Friday, May 20, 2005

 

GOVERNOR'S PLAN FOR PROBATION REFORM REJECTED

Texas is looking to reform its probation under HB 2193 by Representative Jerry Madden (R- Richardson). The house bill met some resistance from the Governor's office Thursday, when Governor Rick Perry offered his own last minute plan to reform Texas' probation system to the Senate.
The major changes that the governor chose included: Probationers could still have had their case reviewed for early release once they completed half their sentence, but a judge could not have approved that release unless the offenders had committed no new crimes other than a misdemeanor; if they had paid all court costs, fines and restitution; and if early termination would "not increase the likelihood of harm to the victim or the public." Also, according to committee aides, the alternative dropped wording that established a pilot program to divert nonviolent offenders into special treatment programs rather that sending them to prison. The new developments arose when a new analysis showed that that the plan will save much less than originally predicted.

Instead of saving an estimated $44 million, as originally estimated, the probation reform would save only $6.6 million over the next two years. The discrepancy resulted from figures that were based on the assumption that the new law would be retroactive, and affect thousands of people already on probation.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee rejected the Governor's plan and proceeded with the House version. Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston), believes that HB 2193 is still a reasonable bill that will greatly improve our current system, although there is a potential possibility that Governor Perry might veto the House Bill if it doesn’t meet his satisfaction. Senator Whitmire plans to bring the probation reform bill to a floor vote in the Senate early next week and is quite confident that is has enough votes to pass. A major focus of this legislation is to reduce the probationers who are sent to state prisons for technical violations, or infractions.
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