Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Technical revocations still awfully high after much-vaunted probation reforms

Most of Texas' large counties save two saw their number of annual probation revocations decline or remain flat between 2005 to 2010, according to a December report on the state diversion programs (pdf) from TDCJ to state leadership. But somehow Bexar and Collin continued to send much greater numbers of revoked probationers to TDCJ in the wake of Texas' 2007 probation reforms, increasing their total revocations by 62.6% and 96.2%, respectively, over that period.

Perhaps, in a period of fiscal austerity, counties whose revocation numbers keep going up should simply have their "diversion" grant funding eliminated, if they're clearly not diverting many prisoners, anyway. Bexar did report its first reduction in revocations last year since diversion funding began, according to the report, so perhaps one could argue to give them more time to reduce their numbers. But Collin County appears to just take the diversion money then blithely continue to send more people to TDCJ. Why pay them extra for that?

Here are a few other topline observations from the report:

Oddly, Dallas has a larger probation population than Harris County despite a smaller overall population, perhaps because Harris' revocation rates are higher. Probationers in Dallas represent 13.6% of the state total compared to 11.5% for Harris. Tarrant County revokes a greater percentage of its probationers than any other large county, though its annual revocations declined slightly since 2005. Overall, data on how many offenders are monitored, revoked, etc., don't track strictly by population. The differences are explained mostly by county-by-county policy differences among probation departments (CSCDs), DAs, and judges.

Indeed, the proportion of probationers revoked to TDCJ varies quite widely by county. From a chart on page 23 of the report, I calculated these data portraying the percentage of the ten largest departments' direct felony probation caseloads revoked to TDCJ in FY 2010 (both for technical violations and new offenses):
Harris: 11.4%
Dallas: 9.7%
Bexar: 9.0%
Tarrant: 13.1%
Hidalgo: 6.8%
Travis: 9.0%
El Paso: 4.7%
Nueces: 12.8%
Cameron: 6.4%
Collin: 11.9%
These annual failure rates seem all over the map. If there's a good reason why Tarrant County revokes probationers at 2.8 times the rate of El Paso, I can't identify it offhand. That said, some progress has been made: "comparing FY2005 to FY2010, the [statewide] revocation rate has decreased, falling from 16.4% in FY2005 to 14.7% in FY2010." So the percentages revoked in small and mid-sized counties are obviously even greater than these larger ones. Like Collin County, some of those which have never reduced revocations should probably lose their diversion grants. If they did, everybody else would get a lot more serious about compliance with program goals, and perhaps those recalcitrant counties would change their ways to get those resources back.

Notably, the issue of probationers going to prison for technical violations has not yet by any means been resolved. "In FY2010, there were 24,239 felony revocations to TDCJ, of which 48.8% were a result of technical violations community supervision conditions." That's a lot of new faces showing up at TDCJ every year.

Even where revocations have declined, the new diversion funding doesn't seem to explain fully what progress has been made. "In CSCDs receiving additional diversion funding, 48.1% of revocations to TDCJ occurred as a result of a technical violation. For CSCDs not receiving additional diversion funding, 51.1% of revocations to TDCJ were a result of a technical violation." It is true that departments receiving diversion funding were slightly less likely to revoke drug and property offenders, while violent offenders made up a greater proportion of revocations at those agencies. But across the board, whether or not a probation department received diversion funding, consistently the largest category of revocations came from drug offenses.

One issue keeping technical revocations so high is that they're often used for absconders instead of intermediate sanctions facilities, short-term jail stints or other progressive sanctions. "Approximately 40% of offenders revoked to TDCJ for technical violations had absconded in the year prior to revocation." I'd be interested to learn more about how absconders are typically sentenced, and whether there's an additional cohort of them (as I suspect) that received some sort of intermediate sanction: Regrettably, that level of detail didn't make it into the report.

Appendix E helpfully breaks out probation revocations (total and technical) by county. The percentage of probation revocations for technical-violations-only ranged quite literally by county from zero to 100. In two small counties, Hunt and Fayette, 100% of probation revocations (113 and 49, respectively) were for technical violations. At the Milam, Wheeler, and Baylor CSCDs, no revocations were for technical violations only. In the larger counties, the proportion of probation revocations for technical violations was:
Harris: 61.2%
Dallas: 50.3%
Bexar: 41.1%
Tarrant: 46.2%
Hidalgo: 42.1%
Travis: 35.0%
El Paso: 47.2%
Nueces: 41.9%
Cameron: 40.7%
Collin: 55.4%
These are somewhat disappointing numbers. I'd hoped by now we'd see the number of revocations for technical violations declining much farther in the largest jurisdictions.

