Scott says that HB2193, a bill to reform the state's probation system is up for debate today. The main opposition to this bill appears to be coming from the District Attorney for Williamson County. Here's what he's arguing against:
Academic and former Criminal Justice Policy Council staffer Pablo Martinez testified that shortening probation terms would improve public safety. People don't need to be on probation longer than three years, he said, since virtually every recidivist will re-offend by then. Probationers need the most supervision right away, immediately after the offense, he said, not 5-10 years down the line. Martinez said 41% of those revoked from probation in Texas were for technical violations.
That figure jibes with those given by Chairman [John] Whitmire when he laid out his bill. About 25,000 Texans each year enter prison after their probation is revoked, he said -- 10,000 of them for technical violations, not new offenses. (Some 12,000 more are revoked each year from parole.)
Whitmire said that, for him, this bill isn't about saving money but strengthening supervision of offenders. The Senate's budget authorized $57 million in new probation program money, and another $62 million to house 3,000 more prisoners in county jails and private facilities. So there's no evidence, he said, the Legislature won't spend what's necessary for public safety; he just wants to focus resources to provide offenders more oversight. The current version would lower probation officer caseloads from 150 to 116 each -- still higher than experts recommend, but an improvement.