Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nueces officials: Cuts to probation will end specialized courts, force group reporting, increase prison costs

The Corpus Christi Caller Times has an article ("Nueces County probation department bracing for cuts," March 27) localizing the story about proposed budget cuts to probation departments, detailing what they would mean in particular to Nueces County:
One proposal in the House would have cut about 22 percent from the department's budget during the next two years. That likely would kill the six diversion court programs along with the department's specialized caseloads.

It also would mean probation officers wouldn't have much time for fieldwork like checking on interlock devices for DWI offenders, curfew checks and keeping tabs on sex offenders on probation. The average caseload of 130 offenders would rise to about 165, according to a February department report on the impact of proposed cuts.

The report stated that under an initial Senate proposal 12 percent in funding would be cut to local diversion programs, which would allow the department to support five of the six specialized courts.

Department director Javed Syed said that on Thursday the most severe cuts proposed in the House's version had dropped to about 9 percent, which would spare local diversion programs. That hinges on whether the state's Rainy Day Fund will be used, he said.

But even at that level, the department still would have to cut its surveillance team among other things.
Syed, who has met with several legislators about the possible cuts, testified in Austin this month before the Senate Finance Committee about the situation.

"If you don't have any supervision, the chances for failure are enormous," Syed said.

One possible way to handle steep cuts and higher caseloads could be group reporting for probationers. "You don't have the time for all the one on one that you really require," said Judy Randolph, the department's deputy director.

The eight local district judges also sent a letter to the committee saying that if funding for the six diversion court programs were to be cut they would be left to send more offenders to prison, who could otherwise have had a chance at rehabilitation.

The added prisoners would end up being a more expensive alternative than keeping the programs, which have proven success rates, according to the judges' letter.
The judges are absolutely right, and they're not the only ones sending Texas legislators the message that cutting (cheaper) treatment and diversion programs will increase incarceration costs. The question is, are budget writers listening to local judges and probation chiefs or bureaucrats at TDCJ? The recommendations for budget cutting they're getting from those two groups are, for the most part, diametrically opposed.


Don said...

If history is any example, they listen to the bureaucrats at TDCJ, whose priority is self-preservation. Keep the prisons full, maybe build some more in two years. I've been hopeful that this time, the lege will actually man up and stand up to the TDCJ top guns. Of course, this remains to be seen. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Jim Stott said...

Cuts to local probation departments will be devastating across the state, if not immediately, during the next biennium. I can sympathize with Javed, as we will be making some tough decisions in Jefferson County as well. Just the single impact of not funding misdemeanor cases coupled with the added responsibilities of supervising those proposed 114 new misdemeanor offenses who receive probation is enough to shut down many programs that help keep felony offenders out of prison. Add to that the monitoring of ignition interlock for ALL first time DWI offenders and the first of many unfunded mandates rears its ugly head. Many of the reforms of the 79th through the 81st legislature will be sidelined as probation departments struggle just to supervise people, rather than provide any type of treatment. For years, we have struggled to implement the wonderful diversion programs we have with limited resources, and have kept countless thousands from entering the state prison. To keep those programs going, we have to transfer funds from our locally generated revenue to keep them afloat. The proposal to cut funding will have no effect other than to drive up the number of offenders entering the prison system, as judges run out of alternatives.

Anonymous said...


TDCJ "top guns" belong to some of the "Lege Boys". NOTHING is done by the bean counter without the "boys" (and girls) prior, "private" approval.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

If probation were only keeping tabs on true sex offenders and not Johnny who had sex with girlfriend susie, they probably could keep up with their responsibilites as a p.o. My husband is a former p.o. He quit because of the load and the politics in the dept. He agrees with me on the sex offender issue. There were far to many offeders that were not violent he had to keep tabs on. It did not make any sense to him.