On the bright side, judges are utilizing early release provisions in state probation statutes (a little) more frequently. "Felony early discharges from community supervision (as provided in Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure) have consistently increased statewide since FY2005. Statewide, felony early discharges increased 4.1% from FY2009 to FY2010 and 54.4% from FY2005 to FY2010." Still, we're talking about a relatively small number overall: In FY 2010, just 6,570 probationers statewide earned their way off probation early through good behavior.

One gets the feeling that the 2007 probation reforms, while a great start, are starting to hit a wall regarding the limits of their effect on the prison population. Revocation for technical violations are still more prevalent than they should be and probation revocations remain a too-large source of TDCJ intake. More aggressive use of progressive sanctions - particularly using ISFs or short-term jail stints for absconders whose only violations are technical instead of revoking them to TDCJ - could help bust that nut. But rather than double down on investments in strong probation, the current budget crisis puts even those existing programs at risk.

These data tell me that there's still a great deal of progress to be made reducing TDCJ's population by reducing revoked probationers, relying more heavily on progressive sanctions for those who haven't committed new offenses. But legislators must leverage that potential through their budget and policy decisions during the current session; it won't happen of its own accord.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

"Perhaps, in a period of fiscal austerity, counties whose revocation numbers keep going up should simply have their "diversion" grant funding eliminated, if they're clearly not diverting many prisoners, anyway."

The PO is not diverting? It's a tug-of-war. The PO tries to encourage the released felon to change his habits and the felon is often not willing to consider that. It may not have ever occurred to you that the person doing the bad action has some responsibility for his own behavior.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:55, of course the offenders are responsible for their actions, just as the probation departments are responsible for their policies. Those departments revoking more frequently on technicals are choosing to do so, as are those who revoke first instead of using intermediate sanctions.

Wendy said...

I'm sure you're aware of Tarrant County's Bond probation program, I'm not aware of what other counties have it, I know it's the only one in our area. My thinking is that it's allowing the probationers a second change without any kind of treatment and that's why so many are going to prison in the end. It has to be set up on diversion program funding and obviously not effective...


Anonymous said...

Harris County probation officers have a big case load. The only way to ease the strain is to violate the client and have them arrested. This take the case off their desk and puts it back to the courts and the jail.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know about "bond probation," Wendy, what can you tell me about it?

Wendy said...

I just don't know a lot about it, I know that probationers are released on bond probation until their court date but the bond probation is very intense, mandatory weekly reporting, drug testing every week. Sorry, wish I knew more

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gotcha, Wendy, that's pretrial release, i.e., they're "bonded out" awaiting trial.

Probation is actually a sentence imposed post-adjudication. What you're describing is basically supervising people on bail before their cases are heard, though that's awfully intensive supervision for people out on bail.

The bail/probation issues are related in this way: Jails have many uses and the pretrial detention use has risen sharply in the last decade, usurping jails' postconviction role as a place where criminal sentences are functionally imposed. For my part, I'd like to see pretrial detention rolled back and more jail capacity used for short-term sanctions for probation violators, as is done for example in Hawaii's HOPE program.

9:47, I think you're right, which makes it doubly absurd that HB 1 proposed cutting diversion grants that paid for caseload reductions. If caseloads rise, what you describe will only happen more often.

Don said...

Good point, Scott. We have a problem with County lockups being full of people who haven't been convicted of anything. (pre-trial) You made this case many times when you were discussing the county jail problems. The reason for this is that the bonds are set too high, not enough PR bonds, etc. The reporting and hoops that pre-trial bondees (as Wendy is talking about) have to jump through do not really seem to meet due process. I think Wendy is talking about "pre-trial diversion", where if you fulfill the requirements they don't file the charge, instead of just being out on bond awaiting trial.

Anonymous said...

Grits - it would be helpful if you will lay out your personal definition of the term "technical" violations as compared to what the report compilers define as "technical." Wonder if there's any daylight between the two?

Texas Maverick said...

If you can't find a job, can't find a place to live, don't have transportation, never received drug or alcohol treatment, then the support systems needed to change your behavior are non-existent. Why are we surprised if they "technically" offend. At a revocation hearing one sex offender was given 2 weeks to find a job or else when he had a "stack" of applications that had been turned down. It's easy to say, "get a job or else." Not all revocations are because the offender isn't trying. Stats are good, but the stats are people, each with their own story. We need outside research looking at individuals as well as the total numbers and it's getting hard to find univ. with the time, money and students to do the studies.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:03, I'm accepting their definitions at face value, not applying my own. They define their terms on p. 32 of the report.

A Texas PO said...

