Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poverty, lack of transportation cause probation revocation

A reader forwards this ruling from Texas Second Court of Appeals affirming a two-year sentence for a woman for violating her probation terms. What were the violations? She:
  • failed to timely notify her probation officer of an address change
  • failed to complete anger-control classes
  • failed to attend the Personal Money Power Program, and
  • failed to pay required fees
The circumstances around these violations, though, were poverty and a lack of transportation. According to the opinion:
she did not report to her probation officer one month and did not attend the Personal Money Power Program because she did not have transportation. She also said that she could not afford the anger-control classes. Soliz testified that she is responsible for seven children, six of her own children and one grandchild, and that she and the children live with her mother. Soliz explained that she works at a Days Inn and recently purchased a car for $1,300. She said that the trial court had placed her on community supervision for the underlying offense because she had slapped her daughter after her daughter had called her a bitch.
Judge George Gallagher in the 396th District Court in Tarrant County determined she'd violated her conditions of probation and sentenced Ms. Soliz to two years incarceration. The appellate court affirmed the decision, citing case law to the effect that "proof of any one violation is sufficient to support revocation order."

So now a mother of six who had a job, was paying taxes, and who had just purchased a car to solve her transportation issues, will have taxpayers foot the bill for her room and board for two years while the kids go to grandma or foster care. This arguably punishes her kids and her mother even more than her!

What's more, as the reader who pointed this out to me opined, "This has absolutely NOTHING to do with what this woman took the plea for! This has NOTHING to do with the crime she was charged with! Where is the public outrage on sending people to prison over being poor? Not owning a car?"

This case highlights how so much of the "strong probation" trend in Texas has been a function of Texas judges exercising discretion to use progressive sanctions instead of revoking offenders to prison over unpaid fees or missed meetings. But when there's no new crime, maybe some of that discretion should be reined in. There has to be some intermediate sanction short of prison available in such instances, and there has to be a way to get judges to use them.

46 comments:

juliets mom said...

many of the revocations in Wilco are a result of the probationer not having the resources ($$)

Anonymous said...

I bet there is more to the story, there always is.

Carol said...

This is outrageous! Is it not time these Texas judges wake up to the harm they are doing?
This lady was trying, which many do not. If my kid called me a b***H she/he would also get a slap in the mouth. I bet the judge would give worse.
What is the "Personal Money Power Program." How does attending this program assist with anger management? Why are people who live in poverty required to pay for the anger management program.
I think it is time Texas secedes. They care nothing about the citizens.
My prayers will be with this family and here is hoping Karma catches up with the judge who sentenced her.

Anonymous said...

When conditions of probation are not met, there should be some discretionary provision for any progress having been made. If you can demonstrate that life skills are being met then do not revocate the sentence.
...has a job (check), has transportation (check), is contributing to childrens support (check).
Re-establish the additional requirements at a more achievable level. Don't set them up for failure. Some conditions of probations are so extreme you have to wonder if they have livable guidelines and what they are.

Pirate Rothbard said...

Wow...thank you Carol for pointing that out to me.

This just shows the harm that child abuse laws do to our society. I personally don't spank my son but I would defend anyone else's right to discipline their children.

Anonymous said...

Only two years? Where is the justice? Should have been a minimum of five. Why are MY elected officials failing ME like this? She agreed to the terms and has the gall to complain when she refuses to abide by them. Welcome to America: you are no longer responsible for your own actions.

Anonymous said...

Poor people have the money for the pleasures in life, but not for the necesities of life, that is the governments responsibility.

If the government can feed them, house them, and pay for their medical care, maybe the government should pay their fees too.

Anonymous said...

This blog is quite amusing!!

Liberals in the criminal justice system are quick to holler and scream when people use isolated situations too push change in the system; however, they are quick to do the same!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:17/7:14/6:55 - You may as well just put all your opinions in one comment. You don't fool anyone that there's some mass agreement with your views by pretending to be multiple people!

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth a Texas judge may not order a defendant to make any payments as a term or condition of community supervision, except for fines, court costs, restitution to the victim, and other conditions related personally to the rehabilitation of the defendant or otherwise expressly authorized by law. The court shall consider the ability of the defendant to make payments in ordering the defendant to make payments under this article.

If she were indigent, it would seem that consideration should have been made under this statute. And this Personal Money Power Program....what is it and was the judge authorized to make the program a condition of probation.

Just another example of court ordered probation without taking into consideration the the financial resources of the defendant. Kind of reminds me of banks loaning people money for homes they cannot make payments for.

