Monday, March 14, 2011

Will home visits and curfew checks for probationers, parolees fall victim to budget cuts?

The type of home visits and curfew checks for probationers and parolees described in this TV news story from Richland are exactly the type of activities that will likely cease if proposed cuts to local probation departments and TDCJ's parole division are enacted:
Ten officers checked six bars and 58 residences with 51 contacts being made with offenders or other household members.

One dozen curfew violations were found, along with three alcohol or drug violations.

Probation officer Jason Hoover says all of the offenders found to be violation of the conditions of supervision will be sanctioned for their behavior.  This can be done through more restrictive rules, financial sanctions, and/or jail time.
The Lege has appropriated quite a bit of money in the last two biennia toward reducing probation officer caseloads precisely so POs could spend more time on personal supervision and less on paperwork. Community supervision can be effective if it's staffed and and evidence-based practices applied, but what happens when POs have so many people on their caseloads they can't effectively leave their office, much less do home visits on a Friday night?

TDCJ has suggested the Legislature cut out this type of activity in order to keep the maximum number of state prison units up and running, but those priorities reduce public safety. It's probation and community supervision funding that should be preserved, even bolstered, while every effort should be made to identify classes of inmates who don't need to be in TDCJ, which is not all that difficult a task, and to close the costliest prisons.

22 comments:

A Texas PO said...

There are times when getting out of the office to make home visits requires a month or two advanced planning. Even then, when you return to the office, you're inundated with a backlog of paperwork. Many officers have already been told that they need to be in their chairs from 8 to 5, and compensatory time has already been eliminated. Every time I think that TDCJ can't get any more ridiculous, they still find some way to surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Fewer visits in the field will result in fewer revocations. Isn't that the overall goal? Public safety has taken a backseat in the discussions on criminal justice.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:47, the goal is to have fewer revocations because probationers are succeeding, not because nobody is supervising them! That does indeed harm public safety.

Jim Stott said...

Local probation departments have the ability to set contact standards for regular offenders. Higher risk offenders who are in programs that are grant funded, have standardized out of the office contact requirements, so it will be the decision of CJAD about whether those standards will change should the funding be cut. Higher caseloads, especially in the special population of high risk offenders will see the impact on many levels. Decreased field contacts, curfew checks, and the all too important factor of time spent with the offender will be impacted. Cooperative relationships with mental health providers, sex offender programs and anger management programs will more than likely be reduced to a non effective level as the caseloads increase to an unmanageable level. Once the supervision levels decrease, and the offender becomes just another offender in the system, supervised at a level that does not factor in risk, revocations occur.

Michael said...

Whether they get cut, or not, the effect it will have on protecting society would be marginal at best. These "home visits" almost always consist of seeing the offender standing outside in front of, or answering the door at, the residence where they said they resided. Parole/probation officers almost never enter the home, and if they do, it is never further than the front living room.

Be advised also that parole officers in Texas are prohibited by statute from acting as a peace officer, and to ensure the safety of its employees, the policy of the parole division is to prohibit officers from having contact with parolees for whom warrants have been issued, except contact made as a result of the offender turning him in to the parole office -- at which time local law enforcement officers would transport him/her to jail.

The only offenders home visits are good for are the ones who forgot they had a home visit the same day they just fired up a big hooter. Now that person deserves to get busted, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Probationers don't violate curfews because of a lack of programming or counseling. They violate curfew because they don't think they will get caught. The only way to reduce curfew violations is by electronic monitoring equipment or simply not doing curfew checks.

The lege should mandate some of the funds to go towards electronic monitoring equipment or programs they pertain to public safety. Most often, the funds go towards rehabilitative programs that prove unsuccessful and provide no protection to the community.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys carry firearms? Do you have radio communications? How safe is it for one officer to make these home visits anyway?

A Texas PO said...

Michael: As a probation officer who actually enters homes and goes in farther than the living room, I can tell you that your generalized statement is not true across the board, although I have some colleagues who do this. Many times, the home check on the front porch or only in the living room is due to officer safety. If I am alone and there are 4 people in the home, I'm not going to put myself in a situation that could lead to my wife calling the Sheriff's Office trying to locate my body in a field. In general, however, CSCDs do a piss-poor job of training probation officers for field work. CSO certification barely discusses the matter, even though most studies have shown that the home visit can have a greater impact on probationer success due to the personal nature of the visit and the opportunity to meet with the family.

As for Anon 2:52, that is something that small CSCDs would love! GPS can cost an offender a monthly fee that would pay for a nice monthly payment on a BMW. But alas, I doubt it will happen.

And Anon 3:01: Most of us have none of the equipment you are asking about. According to statue, probation officers are not allowed to carry weapons unless they are issued by the CSCD. However, most CSCDs have decided not to allow officers to carry weapons for several reasons, but the overarching theme is that a holstered gun is threatening to a probationer (even though many probationers have told me over the years that they think probation officers are crazy to be knocking on doors without some form of protection). Many of us head into the field with a pen and a cell phone and not much else. Also in statute, those of us with CHLs are not allowed to have our weapons with us during duty hours.