As a PO, I can tell you most CSCDs actually utilize progressive sanctions and the prosecutor will usually reject a violation report if no sanctions had been imposed, unless the offender absconded. One of the major problem areas I have come across that this report does not address is that the CSCD is not always respsonsible for technical revocations. Oftentimes the PO will file the violation report because the sanctions that were imposed were not effective (or were rejected by the offender), and the PO will recommend to the court that some modification be imposed. However, the prosecutor will make a deal for TDC time without consulting the probation recommendation or the PO. The CSCD should not be punished for this if the revocation was the result of courtroom dealings.

Also, several of the CSCDs receiving diversion funding are receiving very little when compared to the actual Department budgets, and oftentimes these funds are used for specific programs. When revocations increase, there is usually little distintion between the 5% who were in a program that utilized these funds and the rest who were on regular probation. Record-keeping statewide to make this distinction is horrible to say the least.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Texas PO, I tend to agree with your latter point about smaller CSCDs - there actually needs to be more thought given on how to deal with them because the grants are ineffective but collectively small counties are sending a lot of folks to TDCJ.

On your first point, however, locally elected judges sit as the board for CSCDs, so I fail to see why a "CSCD should not be punished ... if the revocation was the result of courtroom dealings." What goes on in the courtroom regarding technical probation revocations is entirely (or certainly mostly) within judges' control. How else to hold them accountable if the money's not being spent the way it's supposed to?

Texas Maverick said...

If you look at raw nbrs, not %, check Fayette Cty who got funding. 0.3% of Felony Direct & Indirect population (238,951)= 72 bodies being supervised. 49 were revoked; 100% on technical violation. Where did they spend the money and how come they can't supervise 72 people without sending 68% back to CID?

Steve said...

Revocation rates are often the function of two factors. First, there are some judges and prosecutors who work with a very short leash. Although most courts are willing to let the CSCD have a significant role in deciding when a probationer should face revocation, there are some counties where the criminal justice culture is to trail 'em, nail 'em and jail 'em. In those counties, probationers might get one shot at substance abuse treatment, and if they use again, they get revoked. A PO and a CSCD cannot control that. The other factor is that the CSCD Director's leadership can be crucial. If the director truly believes in progressive sanctions and interventions, the POs will follow. In many of these CSCDs, you can look at the who the director is and understand why the revocation rates on technical violations are higher or lower. At least two of the counties you mention have changed directors in the last couple of years, and that may bring about a change in revocation rates.

A Texas PO said...

Grits, I understand your point about the judges, but they are not the ones who suffer. They don't lose staff when CSCD funds are cut. Sure, they hear the gripes from the CSCD during their monthly or quarterly CSCD meetings and maybe they will react. Unfortunately, if a CSCD happens to end up with judges who don't care what CJAD will cut, then the CSCD suffers and probation ends up losing experienced officers. There has got to be a better way. I mentioned in a previous post that there was talk about fining the courts themselves (and I have not found where this came from but I was told by reputable sources that there had been discussions about this) if certain courts revoked too many offenders for technicals. I'm sure that if it were possible to sort the data to determine which district courts the individuals were sentenced through, it'd be clear that some courts revoke many more probationers than others. That might be the best place to start rather than punishing the CSCDs for revocations that are often out of their control.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what world y'all are living in but I'm here to tell you that not all probationers who violate want an opportunity to go get treatment in an ISF or SAFPF. Here's a situation not at all uncommon in my county (and keeping in mind that in most instances we do try to use the "continuum of sanctions"):

Defense Attorney: (to prosecutor) "What's your recommendation?"

Prosecutor: "Probation would like for your client to get treatment _______ (insert here ISF or SAFPF)."

Defense Attorney (after visiting with client--and after client has visited with other jailhouse lawyers): "My client doesn't want to go to ISF or SAFPF. Give me a pen time rec."

So what is a prosecutor, or judge, supposed to when confronted with the situation where a defendant thinks probation and treatment is more trouble than it's worth and would rather just go do their time? I promise you, this is not an infrequent occurrence and I suspect most posters on this blog who go to court frequently would agree.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:07, there's always jail. In Hawaii's HOPE program short-term jail stints are a more common sanction than treatment.

I know it's a novel idea to move out some of those pretrial defendants and start using the county jail for actual punishments!

Anonymous said...

Once in the Courtroom with a def, it is the def atty & the DA who negotiate & make a "recommendation" re: punishemnt.

The only recommendation the CSCD makes is to the prosecutor via a report. The DA could care less about CSCD recommendation. The purpose of report for the DA in the DA's mind is utilize it to create a Motion to Revoke.

A Prosecutor will be happy to abandon an allegation of an arrest if they can prove a def failed to report. The research will show the def. went to prison on a tech. when in all reality, the def. committed a new crime.

The data is unreliable.