Retired LE

Anonymous said...

I can take credit for 7:14 and 7:17, but 6:55 belongs to someone completely different.....but I do agree with them :)

Scott Stevens said...

Having been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I can unequivocally state that situations like the one described are NOT isolated! They are quite frequent. Many times the "intermediate" step or "sanction" is to increase the number of times the person without transportation must report. Which naturally only increases the number of missed reports and makes the motion to revoke/adjudicate look even worse to the judge.

In the situation described here, the real failure that she really would have a hard time justifying is failing to report an address change. one phone call or even a prepaid postcard at the postoffice would have covered that one.

The law as stated is correct, and in the abstract, makes sense. Even one violation is enough to revoke a probation. However, it is the heavy handed application of that rule that causes a problem. Here, as in all of life, just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do it. The judge is legally justified without question in revoking for even one violation, but doesn't mean the judge used good JUDGEment.

Anonymous said...

First, you cannot get all the facts from an appellate court opinion--you are ignorant to try and make sweeping generalizations and broad policy recommendations from one.

Second, if the facts of the underlying offense are accurate--as per the self-reporting defendant--then she should have requested a trial instead of agreeing to a probation she knew she could not complete. You think all of these problems just magically appeared at the same time? Give me a friggin' break. You live in a fantasy world. Get off the unicorn and put down the rainbow punch.

Anonymous said...

If this judge is so horrible and disconnected from the community's sense of justice and fairness, then the remedy is to elect a new one. Quit hyperventilating over Charles Dickens-esque anectdotes.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:08/12:10, you act like this is the only data point indicating probation is revoked for economic reasons and lack of transportation. You're wrong, see e.g. Scott Stevens' comment.

As for her requesting a trial, when you're sitting in jail away from your six kids, waiting weeks or months for trial instead of taking a plea might be smarter from a legal/tactical perspective, but most folks (even innocent ones) would rather just get out of jail.

As for voting out the judge over this, you would have the media not even talk about such cases, so how would they know to vote him out?

Finally, see above about using multiple comments to pretend to be different people, and if you think I'm just "hyperventilating" in these posts, nobody forced you to come here and read them.

Anonymous said...

"As for her requesting a trial, when you're sitting in jail away from your six kids, waiting weeks or months for trial..."

You sir, are just making stuff up out of thin air and adding facts that suit your preconceived notions.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's how plea bargains work, 7:06. Welcome to the real world.

Beverly Blaha Lanfear said...

I cannot believe what this anonymous person wrote. The details on this ladies revocation are there in the ruling and you better believe people ARE being sent to prison over issues like this. You have a former prosecutor who is absolutely telling you the truth. Then you ask why would anyone accept a plea if they can't meet the terms of the probation???? Anonymous....here is a link ....PBS Frontline did a documentary on plea bargains, read everything within this documentary. You say this women should have been given five years; I can't believe you honestly believe this women should be sent to prison over these issues....poverty, failing to report address change...this has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the crime! Let me ask you a question; Do you have kids? grandkids? I am 48 years old and seeing things people my age did and has been going on for ages and WILL continue going on for ages because they ARE typical teenage things most do; are now crimes. Deferred Adjudication is the most widely used plea bargain in the state of Texas. By law it IS NOT a conviction; you successfully complete your probation...case is dismissed stating no finding of guilt. It is a plea offering people a second chance. Instead of making remarks about what this lady deserves, do some research. Pull cases of probation revocations, read thoroughly WHY their probation was revoked and remember THIS COULD BE YOUR CHILD OR GRANDCHILD, brother or sister or YOU one day. It is a livid outrage that people are being sent to prison over these type of probation violations! Thousands of innocent people accept pleas and good people make mistakes and deserve a second chance. Thank God...HE doesn't judge us this way.
Matthew 7:2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged

Anonymous said...

You mean the real world of:
if the facts don't fit,
make up some s***?

Go prosecute a few cases or serve as a probation officer and then you might have some credibility to talk about the real world of revocations

Anonymous said...

6:55 I assume you live where they still hang people of color, I work in the industry and I will tell you this happens all the time and nobody can fix it, just let the right person have a bad day and someone could suffer for years. I am sickened by the lack of care and compassion in our system. I am no bleeding heart either I believe in punshment where due and I believe in the death penalty, but I ddont believe in indiscriminate ruining of peoples lives because they cant afford to pay fees or pay for mandated classes

Anonymous said...