Anonymous said...

There are two main arguments against officers carrying firearms. Many departments don't want the liability - yes your safety is not as important as their liability concerns. And then the popular argument is that probation officers should maintain a therapeutic relationship with the client and a gun on your side gives off the appearance of law enforcement.

Neither argument is more important than officer safety.

Anonymous said...

No gun, no communication, no backup....Texas PO, what they pay you......it's not enough.

Cuts or no cuts, your safety should not be jeoparized doing home visits.

Anonymous said...

They will simply violate the offender and let the court issue a warrant. Then a peace officer will have to do the field visit, and run the law enforcement budget up instead.

Michael said...

Anonymous,the cost of supervision with GPS electronic monitoring technology is $25 a day, versus $3.74 a day for supervision of those on regular supervision.

Anonymous said...

$25.00 a day??

Not even close, it is a fraction of that amount. Offenders can be tracked 24 hours a day for less than $10.00 a day. There is no excuse for jail overcrowding with todays technology.

rodsmith said...

could do it even cheaper. all u.s cell phones contain GPS chips now. i had one a year ago that quit working completly becsue the GPS chip had failed. Issue every probationer a lmited use cell phone. only works to one number. THE PO. and calls from the PO to the probationer.... supervison solved for what 30 bucks a month!

Anonymous said...

And on another topic...I saw in today's local paper that efforts to consolidate TDCJ adminstration to Austin (versus Austin and Huntsville) have been taken "off the table." I live in Huntsville and losing TDCJ would be a huge economic blow. But it's interesting that when cost-cutting proposals effect me the issue is non-negotiable. When it effects someone else, it's "fat."

The Homeless Cowboy said...

American Ingenuity wins again,
rodsmith is on the right track. I do agree that PO's are not qualified or trained for field work with felons and should not be doing visits that require going further than the living room, but why would they that's the job, stop by see if they are home check in and say bye. If you feel that there is illegal activity happening, say bye and call a cop who is trained and paid to get shot at and get your butt out of there. Scott is correct when he says fewer revocations should come about because probationers are succeeding not because they are being ignored. here is a big news flash PUT SOME FUNDING TOWARD REENTRY - If probationers and parolees are given the training and opportunity to find employment and to find housing for themselves and their families they most probably wont be seen in bars or around drug corner, why because they have something worth keeping. they finally have a little pride in themselves and someone who believes in them. Give them a chance to succeed before you beat them down with 200.00 a month in fees and reporting 3 times a week. They will never recover and never make anything of them selves if society continues to be determined not to let them.

Anonymous said...

Once again, we see where reforming the bloated sex offender registry would save money. Why are our probtion and parole officers visiting at least twice a month with young men who had consensual sex with their girlfriends? Cut out all but violent, predatory offenders and that list becomes much easier to manage.

rodsmith said...

only one problem with this homeless cowboy!

"PUT SOME FUNDING TOWARD REENTRY - If probationers and parolees are given the training and opportunity to find employment and to find housing for themselves and their families they most probably wont be seen in bars or around drug corner, why because they have something worth keeping."


The idiots who now run the u.s and state govt would have to give up the "shame and blame" system of corrections we use now which gives the politicians the perfect vote buying scheme against the govt 'TOUGH ON CRIME"

and replace it with "help and support" for those who want to succeed. You know stop plastering their history to the world allowing private companies to record and hound them for life over crimes from 10-20 or 40 years before and so on.

Anonymous said...

As 10:22 says, these are just "young men who had consensual sex with their girlfriends." He was refering to those who have to register as sex offenders.

Continue to push that line and just hope that no one pulls up the sex offender registration list for their zipcode. If they did, they would leard the age of the victims and other details that doesn't fit the party line.

These are young men? Really? Fifty-one is young? Forty-eight is young?

Girlfriends? Who has a two year old girlfriend? A nine year old girlfriend?

Don't believe me? Pull it up and type in your zipcode and see for yourself. You will be amazed.

Anonymous said...

When you do pull up the sex offender registry by zip code, what you do see is the age of the victim at the time of the offence, but what you don't see is the age of the offender at the time of the offence, but rather the age of the offender now. So when consensual sex between a say a 14 year old and a 19 year old is the offence, what you do see on the registry is sexual assault of a 14 year old girl with a now 28 year old man. What you also don't see is fact that the 14 year old girl was in a group of eight similarly aged girls who had joined in a pact to see who could have sex with the oldest person and who sought out and pursued their men, not the other way around. These were girls who had fake ID's and had admitted to such under oath in court, but the punishment went to the true victim who now has to be on a sex offender registry for life.

Anonymous said...

06:38
You're a year off. We claim those on registration are 19 year old boys who were begged by their 15 year old girl friend.

Remember. She was 15, not 14! Let's all stick with the party line!

Anonymous said...

uh, 14 and 15 year old children can't "consent" to sexual acts..... geniuses