Fiscally, only the CSCD suffers. Judge's and DA's monies aren't tied to revocation.

It is impossible to quantify human behavior, that of the offender,the defense and the judge.

The Judge might be a director of the CSCD Board but he/she still has an electorate. Like it or not, he/she also tends to listen to an atty rather than a PO.

The CSCD is the only player involved who isn't elected. It could be argued the CSCD is the only objective voice.

Re: short jail stints, it sounds good but the truth is the offer from the State (even though at a Motion to Revoke Hearing, the decision is entirely up to the Court) is usually something the defendant can live with and is what the def. atty. recommends the defendant accept.

If the defense & DA go before the bench w/an "agreement", the Court will almost always approve it, all the while the Court has no idea what the CSCD wants to do & just beause the PO isn't an attorney the Court would prefer not to hear from the PO.

It is win-win for the prosecutor, he gets a conviction, his pocketbook isn't effected, & def is off docket. If anything, the conviciton makes the prosecutor look tough which tends to please the public.

It is a win-win for the defense couns b/c he limited the def's exposure to confinement & if appointed, he gets paid.

It is a win-win for the def b/c they get less time than originally assessed (or that empty threat attached to the sentence of deferred adjudication, the one about sentencing someone to the maximum term of confinement), and gets off paper quicker.

It is lose-lose for the CSCD b/c they get blamed when they had no voice. The CSCD certainly didn't make the decision to revoke the def, the Judge made that decision. CSCD's pocket book is affected. The def is no longer on probation no more funding from the State no more probation fee the defendant may pay in the future. Not to mention, no more diversion funding because probation gets the blame.

It is beyond me why only a PO can see why CSCD has no fault. CSCDs do not revoke people, judge's revoke people. CSCDs are the least culpable.

Where continuum of sanctions are concerned, the idea is to keep the defendant out of the Courtroom through the utilization of the sanctions. However, the sanctions aren't always applied as written. Much of this has to do with the lack of experience of the field of community corrections. A CSCD Director may be able to expound about the continuum of sanctions, but the CSCD Direcotr isn't in Court when defendants are revoked. The CSCD Director isn't conducting office visits.

The problem is no one is on the same page. There are too many different values between all the players in the system.

Only the CSCD has funds tied to the revocation.

There is even a bill filed presently that is written to reduce CSCDs funding if the revocation rate increases from one year to the next. Again, judges revoke probationers.

Anonymous said...

Judges revoke probationers not CSCDs.

Continuum of sanctions aren't always applied properly.

The State will be quick to abandon the allegation of a new offense and go forward with a tech. just to get someone into prison.

Only CSCDs have funding tied to revocation. Judges and prosecutors don't have funding tied to revocation.

POs aren't attorneys so they are often ignored or neglected while in the Courtoom.

Prosecuctors give "sweet deals" to defense counsel to get a defendant off the docket.

POs aren't to blame for the revocation. It amazes me that no one seems to understand that except for the PO.

Anonymous said...

Judges revoke probaioners.

CSCDs dont revoke probationers.

Judges listen to agreed recommendations made by def. counsel and DA.

Judges iognore or neglect POs in the Courtroom.

Only the CSCD has a budget that may be affected by the revocation. Judges and DAs budgets aren't affected at all.

Judges have interests in much more than the CSCD regardless if they are the board of directors of the CSCD.

The CSCD is the true objective voice simply because they don't have an electorate to respond to.

CSCD Directors don't conduct office visits with probationers. CSCD Directors aren't in the Courtroom.

The continuum of sanctions isn't always bought into by the DA or the Judge and isn't always applied appropriatley to the probationer.

Don said...

100% correct about the criminal justice "culture" from county to county vis-a-vis prosecutors and judges. But when funds come into the CSCD for the purpose of diverting revocations, the county benefits from that money. Point being, some judges and prosecutors are very self-serving and short sighted in this respect. What you say is true, but that's not the perception. The perception must be that the CSCD has most of the control over revocations. That's why they give you the grants, instead of the prosecutor or the judge, one would (logically) think. :) Another variable: when your county runs a facility such as the CRTC (LCCCF), doesn't that make it more likely that the judges and prosecutors would work with you when recommending that instead of direct revocation to CJID? If so, Lubbock should have a pretty low revocation rate, which I guess it does.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I promise you that we use "jail therapy" too. The presence of pretrial detainees is not a big problem--at least in our county. For our drug or alcohol offender/addicts, we'll try to get them into a out-patient treatment program either on the front end or after their first positive UA. Second positive UA will get them another trip back before the judge and maybe a more regimented (once a week) reporting and/or a little jail time. Third relapse, we're starting to talk about an in-patient program like ISF or SAFPF. And they usually get to stay in jail while this decision gets sorted out. By this time, a lot of the probationers are just fed up with the trouble. They've benefitted from the "wise council" of their "cellies" and they're ready to just go do their time. I think our probation department, prosecutors and judges are actually pretty lenient and understanding in working with some of these people. But when you get to the point that the probationer just wants to go ahead and "do their time" you're pretty much wasting your time and prolonging the inevitable. Moreover, you're wasting resources that could have been offered to other probationers who might genuinely be trying to get their act together.