LOOK AT THE FACTS GRITS CONVENIENTLY LEFT OUT:

-She is a repeat Family Violence offender. This was her second time (probably more) to be convicted of assaulting a family member--probably one of her other kids.

-The judge didn't revoke her probation the first time she viotaed her probation--it was dismissed and the judge used progressive sanctions

-She also failed to submit to urine testing, i.e., she's using drugs too

How about this idea: maybe her kids are better off with Mom out of their lives for a while?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:43, repeat offender or no, as the commenter who forwarded this ruling to me noted, these violations don't have anything to do with the underlying offense. Missing a PO appointment or not paying fees doesn't mean she's instead home beating her kids.

Also, I took the (dropped) allegation about failure to submit to urine testing as a consequence the missed PO appointment.

As to whether the judge used progressive sanctions, the problem comes when they're used ham-handedly. As Scott Stevens said above, "Many times the 'intermediate' step or 'sanction' is to increase the number of times the person without transportation must report. Which naturally only increases the number of missed reports and makes the motion to revoke/adjudicate look even worse to the judge."

That's what it looks like to me happened here. However, if it's accurate that she'd gotten a job, solved the car problem, and grandma was helping with rent and childcare, I see little benefit to the taxpayers for the $40K in incarceration costs plus lost consumer spending and tax revenue this decision cost them. The juice just isn't worth the squeeze.

Pirate Rothbard said...

"-She is a repeat Family Violence offender. This was her second time (probably more) to be convicted of assaulting a family member--probably one of her other kids"

Yeah, but you seem to be sold on the idea that the state ought to tell parents how to raise their kids.

My wife is a teacher. One of her brothers is a computer programmer, another is a corporate executive. And getting slapped on the face was a normal way to get disciplined in her household.

Is that the best way to do things? Personally, I don't do that to my son. But I have one kid, her mom had 8, so I don't judge.

Get over yourself, and stop wasting my taxpayer dollars prosecuting this shit.

Anonymous said...

Really, Pirate Rothbard, really?
You believe that all the lady did was slap her child for calling her a name, really?
You don't think that she is going to minimize her actions to the greatest extent possible--really?
You don't think that she might not be telling the whole truth, really?
And apparantly, you don't think that child abuse or repeat child abuse is that big of a deal, really!

Anonymous said...

First of all, all knowing one, having a person insist on a trial--their constitutional right, is not arrogant. You think indigent people don't have a right to a trial, too? The point is--that if what she says is true--all I did was slap her--then that sounds like a possible b.s. case.
Oh, except for that repeat family violence offender part.

Second, quit making stuff up to justify your hysteria. You don't know and you don't have the slightest clue if this lady was in jail before her original plea. You can guess and assume, but that doesn't make it so.

Pirate Rothbard said...

09:46:00 AM, I trust her to raise her kids more than I trust you to.

That's the whole point, I don't want to know the "whole story" because it is none of my business to judge what kind of parent she is.

Are you shocked by the idea that the government wastes money and takes away our freedom? Or is that new to you?

Anonymous said...

Ya, I'm with the pirate dude. She should've knocked a few teeth out of the kids mouth while she was at it. Maybe even burned her with a cigarette, too.

Pirate Rothbard said...

"Ya, I'm with the pirate dude. She should've knocked a few teeth out of the kids mouth while she was at it. Maybe even burned her with a cigarette, too"

Well you may get your wish if the children are place in foster care.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I have two boards that I administer and I sometimes get folks like "Anonymous" here who like to try and get my goat. And sometimes they do. But in this case, I say, you have already responded to this person's statements, and IMO, they are the one who looks foolish, not you. Let it go.

As for the topic, while I agree the woman should have called in to report the address change, I can also see how someone who may move frequently and have a chaotic life with all those kids to look after could forget that this was a requirement. On the urine thing, I agree with Grits--miss a probation appt, miss a drug screen. I think it's interesting that "Anonymous", who accuses Grits of "making s__t up", went ahead and decided that the defendant was "using drugs" without any concrete evidence, because it supports their personal opinion that anyone who violates any of the myriad conditions of probation should be incarcerated for at least 5 years on the public's dime.

I am familiar with another case--a lady who spent 6 months in Wilco for slapping her 16 year old daughter back after the daughter slapped her first (the daughter was not charged). This stuff happens all the time and if you think it doesn't, think again. She had NO criminal record whatsoever.

I am also familiar with what happens to the poor when they are released on probation with a jillion conditions to meet. I was told by a jailer that she always suggests people take the time rather than probation because almost no one completes it successfully.

