Monday, June 18, 2007

Unions: How unions need to change Probation in Texas

I am very curious as to why there is a strong resistance to unionizing probation officers and staff in Texas. Bexar County is feeling growing pains and may one day be in a leadership role for the rest of the State. Dallas Po’s have gone the same route with positive progress. The resistance comes from those who could use the positive publicity and fail to see the benefits of treating staff with dignity.

Somewhere down the ole’ dusty managerial trail of fiscal responsibility, cut backs, bottom lines, and fat executive salaries, real people have been lost. Productivity is now replaced with disgruntled workers. These workers were loyal, took pride in their products, and had a sense of community with long tenure in companies that built generation after generation of new products and services, and most importantly loyal employees. Now we experience low wages, low job satisfaction, and no job security. One can only surmise why there is a need for unions. The plight most companies and government agencies face is actually caused by this era of erroneous non-leader types who fill administrative positions in both corporate and government America. In other words, the destruction of productivity and creativity by corporations and government agencies is caused by executive arrogance and stockholders who fund their shenanigans.
General Patton would be in dismay to see how his beloved country has cultivated a crop of self-serving administrators, aka managers, instead of true leaders. Leadership is not born of degrees or positions, leadership is born of men and women who are passionate about their people. Pride in oneself perpetuates down the line. What is a leader? A leader is one who has been in the trenches, will go in the trenches, and knows his or her troops. Lead by example comes to mind. Where this country lost sight of leadership is when our men and women in leadership roles forgot where they came from and cultivated their own careers on the backs of their troops. This is why a union is necessary for our country to survive. Our children will be susceptible to what we are seeing now in our workforce. Sure we have a few fat cats who make lots of money, but what happened to Bob, Juan, or Sue? These men and women of this generation helped this administrator to his or her level. When the bottom line came, it was always the staff that was cut first and in turn cut the jugular vein of our society.

Meanwhile back on track, looking at the bigger picture, I wonder if the managerial type or possibly court officials simply do not understand the positive influence they can give officers and staff members. If working conditions, wages, and job satisfaction were all positives, then you or I would not hear the rumbling in South Texas.

The Austin crowd will be first to stand up for progressive sanctions and restorative justice and pass bills reducing jail populations and building treatment empires. Nothing is written or no one carries the torch for the forgotten person on the front line of defense in our nations communities.

Less we forget the hundreds of staff tirelessly working day in and day out without adequate compensation and due protection. Officers and staff have many years of experience and education. There is a very small step between an officer and administrator and should be respected by the courts and administration. We should hold our heads high and be proud of who we are as Americans and take pride in what we do each day. The union can bring equity and reduce the huge disparity among the probation staff. Bob, Juan, and Sue can once again be proud of who they are and where they work. Each could be our future leader and what better lesson can we give then the lesson of true leadership. Vote Union!

Union Mission and the big picture

What We Stand for: Mission and Goals of the AFL-CIO
Why a union?

Per AFL-CIO website:

The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labor movement.

We will build a broad movement of American workers by organizing workers into unions.

We will recruit and train the next generation of organizers, mass the resources needed to organize and create the strategies to win organizing campaigns and union contracts.

We will create a broad understanding of the need to organize among our members, our leadership and among unorganized workers.

We will lead the labor movement in these efforts.

We will build a strong political voice for workers in our nation.

We will fight for an agenda for working families at all levels of government.

We will empower state federations.

We will build a broad progressive coalition that speaks out for social and economic justice.

We will create a political force within the labor movement that will empower workers and speak forcefully on the public issues that affect our lives.

We will change our unions to provide a new voice to workers in a changing economy.

We will speak for working people in the global economy, in the industries in which we are employed, in the firms where we work, and on the job every day.

We will transform the role of the union from an organization that focuses on a member's contract to one that gives workers a say in all the decisions that affect our working lives—from capital investments, to the quality of our products and services, to how we organize our work.

We will change our labor movement by creating a new voice for workers in our communities.

We will make the voices of working families heard across our nation and in our neighborhoods.

We will create vibrant community labor councils that reach out to workers at the local level.