As for the absconders, someone on here needs to point out that we're not talking about probationers who miss one or two appointments. We're talking about people who have pretty much given the universal "one finger salute" to the probation department and court and not reported for months or years. When they eventually get arrested (either in state or out), it's pretty unrealistic to think that 30, 60, or 90 days in jail is all of a sudden going to cause them to take their probation seriously. Again, you typically hear them say "how much will I get if I just go do my time."

If you haven't already done so, you should really consider just going to a few non-trial felony docket calls in a larger county and seeing how the sausage really gets made. I think it would give you an entirely different perspective on how things really work.

There may be some counties that are "willy nilly" revoking probationers for one or two technicals, but I don't know who they are.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:59 writes, "Judges revoke probationers. CSCDs don't revoke probationers." The missing link, though, is that judges run CSCDs and probation officers report to them in court.

5:05, I've heard all the excuses many times and I recognize the system is set up for all the players to point to the next guy and say, "it's his fault." But at some point, just repeating your failures isn't an option.

No one said counties are "willy nilly" revoking on technicals, but it was the counties themselves who reported the data this report is based on. It's not like TDCJ (or I) made it up.

IMO if the state were to cut the money for Collin and smaller noncompliant counties it would get the judges' attention, both because they run the CSCD and because all the other players in the system will be grousing at them. The state would save some money and it's better than just throwing your hands in the air and saying "It's hopeless."

Don, maybe we SHOULD give the grants directly to the judges if the CSCDs can't accomplish the task. That's kind of an interesting idea, if somebody could come up with a mechanism.

Anonymous said...

3:59 writes, "Judges revoke probationers. CSCDs don't revoke probationers."

Then from Grits-"The missing link, though, is that judges run CSCDs and probation officers report to them in court."

Ok!In Bexar the Judges have decided they hate progressive sanctions. We lowered the revocation rate on the backs of the CSO's. Bexar's rate still is in line with other large counties. I try very hard every day to try programs and keep that violation report away from the district attorney. I really feel we have hit a wall and you can only go so low on the revocation rate. We could maybe go down one or two more percentage points. My defendants are getting into court and asking for time!!!! No fees and no programs. They get 3 for 1 and come out and are off paper quick. The ones that serve up front time always run, get the technical, then take time with credit for time served.

Grits, I would be happy to take a day off come to Austin sit down and tell you how it really is in Bexar.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Bexar and I honestly hate to file a Motion To Revoke! I have no control or say after that. Which is fine but not if our funding is tied to revocation rates. Our caseloads are to high and we make a salary of 31,000 a year with no pay scale. So you make that forever. Most of us are looking for jobs elsewhere. You have quite a few officers who want to stay and really care but just cant afford to stay. In other words you have to have a staff that cares to lower rates!!!

Anonymous said...

Scott, one thing you did not consider in your review is the fact that the direct felony population in Texas has grown by over 16,000 offenders since 2005. The increases have been most prominent in probation departments that were awarded diversion funding. Revocations have not increased in proportion to the significant growth in the felony population. Considering that offenders are most at risk for violation and revocation in their first two years of probation, it is remarkable that revocations have not exceeded 2005 numbers.

It is also important to recognize that diversion funding did not increase in proportion to the population growth. Consequently, the average amount of diversion funding per offender has steadily gone down as the population has grown. Departments continue to stretch the dollars they have but at some point, there is no more room to stretch. So, yes the diversion funding may have maxed its impact but the reason has more to do with the significant population growth than most of the factors that have been cited. When we are measuring the impact of the Legislature's investment in diversion programs, we need to take into account the fact that the increased alternatives led to significantly more offenders being sentenced to probation on the front end. Revocations are only one measure of how the funding has impacted the prison population. Yes, Texas divert more offenders from prison with sufficient diversion funding but don't short change the success.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the last post!!!

Anonymous said...

Grits says, "The missing link ... is that judges run CSCDs and probation officers report to them in court."

Yes, judges run CSCDs per statute, but I am certain most Judges acquiesce to the CSCD Director about everything related to probation.

The best interest of the CSCD isn't what Court is all about. Judges have enough to do, that's the point, that is just one missing link.

