Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Probation kiosks reduce costs when used properly

Check out this op ed by Marc Levin of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation on the new automated probation kiosks being used in Dallas -- essentially an ATM-type machine where probationers can check in, pay fees, and have their picture taken to confirm their identity without talking to a probation officer.

Levin thinks that "Inappropriate use of probation automation risks saving money in the short run while increasing long-term costs through higher recidivism rates." But it seems like the idea should work well for some offenders who need to check in and pay fees but don't require much supervision, a description that fits tens of thousands of Texas probationers. It's an especially good idea for those who've already successfuly completed two to three years of probation. Research shows that most probationers who re-offend do so in the first few years.

UPDATE: A commenter helpfully points out this Dallas News report that Dallas County has temporarily suspended the kiosk program while it retools its screening process to decide who gets on it. Hopefully media criticisms won't kill the idea, which was only being tried in Dallas as a pilot program under a state-granted waiver. Used for probationers
who've successfully completed several years of probation, for starters perhaps limited to those who committed non-violent offenses or who've been identified as low-risk, could free up much needed probation officer resources for more careful monitoring of high-risk offenders.


Anonymous said...

My gut reaction to these kiosks was that they were a really bad idea. But the truth is that probation officers could be more effective if their workload were reduced - whether it's by hiring more PO's or doing something like this. Or both. For low-level offenders who have already proven that they can abide by the rules of their probation, this could work. They still have to report to an actual person, just not as often. And an actual person monitors the data collected by the kiosk. (At least that's my understanding of it.) As long as the screening process for who gets to use them is stringent and adequate, I think it would be an asset to the CJ system. PO's would then be closer to having the time they need to work with the offenders who really need the supervision.

Some offenders will always slip through, no matter what we do. I dealt with a sex offender who was on 10 years probation for indecency with a child by contact. 3 days before his probation expired, he was arrested for raping his 11-year-old mentally slow step-daughter. Not even his probation officer, to whom the defendant reported regularly, saw it coming. Maybe (just maybe) if the PO had a lighter caseload because of these kiosks, he could have kept a closer eye on this bastard - perhaps made surprise home visits - the rapes had been occurring for over a year while defendant stayed home with the girl during the day while mom was at work. The PO certainly isn't to blame, but the kiosks might have helped in this situation. (This defendant is now serving life in prison.)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to how much time is saved with these kiosks if an actual person has to review all of the data anyway. I'm assuming there isn't some sort of auto facial recognition going on to verify the actual person is using the kiosk.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ anonymous: Actually I bet lot of time would be saved. The picture is just for verification. That's still a lot less time than a meeting, even if they still met, say, every third or fourth time.

md, good comments, as usual. You're right it's all about screening who is assigned to it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Even though I typically have a liberal viewpoint on nearly everything, because I work in the CJ system as a prosecutor, my viewpoint tends to be a bit conservative and admittedly biased. But I always think criticism of the system is good, as long as it is criticism for the sake of seeking a better way of doing things and not just to blast people in charge (even though they might deserve it).

The experimental kiosk program in Dallas County was suspended this week so that the eligibility criteria for using the machines could be reviewed (and they were losing money). The article is at
It seems like the judges who favor using the program like it because it helps the probation officers. I think it would be better if all probationers met in person with a PO instead of a machine, but the reality is that doing so overburdens the system and causes too many problems. Hopefully the kiosks will be back up and running again soon.

Anonymous said...

That link did not come through very well. It's

Just put it all on one line without spaces.

Anonymous said...

The kiosks could be used effectively to reduce PO caseloads if the Dallas Co. Probation administration had a clue about what it is doing. The fact is that the department assigned hundreds of felons to report to the machine, many of whom were anything but low-risk. As an employee of the department, I was not surprised when the administration lied to the reporter about how many DWI offenders were on the machine. Because they have gotten away with it numerous times before, the administration figured they could cover up their lies by refusing to provide the list of offenders to the reporter who had made an open records request. My hat is off to Brooks Egerton for doggedly pursuing the information and forcing the department to turn over the list. One can only hope that the department has learned a lesson from its kiosk boondoggle.

Anonymous said...

восстановление зрения
База кинофильмов, кино, фильмы, анимация, мультики
восстановление зрения