Saturday, January 06, 2007

With stronger probation in SA, 'rearrest rates, recidivism and technical violations all started to go down'

Despite Bexar County probation officers openly feuding with their director, a news report this morning says probation strengthening measures taken by the 2005 79th Texas Legislature worked well in Bexar County.

Regular readers will recall that last session Gov. Perry vetoed the main legislation that would have bolstered Texas weak probation system but not the funding package that went with it. A TDCJ review of those expenditures in December revealed that new spending resulted in reduced probation revocations, which is why Chairmans Whitmire and Madden are so keen to expand the concept. In San Antonio, at least, officials think the new approach works. The Express News reported ("Rethinking the boot camp," 1-6):

Abel Salinas will be the first to admit he thought "cognitive restructuring" was part of some kind of namby-pamby, soft-on-crime movement.

Then head of Bexar County Adult Probation's boot camp for young men, Salinas only reluctantly accepted a state mandate to dismantle the harsher aspects of the camp and replace them with a program that encouraged offenders to change the way they think.

"I thought it was a bunch of crap at first," said Salinas, who now heads the probation department's new 100-bed substance abuse treatment facility. "But rearrest rates, recidivism and technical violations all started to go down. I couldn't argue with that. Now we're using the best practices in what is a nationwide movement."

I think that's typical both of the results from new probation funding and also the attitudes of departments that received it. If you were to listen to critics like Williamson County DA John Bradley (though you really shouldn't, actually), strengthening probation is purely a soft on crime gambit: "You can sweet talk it all you want," he told the Dallas News yesterday, "But all of the proposals I have seen ... fundamentally depend on shortening sentences or releasing inmates early from punishment." Now match those statements with those from Mr. Salinas in San Antonio, who thought it was "crap" until "rearrest rates, recidivism and technical violations all started to go down."

What a coincidence, huh? That's just what proponents of stronger probation said would happen!

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