Sunday, May 27, 2007

Work Camps for Local Jails Can Reduce Inmate Population and Provide an Alternative Sentencing Choice for the Courts

Road prison or work camps throughout the country have provided an alternative sentence for local judges. Many have complained about jail overcrowding and not knowing what to do with violators on probation. The concept adds another choice for progressive sanctions and allows minimum risk offenders to stay in the local area. County-operated work camps provide labor for roads, picking up trash, clearing rights-of-way, removing debris, mowing county-owned property, clear drainage areas and provide storm water maintenance.

The inmates receive additional gain time, remain in the county for families to visit, and obtain valuable training for maintenance type jobs. Some move on to legitimate employment once released from the camp. The camp could operate near self-sufficiency with additional farming and ranching jobs in the compound.

The biggest hurdle is funding a facility. Alternate sites could reduce costs. Counties can take over abandoned lands and buildings. Inmates can provide the labor to construct facilities. Eventually the facility will cost minimum compared to a main jail or prison. The camps do not require high security and need to house minimum risk offenders. The cost savings in county employees working the labor jobs will eventually balance out construction costs. The key is allowing the offender to be accountable and give him or her a productive purpose while serving his or her sentence.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


According to the Bexar County State Legislative Program, 80th Session, a reduction in the county jail is top priority. The report explains that many offenders or inmates prefer staying in the local jail as opposed to incarceration at a state facility. Obvious reasons are closer to family and the notion of county jails are more comfortable. Therefore, many convicted felons are filing appeals for frivolous reasons allowing the offenders to continue their stay in local jails until time expires on their sentences. Statistics are not available for accuracy of this report. As one can read, the outcome can create overcrowding in jails which cause a backlash with the courts releasing violators on bond to reduce inmate population. These seasoned criminals remain in the community having already failed the trust of the court by violating the rules and/or breaking the law.

The financial impact on local county budgets have brought about another push to release violators. This in turn has brought about discussion on a concept not known by many. The Parole Violators-Blue Warrants allow county magistrates to release parolees on administrative parole violations awaiting a parole hearing. According to Section 508.254, Government Code, currently requires parolees in custody shall remain in custody pending a hearing for parole violations. The push to release these inmates in the community due to cost savings outweigh the risks involved with parole violators in the community.

Protection of the community seems to have taken a back seat for this local jail administrator. Closing the loopholes with the appellate process and concentrating on releasing first time non-violent offenders should take precedence over releasing proven felon violators. It will be interesting to hear from those officers in Bexar County as to alternate solutions to reduce jail overcrowding.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, By Lauren E. Glaze and Thomas P. Bonczar, BJS Statisticians

Summary findings
Probationers include adult offenders whom courts place on community supervision generally in lieu of incarceration.
Parolees include those adults conditionally released to community supervision whether by parole board decision or by mandatory conditional release after serving a prison term. They are subject to being returned to jail or prison for rule violations or other offenses.
At yearend 2005, over 4.9 million adult men and women were under Federal, State, or local probation or parole jurisdiction; approximately 4,162,500 on probation and 784,400 on parole.
The 0.6% growth in the probation and parole population during 2005 -- an increase of 31,626 during the year -- was more than a fifth of the average annual increase of 2.8% since 1995.
At the end of 2005 --
-- Among offenders on probation, half (50 percent) had been convicted for committing a felony, 49% for a misdemeanor, and 1% for other infractions. Seventy percent of probationers were being actively supervised at the end of 2005; 9% were inactive cases and 10% had absconded. -- Nearly all of the offenders on parole (94%) had been sentenced to incarceration of more than 1 year. -- Women made up about 23% of the nation's probationers and 12% of the parolees. -- Approximately 55% of the adults on probation were white, and 30% were black, and 13% were Hispanic. Forty-one percent of parolees were white, 40% black, and 18% were Hispanic.
Inmates released from prison as a result of a parole board decision dropped from 50% of all adults entering parole in 1995 to 31% in 2005, while mandatory releases based on a statutory requirement increased from 45% to 51%.
Forty-five percent of parole discharges in 2005 successfully completed their term of supervision, unchanged since 1995. Thirty-eight percent were returned to jail or prison, and 11% absconded.
By the end of 2000, 16 States had abolished parole board authority for releasing all offenders, and another 4 States had abolished parole board authority for releasing certain violent offenders.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin

Probation and Parole in the United States, 2005
Reports the number of persons on probation and parole, by State, at yearend 2005 and compares the totals with yearend 1995 and 2000. It lists the States with the largest and smallest parole and probation populations and the largest and smallest rates of community supervision, and identifies the States with the largest increases. The Bulletin also describes the race and gender of these populations and reports the percentages of parolees and probationers completing community supervision successfully, or failing because of a rule violation or a new offense.
Highlights include the following:
The adult probation population grew 0.5% in 2005. This was an increase of 19,070 probationers, or the smallest increase in the last 26 years.
About 50% of all probationers had been convicted of a felony, 49% of a misdemeanor, and 1% of other infractions. Twenty-eight percent were on probation for a drug law violation, and 15% for driving while intoxicated.
In 2005 the Nation's parole population grew 1.6%. This was an increase of 12,556 parolees during the year.