Yes, officers report to the Judge but in the Courtroom, the Judge isn't putting the interest of the CSCD at the forefront of decision making.

Grits says, "No one said counties are "willy nilly" revoking on technicals, but it was the counties ... who reported the data ... It's not like TDCJ (or I) made it up."

No one said it was made up. The CSCDs report data they are required to report. The fact is the reported data is skewed because it is inaccurate as it doesn't tell the whole story.

The required data doesn't ask the CSCD what was the CSCD's recommendation at the revocation hearing. That is another missing link.

If the CSCDs are asking for revocation when there is only technicals, then most certainly CSCDS should not receive diversion program funding. I doubt CSCDs are recommending revocation due to technical violations. The DA is abandoning other violations at the Hearing so all that is reported is the technical because that is all the computer will allow to be reported (software issues, which CJAD and CSCDs are not up to snuff about anyway, and is a whole other story).

Revocation virtually always is an agreement between a DA and a Def. Atty. rubber-stamped by the Judge. Doesn't sound like someone who is running a CSCD (other than maybe running it into the ground).

Someone who is running something they valued would pay attention to what is hurting his employee and if the final decision maker -- the fact finder is the Judge and his finding of fact is putting the CSCD in the poorhouse then maybe the Judge should be penalized for the technical violators going to prison? The data doesn't show what happens in the Courtroom.

The last thing I would want to do is give up. Public Safety is too important.

Grits says, "But at some point, just repeating your failures isn't an option."

It isn't the CSCD that is failing. It is the whole process that is failing. 122 CSCDs, 254 counties, so many District Court Judges, so many County Court at Law Judges, so many prosecutors, all with a different value system, and all with a different idea of how to punish and/or rehabilitate the offender. Each county has its own culture and personality, Texas is a huge State, counties aren't mirror images of one another.

The Judge, the Prosecutor, and the CSCD aren't all on the same page of the Special Grant Conditions of the Awarded funds nor are they all on the same page of the Progressive Continuum of Sanctions nor does anyone care about those things except for the CSCD. The CSCD is at the bottom of the food chain once you get in the Courtroom.

The Judges don't want the grant monies. If they were given the monies, they would tell the CSCD to manage it anyway or ask the County auditor to do it who would also just turn it over the the CSCD.

The solution is to have other government entities be punished for the technical violation revocations. Don't just punish the CSCD. Because CSCDs funding is threatened to be cut because of a failure they have been alleged to have committed with no culpability by anyone else being mentioned is ludicrous. If the pocketbook of the DA or the Judge was threatened, then I can almost guarantee there would be less technical violations, maybe even zero of the them.

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Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:39 writes: "The solution is to have other government entities be punished for the technical violation revocations."

Which ones? And how would you do it, as a practical matter? That's not a rhetorical question or a joke, I'd really like to know. I'm open to good ideas; what I'm not open to is saying it's too complex so just leave the status quo for counties trending the wrong direction. Other counties changed and they can too.

Again, I get that it's a complex system with many actors and lots of moving parts. I also know that the CSCD doesn't make the decisions. But there are only so many tools in the legislative toolbox, and I continue to think that if Collin and the smaller, recalcitrant counties lost grant funds, the CSCD's issues would quickly rise up local decisionmakers' priority lists. I agree that right now "the Judge isn't putting the interest of the CSCD at the forefront of decision making," so maybe dumping this big budgetary turd in their lap will alter their priorities. It's worth a shot, Collin's probation revocations have nearly doubled since they began taking diversion funding, it's not like the state loses much from their nonparticipation.

Tangentially, I've always suspected just reducing probation fees would reduce revocation rates and also the number who choose incarceration. Probation can be so onerous for poor people (especially those with transportation troubles) that often it makes incarceration look easy by comparison. It would cost the state some to make up the difference for basic probation if fees were lowered, but expanding incarceration is a LOT more expensive by comparison.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:20, let me know when you'll be in Austin and I'd be happy to visit with you about Bexar probation, which as you may know I've episodically covered on Grits over the years. Most of my informants at Bexar CSCD were run off under the last administrator, so I'd love to hear how things are going under the new management. I agree with Steve that Bexar's turnaround in the last year with their first-ever revocation reduction can likely be attributed to different management. I wonder if you'd concur?

Anonymous said...

