements?
Also, I'm not sure I understand why Dallas County has a much higher number of people on probation than Harris County, which has a larger residential population. Dallas supervised 31,708 probationers in 2008 compared to 24,456 in Harris. What explains that?
These data tell us that diversion funding is working, but also that there's still much to do. Even with reduced revocations, it's troubling that the overall probation population is growing at such a rapid clip at a time when crime is declining. And while most large counties are using new diversion tools, clearly Bexar and Collin in particular need to either be brought to heel or have their funding reduced.