We will strengthen the ties of labor to our allies.

We will speak out in effective and creative ways on behalf of all working Americans.

I wish to thank all the union folks for their hard work and dedication to the productivity of this country. Unions are the backbone of companies and a way of life for the working man and woman.

Keep the faith

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Judgement Liens for All Outstanding Probation Fees/Restitution

According to Texas Criminal Procedure-Code and Rules, Article 42.22, Sec. 2-12,, Offenders can be accountable for their crimes by making the offender pay a restitution lien for both the victim and the courts to cover the administrative costs. As of now, many defendants don’t pay up. The inability to pay based on low income, debt, or family/child support, has been the quick and easy defense for most lawyers. However, according to the 79th Session of the Texas Legislature, judges do no have to consider when determining restitution. A criminal who commits a crime should be held accountable and required to make restitution. Restitution in Texas, A Report to the Legislators, authored by the staff at Sam Houston State University, “50% of restitution ordered is collected.” In other words and the bigger picture, the other 50% is lost in the judicial halls of apathy. The report goes on to state:

“[C]ollecting restitution payments compete with the collection of other fees, including fines, court fees, and supervision fees. Some of these fees are used to supplement the budgets of the respective departments and officers’ salaries. The average community supervision order contains 18 conditions, which strains the ability to efficiently supervise restitution payment. --Office of Victims of Crime (1999) Promising victim-related practices and strategies in probation and parole. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.
We need to take a step further and free up the courts by not having the thousands of technical violations at the end of sentencing. *******Texas has underused or not used at all its own rules about collecting monies and restitution for victims. Many if not all Texas Judges and District Attorneys have dropped the ball in the Restorative Justice policy by not repairing the damage between the victim and the offender.

This forgotten or ignored 42.22 code could bring in millions of dollars over the next decade returning funds back into the county and state coffers and most importantly, make the offender accountable for his or her crime. This can supplement bed space for violators of probation, violent and sex offenders. What appears to be the only important issue with the legislators and counties is to empty jails and prisons and leaving our citizens plagued with violence on the streets. The costs of beds are soaring through the roof and drain our counties of funds that could pay salaries, build better infrastructure, or provide resources for a better quality of life. This is a solution. The current lack of judicial oversight and negligence by the courts to reach across the code and change the current trend shows the lack of courage by the many who are responsible for a balance judicial system. The need to aggressively change to a “criminal accountability system instead of a treatment based system is critical as bed space becomes more and more important in locking up those violent and sex offenders.

As of now, the only buzz word around Austin is treatment which private attorneys have obvious reasons to support. The Big Treatment Lobbyist seems to work overtime peddling goods. It is a feel good policy. However, it is not all about treatment. It needs to be about accountability and protection of the public. Crimes cost millions of dollars to the citizens of Texas. We should not give lawyers and defendants more loopholes to avoid accountability.

Consequently, as of this date, near-sighted judges and legislators fail to realize the unused code could bring accountability and ownership of the crime to the offender. Restitution liens on all outstanding monies owed to the victims along with court costs and administration fees will eventually pay for a great number of bed spaces for those who fail to abide by the conditions of probation and keep violent and recidivist type criminals behind bars.
By judgment liens, this will in turn significantly reduce the number of technical violations for failure to pay monies. Judges could automatically convert any outstanding debt owed at the beginning of supervision to a judgment lien for all outstanding costs at the end of supervision.

This will free the court and the jails of the revolving door justice of violations, bonds, hearings, and dismissals. A simple statement ordering any outstanding balance at the end of supervision will be automatically converted to a judgment lien. This is the only solution for many victims and county jurisdictions to recover restitution and costs. Once the affidavit is filed by the District Attorney’s office, the affidavit will perfect the restitution lien giving priority to the victim for any monies collected from tax refunds, settlements, or other awards given to the offender. Long after the offender’s probation terminates successfully or unsuccessfully, the victim can still be paid by this method. Maybe there will be a court in the future who will stumble onto this forgotten code. If your county is not using 42.22, maybe you can suggest it as you ask to raise probation officer salaries.