Thursday, May 12, 2005

Probation for state jail felonies heads to the Governor

As the big probation bills await hearings on the House and Senate floors today (see prior Grits coverage linked here), another important probation bill passed the Senate today on the local and consent calendar. HB 1759 by Keel/Whitmire will allow juries to recommend probation for state jail felony offenses. Currently, even people who commit violent felonies can potentially get probation, while state jail felons -- many of whom are low-level drug offenders caught with less than a gram of a controlled substance -- are barred from receiving that sentence recommendation from a jury.

This bill alone isn't enough to stem the overincarceration crisis, but it's a logical start. Even the usually reactionary Harris County District Attorney supported the idea in committee. In some jurisdictions, state jail felony cases make up 30-40% of prosecutors' caseloads. In many cases, these are exactly the type of nonviolent offenders better dealt with through the probation system. It's smarter and better public policy to reserve prison, as state Rep. Ray Allen, R-Grand Prairie, has said, for people whom society fears, not those at whom we're merely angry.

1 comment:

123txpublicdefender123 said...

That is great news. There's no logical reason why juries shouldn't be able to give probation for state jail felonies.