Thursday, May 22, 2014

High probation fees, bail as a 'poverty penalty'

Good series from NPR this week on the high cost of probation fees and laws allowing defendants to be billed for supervision costs. The series documents ways that excessive fees can hinder reentry and rehabilitation for otherwise successful probationers, imposing a "poverty penalty." See:
And speaking of a "poverty penalty," check out this item from Huffington Post, "Posting bail for the poorest of the poor," describing a charity in the Bronx that helps poor people make bail. I've never heard of anybody doing that in Texas; it's an interesting role for a nonprofit to play, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

I'm not going to post anyone's bond (except in my immediate family) but the financial penalites for going to " community supervison" route are indeed prohibitive. I think a short jail sentence in the county calaboose is vastly preferable. The supervison fees alone are bad enough, but when you throw in ankle monitors, ignition interlocks, drug testing, etc--you end up with a fee that only the well-to-do can afford.

A second problem (or maybe my outlook is incorrect) is that most probation depts that I see are filled with wanna-be cops whose mindset seems to be "set them up to fail" rather than to do what they can to help the probationer succeed. I don't know how to handle that problem either.

Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

Why can't we do more for victims of crime?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, taxpayers should pay for the cost of probation not the offenders. They are just victims of society.

sunray's wench said...

Anon 6.17 ~ do more to prevent crime and further crime in the first place and there will be fewer victims of crime. Better to shut the stable door before the horse bolts, not after.

Anonymous said...

The probation departments need those fees to stay afloat. We are at the bottom of barrel for funding. I agree there are some probation officers who are total ass holes and want the offenders to fail. BUT there are some officers who want the offenders to get rehab and to change their criminal thinking. The offender is not going to get that in prison. I would ask that the public demand the legislators to totally fund Probation offices like they do parole. Demand that probation offices have money to hire counselors for substance abuse, sex offenders, anger management, living skills, etc.

Quit sending the money to prisons!!

Do away with the surcharges that are keeping offenders from driving and getting a job!

Anonymous said...

I get so sick and tired of people painting with a broad brush about probation departments and wanna be cops.

Probation officers are underpaid period. Probation Departments are underfunded. it is impossible to meet the needs of those on probation with the funding allocated.

Its much easier for a probation officer to supervise an offender than it is for a probation to make sure the offender goes to jail. Give me a break. Its time for people to quit pointing fingers and talk about solutions.

The only people who benefit are the corporate people. The ignition interlock providers, the SCRAM providers, the ELM providers, etc. These people collect money, hire lobbyists, provide false sense of security, and give a legislature a sound bite.

One day, Probation will no longer be able to support itself, if things continue on the path they are one.

Probation is a human service industry. It is social work. It is underfunded just like the rest of the human service industries.

Its not a TV show, it is real life. Provide the funds and better quality persons will be attracted to the profession.

Don't forget, Judges revoke terms of supervision, not probation officers. Also, don't forget District attorneys and their assistants make agreements with defense attorneys for revocation all the time when a probation department has recommended an alternative to incarceration.

Right on Crime, decriminalization, etc. all sounds good to the intellectual, but take a look at how the money flows and what accountability there is for the those working in the system. Probation gets blamed for so much more than they are responsible for.

Quit ensuring the Private Vendor will make a profit at the probationer's expense. Quit passing n the cost of balancing the State's Budget to the probationer (DWI Offenders, for one example).

Probation Fees are $60.00 per month. That is affordable. The rest of the monies assessed never makes into the bank account of a probation department. And, believe it or not, without the $60.00 per month assessed, the size of every probation department in Texas would decrease by at least 40%. So, that means probation officers will no longer have 100+ persons on their caseloads, they would have 200+.

The solution is proper funding. Not rhetoric and blame.

Stott said...

Probation fees and other fees associated with the operation of probation departments in Texas have LONG been a necessary evil. But it is like fines, court costs, attorney fees and any of the other 30 plus fees an offender can be charged with. It is much harder for the poor to pay them than the financially stable, just like anything else that has a price tag placed on it. Even parole has fees charged to the offender to offset the cost of the service, albeit not on the same level as probation. While the state does pick up the costs of some specialized programs, in most cases, it is never enough to cover the actual program costs. Being able to collect fees from offenders is what provides department with some autonomy. Full state funding would never meet the need of what is best for the local communities.

Anonymous said...

I had something like this happen once, but the judge was pretty realistic. After showing up for a hearing without any money for the third time he said "Look, if you don't pay this off by next month I have to put you in jail. Just keep a low profile (skip the next hearing and avoid the failure to appear warrant by keeping your nose clean)until you come up with the cash. Then call the docket coordinator and set up a hearing and we'll dispose of this."

It took two years to pay it, but the judge was happy, even a bit surprised.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about those rotten to the core halfway houses either. They are not there to help to but to do two things drive the people there to run away and bleed them and their family dry for money. That Gateway Program in Dallas is worse than any prison and the Volunteers of America in Fort Worth is an Internment Camp that respects no civil rights at all.

rodsmith said...

Here's a silly thought. Let's take probation back to what it started out as. When you finished your court ordered sentence you were released PERIOD with all the rights as any other AMERICAN CITIZEN. The only real diff was you were considered a probationary citizen for a specific time and if you were suspected of committing any new crime during that time the fact you were considered "probationary" meant they could lock you up while conducting an investigation.

What we call probation now is actually PAROLE. Under the original probation you did not report. You had no special rules to follow. NOTHING. You went home and that was it as long as you did not get involved in the justice system.

If you can't trust them out unsupervised put them on the REAL PAROLE system. Or keep them locked up.

Anonymous said...

Is parole funded the same way probation is funded? Do they have to collect probation fees to operate?

Anonymous said...

I know the half-way house in Dallas at the Salvation Army the Gateway program takes 25% of all money earned by the people on both parole and probation, on top of that they must pay their probation and parole fees, and the half-way house there takes tax-dollars. The half-way house in Fort worth run by the volunteers of America who hides behind words like "faith based", "Christianity", and the "Bible" takes 20% of all money earned by people on probation and parole, plus they have to pay their fees, plus they expect the family members to pay them for visitation rights. Been there and done it.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting, while probation fees cannot be a reason to send a probationer to jail, I have seen multiple occasions where they do extend a clients supervision term. What makes this even more interesting, the fee's generally do not apply to the supervision extension. IE; probationer is $1000 behind on fee's at the end of the supervision term. The court extends the probation because of this for a year or two. The term of extension though does not access fees. So how does this make financial sense? Its not like supervision becomes free for the next year or two of the extension. At best the CSCD is loosing more money trying to collect the back fees. Forget this making any sense in regard to public safety, its simply about money.

Anonymous said...

Another angle on why probation fees become problematic for many probationers;
While supervision fee's by themselves may not be so much the issue, compared to not completing other required conditions of probation set them at a lower bar. Since the state cannot violate a probationer because of fee's alone, say getting kicked out of SOTP can. These treatment sessions are court ordered and cost the probationer around $40 a week. Polygraphs can be required several times a year for $200 each. The list goes on, if a probationer fails to pay for any of these, they can be unsuccessfully discharged from a court ordered program which CAN produce a revocation. That being said, when you are on a limited budget, your money goes to pay other court incurred fees made to private businesses, CSCD gets left behind.

Anonymous said...

That Half-Way house in Fort Worth violates those imprison there Civil Rights, they use them for explortation slave labor, and will retaliate against them if they tell TDCJ Parole or probation.

Anonymous said...

That Half-Way house in Fort Worth violates those imprison there Civil Rights, they use them for explortation slave labor, and will retaliate against them if they tell TDCJ Parole or probation.