For example--let's say you are released on probation after spending 14 months in jail for a prescription drug addiction(an actual case I know of). During this time, your children were turned over to Foster care and the clock starts ticking on the 18 months you have to get them back before permanent revocation of your parental rights. So you now have 4 months to get out, find a job that will support you and your three kids, find a place to live that has at least 3 bedrooms (one for you, one for the boys, one for the girl, as per the law), and be meeting the conditions of your probation, which include parenting classes to the tune of $300, aftercare meetings weekly, a counseling session weekly, weekly probation visits in Georgetown, and good luck getting there from Austin because there is no bus service and you have no car, and the required "90 meetings in 90 days" of a 12 step group. This prevents you from working two jobs, which would almost certainly be required in order to obtain suitable living quarters.

The children are in foster care in two different places, neither of which is on a bus route or anywhere near you. You are desperate to see them, but this can only be done on weekends and your new job as a McDonald's employee requires that you work on weekends or be fired, plus you have to attend those all important nightly AA meetings. Even if the time were to magically be made available, you have no way to get to where they are and no one willing to take you. So that's another checkmark against you--"Mom missed visitation--must not care about her kids".

Let's not forget those probation fees, fines, fees for the "court appointed" attorney ($250), "Crimestoppers" fees, and whatever else they can cook up that sounds good.

As you try to explain to all these various entities (probation, CPS, your employer, the aftercare people, the parenting class people, etc) why you are struggling, they simply tell you to "find a way" and brush you off.

One can see (most folks, anyhow) how this can become an impossible situation for someone with no family, little education and no resources and a criminal record to boot.

And this is all too often how it goes.

I post as Anonymous because I cannot remember my Google password and I never get the email that promises to resend it. But my name is Kerry Wolf.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What's arrogant, 9:54, is telling someone with no money who's been arrested for a third degree felony that they should demand a trial instead of take a plea that gets them out of jail, even if under untenable probation conditions. Your advice is just not realistic, and it is arrogant. There's a reason 98% of felony cases in Texas end in pleas.

Do I know from the record she was not given a personal bond? No. I'm assuming her indigent status would preclude bail. OTOH, look how much you assume about the woman's character, mothering skills, etc.. By FAR you're making most of the assumptions here.

As for your comment at 9:46 to Pirate, one assumes that if the prosecutor had a different story there'd be evidence in the record. The opinion is referencing statements she made in court before a judge that the ADA (apparently) didn't dispute.

Kerry, thanks for your good advice. I think after this I'll take it.

Anonymous said...

What's good for the goose......
You make it up, I'll make it up too. We can all create our made up scenarios together. Woo hoo

Anonymous said...

This discussion reminds me of something in Matthew about sheep and goats.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Me too, 1:35, but now you're really going to get Pirate ginned up. :)

Pirate Rothbard said...

LoL, not too much, I try to stay as ignorant as possible about Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Failure to pay required fees is, in my opinion (and experience as a former PO), the quickest way to revocation.

I certainly do not agree with it!

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

"I try to stay as ignorant as possible about Christianity:

Unfortunately, Pirate, the same is true of a lot of Christians.

Anonymous said...

Tha gangsters get revoked because they can't boost a car. Really?

Anonymous said...

They sure got wheels when they want to do a drive by.

Anonymous said...

Fact: Many cases and I mean many DON'T go to trial and end up in a plea bargain? Why? Overzealous prosecutors number one. Our constitutional right: We are to be given any and all evidence held against us....yeah right! Try 50 grand in the hole and eight months after the arrest. What the mass majority of people do NOT know are these facts: (1) IF you are falsely accused of child abuse, any type of sex offense...be it consensual sex, any type of family violence ...hang on...here's an easier way of putting it: If your arrest consists of the word/words; assault or violence...your screwed to the wall. Why? (2) the STATE automatically takes control of the case (state being; prosecutors). (3) laws based on emotions and NOT facts (why?) they literally screw innocent people to the wall

How many people are sitting in our prisons because they were convicted on hearsay? or he said she said? Cry Wolf and you can basically send anyone to prison! Do a little more research on this one: How many child abuse cases or spousal abuse cases state within the medical reports; no physical or mental trauma present?

Anonymous said...

I used to be an Adult Probation Officer. Started in 1990. Made it 2.5 yrs. I had to leave because it was mostly about collecting money. If she had been current on her fees, she would NOT have been revoked. I had too many probationers on my caseload for earning a little extra money and still receiving gov't help for the single mom and all her kids. Felony for failing to report the income. I had to ask the Judge to revoke several myself. Might be better now, but probation depends on those fees too much. # 1 priority. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Retired 2004 PO...you don't agree that not paying fines and fee's is the fastest way to having your probation revoked?