A few observations about the data and information offered.
First, CSCD's do not revoke probation, rather judges revoke probation. CSCD's report non-compliance to the courts and some CSCD's have the ability to recommend alternatives to incarceration, but judges are the final and sole decision makers on placement in alternatives and the revocation of probation.
CSCD's may not have much discretion in the use of diversion programs without the court officially modifying the terms and conditions of probation in a formal proceeding. Most likely in such cases the CSCD has the defendant's case docketed before the court for technical violations and then the supervision plan can be reviewed and modified accordingly. Diversion programs are very limited despite funding from the state and some probationers may not qualify for services within the specific program available, so what options does the court and CSCD have regarding alternative progams? Sadly, few if any options may be available.
Finally, there has been a growing attitude among defendants at initial sentencing, defendants appearing before the court for revocation proceedings, and among overworked probation officers that jail and/or prison is the easier option for the defendant. Defendants do not want to have to do everything required and expected while on probation so they just take the time offered and move on with their lives, and probation officers have limited time to assist uninterested, chronic violators so PO's move to have those cases removed from their caseload through technical revocation.

Anonymous said...

I want to applaud all the persons who posted regarding this topic Scott. One of the more civil, thoughtful, and valuable discussions I have followed on your blog from people with expertise, and obviously who care about the system the the outcomes of the offenders they work with.

Anonymous said...

Punish the Judiciary. The lege should talk about taking away their funding for filling up prisons with technical violators.

Punish the District Attorney's Offices. The lege should talk about taking away their funding for filling up prisons with technical violators.

Those are the governmental entities who also play a part in the revocation, a much larger part than a CSCD.

People need to get their head out of the sand (for example, legislators) and admit the CSCD isn't the sole responsibility for prisoners who are in prison because they violated the terms of probation for a technical.

Regarding absconders. If a probationer runs away from probation and never reports for an extended period of time, but that person does not commit a law vioaltion while on the run, that person ought to remain on probation with some sort of sanction. Even if a law violation was committed, depending on what type of violation, that person still should remain under supervision. Like it or not, communty suppervision really hasn't been attempted with such an individual.

Too often I hear the defendant would rather just do his time. Well, the defendant would also just rather break into your house, share a needle with someone, sell dope to High School kids, drive intoxicated, etc.

Allowing the defendant to do his time because that is what he wants to do is part of the problem. Why does the defendant get to keep doing what he wants to do. Is he in charge? I thought the Court was in charge. How is that Public Safety?

Putting him on probation and working with him within a continuum of sanctions will cause the defendant to reevaluate his lifestyle, at leasst that is the idea. In the Courtroom, the DA, the defense and the Court are giving up, not the CSCD. Because they give up, the community is not safer, public safety is effected negatively, but no one will admit it.

Don't keep the defendant comfortable with a lifestyle of crime. Teach him to not hurt others so they feel safe in the their home, teach him not to escape reality with a drug addiction so others won't die from poor choices. Teach him how to remain sober so he doesn't operate a vehicle putting all of us in danger.

If the defendant harms someone, put him in prison. By harm, I'm talking serious assault, repeated burglary, predatory actions toward children and women.

Most pprobationers are going to the same Church as the PO, the same grocery store as the PO, the same movie theatre as the PO, the same restaurant as the PO. In all actuality, most of them are our siiblings, parents, sibling's spouses, etc. Remember the 1 in 12 study by PEW.

It is that one percent that need to be put in prison. However, try saying all of that in a Courtroom. Try having someone listen to all that, you would get cut off and be told you are a liberal fool and the probationer has had enough chances. Lock him up.

The CSCD has a responsibility to educate the Judiciary about how probation really works. That's difficult because the Judiciary can be somewhat omnipotnet at times.

Althoough I hate passing the cost of business on to the consumer, don't reduce probation fees as a matter of statute. CSCDS should consider reduction of fees if it is determined it is in the best interest of the defendant based on documented evidence of the inabilty to pay such as copies of check stubs, utility bills, etc. Just like all decisions should be made in the best interest of the defenant while taking into consideration public safety.

Presently, the probation fee makes up anywhere from 40%-75% of CSCDs budgets. Talk about a cut in funding if the fee was reduced.

Most people can afford $60 per month. If a person buys one 16 oz. coke per day, that equates to about $45.00.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree with you, 8:15, great comments everybody!

Anonymous said...

"Most people can afford $60 per month."

Tack on programming, classes, ignition interlocks, SCRAM, GPS monitors, etc., and the cost gets a lot higher than that.

Anonymous said...

Wish some of you would stop whining about PO's losing their jobs. CACD's were not established as jobs programs.

Secondly, the state pays juvenile probation certain amounts of money not to send kids to TYC. Could a program like that help out CSCD's?

Anonymous said...

The problem is, in light of the massive "cuts" CSCDs are currently facing, which will eradicate most treatment options, at least on a local level, how can revocations do anything but increase? To cut this level of funding from a CSCD and then ask that the revocations decline is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Our prison for profits aka TDCJ is set up for when one bed is empty another body has to be placed in it. So probation and parole is just another tool to keep the prisons full and the top TDCJ cronies in those high paying jobs.

