Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A rose-colored overview of community supervision

TDCJ's Community Justice Assistance Division chief Cary Welebob mentioned a document Grits hadn't seen from the Office of Court Administration - a Study of the Necessities of Certain Court Costs and Fees in Texas - during her testimony this morning before the House Corrections and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees. Hadn't seen that; worth a look-see later.

She also mentioned that the proportion of local probation department (CSCD) budgets paid for from probationer fees varies widely, from 30% up to 60% of CSCD budgets. Differences are primarily attributable "reasons of philosophy," she declared.

Welebob differentiated probation revocations for new crimes vs. "technical" violations, which range from failure to report, absconding, failure to attend a treatment program, failing a drug test, etc.. Currently, Texas probationers have roughly a 10% revocation rate overall, she said. Roughly 50% are because of a new arrest and the other half are technical revocations. Of technicals, 42% had absconded and eight percent were revoked for other reasons. Despite this high level of absconding, she said, within the last 10 years felony technical revocations declined by 9%, she said.

People who cannot pay typically are extended on probation rather than revoked for failure to pay fees, said Welebob. However, she failed to acknowledge research in Texas by the Robina Institute which found some probationers abscond because they fear they'll be arrested for nonpayment of fees or noncompliance with other conditions of probation. To the extent that's the case, the "absconder" category masks a deeper problem of noncompliance leading up to that final rejection of supervision.

Rep. Krause asked Welebob what are the drivers of revocations? She replied, interestingly, that local chiefs' philosophies had been a driver in the past. Early on, some were more resistant to evidence-based approaches, progressive sanctions, etc., than others. Today, 97% of departments use progressive sanctions, she said, so TDCJ grants have successfully established a new statewide standard.

Because of changes in statute in 2007, she said, early termination rates have risen, sentences are shorter, more time credits are in place, and in general low-risk people find it easier to get off supervision, Welebob argued. Those left on the probation rolls have both higher needs and higher risk of re-offending. As such, she argued, one would then expect revocation rates to tick up just a bit in the near future.

I like Welebob but thought that analysis fell short, obscuring more than it illuminated. The discussion conflated a lot of different categories and causes and, as a guide, Welebob offered committee members a rose-colored-glasses tour of a complex, dynamic, and obscure community-supervision landscape.

4 comments:

He's Innocent said...

Because of changes in statute in 2007, she said, early termination rates have risen, sentences are shorter, more time credits are in place, and in general low-risk people find it easier to get off supervision, Welebob argued. Those left on the probation rolls have both higher needs and higher risk of re-offending. As such, she argued, one would then expect revocation rates to tick up just a bit in the near future.

This too is misleading or flat out short of the full truth. By statute, registered citizens are not allowed off probation early, no matter how strictly they adhere to all the terms. (In my spouse's case, 42 of them, the standard of Bastrop County)

Given that statistics show that those convicted of sex offenses have the lowest recidivism rate with the exception of murderers, and the ever increasing numbers of those on the registry, how bloated are CSCD's case loads made up of SO's who are very little danger to society?

How many SO's are violated late in their probation terms by silly ass issues? Personally, I know of at least three who have gone years without issue, only to be revoked at year 9.5 of a 10 year probation term. I know others who've been extended for no good reason. There is an appeals case in the courts now over this very issue where the convicted person was revoked at the end of a 10yr probation term only to be then sent to prison for 10 years! What a cluster....

My point being that CSCD's manufacture much of their own caseloads to keep themselves going via revocations and harsh tactics over non-payment of fees when it is just not necessary for the greater good and safety of the community.

Anonymous said...

Lots of people get off probation early. It's difficult, but it does happen. HB1205 and Sec. 20e of TCCP Art. 42.12 allow early time credits for state jail and third degree felons. These credits went into effect September of 2011, and we're starting to see folks who were granted 5 yr probation terms in the fall of 2011 and early 2012 start to come eligible for these time credits. The philosophy Welebob talks about doesn't just have to do with revocations, but also early released. Too many probation administrators take the stance that probationers already "got a break" by being on probation, so they don't deserve early termination. Others hold offenders' criminal histories against them in the early term review. Still others don't want otherwise eligible clients to get off probation early because they pay their monthly fees. If CJAD can come up with a uniform policy for this, it may help a lot. And if the funding structure made more sense, keeping people on probation because they pay would no longer be an issue.

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Anonymous said...

I don't think it is CSCD Directors that are pushing technical to be revoked. CSCD's are following CJAD's rules. An example: when do you place an offender as an absconder? CJAD says after 3 months of not reporting.

I think the best way of reducing technical violations is to change the felony judgment to say: Report and pay and have a nice day!!!