Failure to pay
The State wants its money and will revoke you for not paying fines, fees, and costs. Inability to pay is an affirmative defense that the defendant has to prove by a POTE.

http://www.dallascriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/probation/

Anonymous said...

To 07:50-I DO agree that not paying is the quickest road to revocation.

I Do NOT agree that it should be. In the 80's (When I worked in the Probation Department) collecting fees was the number one priority!At hearings the very first issue addressed was; "Is he paying his fees?"

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

For many counties (WilCo) it is not about "rehabilitation" but about the money.

There is more to it than the fines, fees and court costs. ANY probationer in WilCo will be required to take at least 1 class. The state doesn't pay for this, the probationer does. The interesting thing is that most of the classes in WilCo are provided by the same vendor, The Center for Cognitive Education which is presumably owned and operated by Fred Willoughby. It is difficult to tell who the owner really is. The Center works directly for WilCo CSCD and the Courts. Services are also provided to parolees. The Center does bidness in Bell and McLennan counties as well.

The Center also provides court ordered psychological assessments and evaluations. It is up to the Center to determine what treatment/classes are needed and for how long. The Center will be the provider of the necessary treatment/classes (Conflict???) Interesting that Willoughby has a little issue of his own right now in Bell county after having improperly diagnosed an innocent 14year old as a pedophile.

The Center requires CASH payments only and the Center refuses to give receipts. Instead the probationer is told a receipt isn't necessary because they (the Center) keep a record of payments.

Besides from the obvious, in a revocation it is hard to prove one attended classes without receipts. Several individuals have ran into this problem. A probationer could be cited for non payment of classes as well as not attending classes.

It is easy to stack these charges on top of a missed meeting with the probation officer and it is being done.

Anonymous said...

"You sir, are just making stuff up out of thin air and adding facts that suit your preconceived notions."

and you sir are smoking some serious crack. Reading your posts, one develops and opinion about you. I have two that are vie'ing for top slot. First you are just some asshole loving the attention, or #2 You are some self righteous < 1 year PO who actually believes or worse agrees with the system that you are attempting to defend.

To you I reply, Probation is far from the rehabilitation of a person that received its tender embrace. Probation is the revenge exacted under the legal system. nothing more or less about it. This woman was revoked due to her inability to pay and make classes.

Google maybe wrong, but when I look up the name of the money course, I see a Tim Robbins class pop up. makes me wonder if some certain county isn't getting a 'discount' for sending people..

As for the Urine tests, were these court ordered or 'mandatory' tests imposed by the Probation Department? I have been subjected to this before, no judge ordered it, but Probation made me pay the 25 dollar a visit compliance 'fee' to pee in their cup. Funny thing is, I do not have a history of alcohol or drugs, and was not arrested for a drug or alcohol charge.

This lady may have home issues, she might very well beat her kids to near death for all we know, however what we DO know is that she was on probation and was revoked. Was it fair that she was revoked for not breaking a law? Absolutely not. Does it happen anyways? You bet it does.

Revocations are not always due to people breaking the law while on probation. And I would put a little money down to bet on rules violations out pacing law breakage.

Anonymous said...

When I hear about cases like this, it makes me shake my head in dismay. As a probation officer, I am tasked with doing whatever I can to help an offender who needs the help while at the same time ensuring that the conditions of probation are met. CJAD has made several recommendations to reduce the number of instances where revocations over technicalities or fees are significantly reduced (eliminating these is unreasonable, or so it seems). We work in a system that admits is flawed, but it is what we have and we, as individuals within this system, work daily to make it better. There has to be more to this story. But one cause of this that I can see is possibly an overburdened CSCD with high caseloads. This is why the Leg approved more money to CSCDs to reduce caseload sizes so that more attention can be focused on fewer cases. There is a domino effect in our system. I am sure that these types of revocations do not occur as often as they once did, but I certainly there was more to this story than just those 4 violations.

Jan said...

I work for an attorney and whenever we have a client that receives probation, the first thing I always tell them is 1)be sure to report and 2)pay your fees. And if they're being revoked, the first thing I ask is 1)did you report in? and 2)are your fees current? The State doesn't care if you commit another crime as long as you show up and pay up! Oh and BTW Pirate - Come to Lubbock County and you will find some of the meanest, damn "Christians" you'll ever meet in your life!