Anonymous said...

Rizzie Owens will figure out a way to save the day and of course her high paying job and pay raise. Why do we even need Parole? The parole board does not release anyone; however, they will do anything to save their kick backs.

Anonymous said...

TCJD is criminals supervising thugs. Who are the worst? Close the units and do away with the inmates.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"The PO is not diverting? It's a tug-of-war. The PO tries to encourage the released felon to change his habits and the felon is often not willing to consider that."

I am sorry, but I must call bullshit on this. The one and ONLY goal for a probation officer is to ensure the person is in compliance and if not they setup paperwork for the judge to revoke. Please don't hand out the PO is a good old boy/girl nonsense, we know better.

be that as it may though, the only sure way for a probationer to avoid the big house is to keep their own noses clean, or else the above mentioned PO will happily shoot your butt off to Huntsville.

One aspect of Probation that those on it never take time to learn is that your rules are different than the average citizen for a set number of years. The judge gives you a road map to follow of all the do's and don't while on probation. Read the stipulations, learn them by heart, keep a copy on you or in the car, and live each day specifically by what is written. If you do that, you will NEVER be revoked.

I've been on probation before, for a total of 7 years. One thing impressed upon me by the judge at the time was, if you so much as forget the . at the end of that stipulation I will revoke you. And with a hearty, Never let me see you in my court again, I promptly began what I thought was the worst years of my life.

However those years would have been alot worse in prison.

So things I learned from others failings.

1 'sip' of alcohol is still drinking, and will get you revoked.

No one 'visits' a friend that is smoking, and doesn't toke.

When you cannot go 200 feet from somewhere due to a stipulation, that means 200 feet, NOT 199 feet.

Staying employed CAN be picking up cans on the road if you are without full time employment if that is all you've got.

Taking Responsibility is a full time job, and not something you practice only while at the PO's office or in Therapy.

Your wife/husband/mother/father are not at fault for your crime; You are completely to blame for your past actions. There are no mitigating facts if you enjoy your freedom.

The PO is not your friend, they are actually wanting you to fail. They are not doing their job unless you do fail. If you live life by the rules given you, you are in essence telling the legal system and the PO to kiss your ass.

learned a lot more too, but the last one I learned is:

Put your faith in no one but yourself; Everyday the guy you thought was perfect was actually lying to everyone.

Anonymous said...

All good points but they need to pull out tech violations that were used instead of filing a new case. Many revocations for tech violations are because it's quicker and easier to prove the technical violation to the judge than it is to go through all the motions of a trial on a new offense.
Most DAs don't really know much more about a case than the cause number, judges even less...unless the victim is a voter!
Experienced probation officers should have much more f a role in the entire process.

Anonymous said...

What is a TECHINAL violation and how should it work. I was not at the time familiar with the Texas Judicial System. I received a deferred adjudication sentence. This was to be 450 hours of community service along with fines and fees adding up to $375.00 a month. The fees were for various programs and had nothing to do with my crime. I was picked up at the PO for not paying my fees. I had paid the fees but had paid $12.00 to one and $35.00 to another which shorted one and the other over. This resulted in spending 3 days in jail until I had a court date at which time I was released when the court saw the discrepancy. My PO never ask why, he left the room and two plain clothes officers came in and arrested me. My second violation was on a positive drug screen. The day I went to be tested I gave the PO a note from my Dr. stating that I had received IV Narcotic drugs (the night before)in the emergency room for a kidney stone. The next monthly meeting I was again arrested for a dirty UA despite the medical record was in my file. This time it was 6 days in jail until I went before the judge. I had to point out where in the file the records where. I was released that day. I found out that with the judge I had she ran the probationers in her court not the probation department. My PO was someone who simply filled in the blanks every month, he even told me he had no control over what a revocation was. The files with all violation of any kind were sent to the judge each month she made the decision. I think if the PO department was allowed to do its job in Harris county things might be a little different.

Anonymous said...

Bexar County has had to make haste hastily and with success. The new Administration has done more in the last year than the previous Administration ever did in five. That ship is on course. A rough one for sure, but still on course. Officers are being retrained in their practices. Revocation rates are going down and graduated sanctions are being utilized.

Hopefully, the new top dogs will hold their management as accountable as their subordinates and clientele

argumentative essay writing said...

Many revocations for tech violations are because it's quicker and easier to prove the technical violation to the judge than it is to go through all the motions of a trial on a new offense.

Anonymous said...

I was released on parole after serving 9 years and 9 months of a ten year sentence, and have 10 days to go left on the 3 months. If my parole is revoked, do I have to serve the full 3months or just the 10 days left?