Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why choose jail? Part II

More on why criminal defendants might choose jail over probation from the newly resuscitated blog by a Dallas public defender, The Wretched of the Earth. I was grateful to find the comments following an earler Grits post on the subject enlivened considerably by the participation of a former prosecutor, so check those out too if you're interested. The ex-prosecutor provocatively declared "don't claim probation is too onerous for 'average people' -- if defendants were average, they wouldn't be defendants in the first place." It seems to me it takes a lot of chutzpah to say that in a state where one in twenty adults at any one time is under control of the criminal justice bureaucracy - I've seen a lot of "average" folks caught up in the system over the years.

But what do you think? Under what conditions would YOU choose jail over probation? And are criminal defendants "average people," or some other kind?


Anonymous said...

Look at it this way. Probation officers are not like nurses or doctors, who are members of helping professions. POs, like jailers, are members of hurting professions.

So the choice is between killing time in jail, free of cost, and trying to earn your way to freedom through a guy who'll extort kickbacks from you and make you kiss his ass as much as he likes.

How much abuse would you want?

Anonymous said...

When faced with early release with probation, or finishing my sentence. It was an easy choice. "Finish my sentence". I was already inside, had lost everything; and I'd be damned if I would let some asshole kick my door in at any hour of the day or night and search my place, my lady friends, etc. Most probation officers are not there to help. They are there to hurt. I met some decent "CO's" (Guards) in prison. But ask anyone about their probies and they'll all tell you. "Probation Officers Suck" It would be different if they gave you a chance, helped you find work, and were reasonable, but itf you're late once, because of traffic, or beacuse you had to work late, and they throw you back inside, you lose everything again and maybe get an extended sentence. To all you reeading this with loved ones inside, tell them "Stay where you are, as much as it hurts, it'll hurt more to lose it again & again.

Anonymous said...

"When faced with early release with probation, or finishing my sentence. It was an easy choice. 'Finish my sentence.' I was already inside, ..."

How can this be? Unless you're referring to "shock" probation, all releases from prison are by means of parole, not probation.

Contrary to common usage, probation and parole are NOT the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Lots of guys who are locked up awaiting trial are offered probation when their back time approaches the likely sentence. Many will opt for probation because it means getting out today. Smart defendants will stick it out until a back time sentence is available because probation sucks balls in exactly the way described. It is often advisable to accept a TDCJ sentence over probation because parole is much easier to deal with than probation.

Take a guy with a burglary of a habitation charge, and say he's been locked up pretrial for 8 months. He could take 5 years probation on a 5 year sentence, or he could take 3 years TDCJ. Assuming there's no chance of avoiding the conviction, I'll always advise taking the prison term because a guy in this position is likely to be "released in area," that is, released directly from the county jail without ever having to catch the chain. Then he's got 28 months of parole instead of 5 years probation. Parole is much easier to handle, largely because the Board of Pardons and Paroles doesn't have an institutional presence in the courts or DA's offices, and because pressing violations is more burdensome. There's less aggression, and less arrogance, with the Board.

Parole revocation hearings are simpler matters than probation revocations, with much less latitude for the adjudicator. Probation revocations can often involve long periods locked up, long incarcerations for ineffectual drug rehab, and usually end with the defendant still on probation despite spending up to 14 months locked up on any particular motion to revoke.

Probation can work for the guy who gets a DWI and is otherwise economically strong. But probation for a guy with shitty job prospects, or mental health issues, or unstable family life, or an ongoing addiction is crazy. Do your time up front.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the individual who use to be on probation:

With all due respect, probation officers(POs) have a specific job description with little or no authority to make decisions over a probationer, as it concerns revocations or other disciplinary actions.

Probation officers are responsible for making sure probationers follow the JUDGE'S guidelines that were made at the time of sentencing when the probationer AGREED to those guidelines.

Probation officers are not social workers, they are not there to hold a probationer's hand. Probation officers do not have the resources to help probationers find jobs, that is why POs refer probationers to the state work source centers through out the state which have electronic job banks and other resources to aid in finding employment. It is ultimately the responsibility of the probationer, who committed the offense to take time to look for employment.

Regarding the probationer's claim that being late to a month long scheduled meeting is justification for them to "throw you back inside." That is simply not true. Again, the JUDGE makes the decision on the future of the probationer if the individual is not following the guidelines they agreed to. Probation departments have protocols such as a supervisor hearings (multiple hearings) before it reaches the point of an offender being "thrown back in." POs document all the actions of the probationer, if the probationer is not adhering to his agreed guidelines, the PO sends that information to the Judge's court where the final decision is made regarding the future of the probationer.

For a probationer to get "thrown back in" jail, they have to try to not follow their probation guidelines. These guidelines are for the most part straight forward that most law abiding individuals see as following the law.

No one says probation is easy, however probationer officers have a specific function in the system and are not the end all be all in a probationer's future.

Anonymous said...

Probation is just the community's way of scoring some easy money. I received notification 2 years ago of some hot checks I supposedly wrote, some up to 3 years old! One look at the signature told me my ex roommate had written them before she skipped down. The most I was guilty of was never looking at my bank statements. With her long gone, and feeling foolish about my lack of attention to my own finances, I agreed to pay for the checks, all $900 worth of them, by Friday, just two days away.

Despite that, I was told I had to turn myself in or be arrested. Unwilling to stay in jail and miss days of work, I agreed to plead guilty (stupid stupid stupid yes I know). I was given TWO YEARS probation and a thousand dollar fine. I make well below the poverty mark, and quality for welfare, though I refuse to take it. After the 2 years, I had not been able to pay the entire fine, so the bastards gave me ANOTHER TWO YEARS!! I was told, all you had to do was pay the fine, you could have been cut loose two days after you were put on probation to begin with.

Now I'm told I can spend 10 days in the local jail on work release, and have the entire thing absolved. It's either that, or face another 2 years to pay off the massive fine, plus another $40 a month in probation fees.

Now explain to me how it's logical to force someone with no previous record to stay on probation for four years for a misdemeanor, or let them off in just 10 days with no money owed at all?? There are registered sex offenders and conviced meth dealers running around town who served a 1/4 of the probation time I've gotten!!! Guess I should just sell some dope to pay the fine like the dopers do. All the county cares about is the $$, not justice.

Bull Dog said...

I'd take Jail if I had to do it again. I had less than gram of some grass which belonged to a friend of mine. He took responsibility and told the officers it was his but I got charged because it was in my car. Now I have a year of pre-trial and my PO is a real B****. I paid everything and did all of my hours but I am not sure if they will give me unsupervised probation. I know she is just doing her job though I hate agreeing with the fascist who is defending probation officers on here. Tell me why it is fair that the majority of prisoners are poor minorities and not murderers? I guess justice is not blind at all and it seems to be good at math too. The truth is you are lucky if you can get jail. Most of the time they never offer it and usually it comes with probation anyway. The reason it sucks so much is because they are usually not part of the government. Probation is privatized in many parts of the country. That's why they want their money so bad. They want the government to pay for them to babysit you.