Infrastructure Spending Should Include Funding of Probation Offices

Good probation officers help offenders avoid a return to criminal behavior by assisting their efforts to find housing, jobs, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment. Bad probation officers do everything they can to get offenders revoked so they have one less person to supervise. Good or bad, probation officers who provide meaningful supervision of probationers help protect the community.

That's why it's short-sighted for states like Arizona, in their efforts to cope with budget deficits, to cut probation staffs.

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Last week, court administrators released a memo saying the state is cutting court budgets by $10 million dollars. As a result, it was almost a foregone conclusion that some probation officer's would be laid off. On Monday, court officials sent a memo to the staff stating that they are only facing $7 million in cuts, not the $10 million mentioned last week.

It typically costs at least ten times more to imprison an offender than it costs to supervise one in the community. Investing in probation officers, treatment and job training programs, and halfway houses is more cost-effective than slashing those budgets, only to see prison costs rise in later years because offenders who would have stayed out of trouble with help and supervision are left to their own devices by understaffed probation agencies.

Arizona should look for other places to cut spending. In fact, as states begin to ask the federal government to shower them with funds for infrastructure improvement, they should remember that transitional housing and treatment programs and community supervision are all part of the infrastructure -- they all contribute to community safety and to the economy by helping offenders become productive working taxpayers. That's just as important as fixing potholes or building new additions to airports.

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    A close friend of mine (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by NYShooter on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 11:23:11 AM EST
    has a mentally retarded son who served a full ten years in a max security prison, and is now two months away from completing a five year probation. The evidence was so flimsy that, before the trial, The D.A. offered to settle for time served. The boy, incompetent himself, and represented by an incompetent legal aid attorney, was adamant about his innocence, and refused the deal. The result I've already indicated.

    He maintained a perfect record throughout his probation, and his probation officer, hostile at first, was eventually won over, and became a staunch supporter.

    Two weeks ago (two months before the 5 year probation period ends) he was paid a surprise visit by his P.O. and his supervisor. The supervisor tore the state subsidized apartment apart, searching for contraband, while the P.O. pleaded with her on behalf of the boy. She found a box, covered in inch high dust, in his closet containing some junk a friend had given him upon leaving the facility. The box, which the boy said he never opened (the dust proved, at least, that he hadn't opened it in a long, long time) contained a VCR tape of one of those silly adolescent movies.......but it was rated "R."

    The supervisor ordered the boy into the spread'm position and slapped on the cuffs, while ordering the P.O. to make arrangements to remand him to prison for parole violation......possessing "pornography."

    After several hours of intense argument by the P.O, the supervisor relented, and hopefully, the boy's tragic ordeal will soon end.

    ......just an illustration of the best, and the worst, examples of the the probation system at work in New York.    

    Probabation officers (none / 0) (#2)
    by eric on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 12:15:33 PM EST
    are, in my opinion, second only to the police in their proto-fascist tendencies.  I do not support any increase in funding of probation.  I say shut them down or starve them so they don't pull stuff like this.

    It's the completely (none / 0) (#5)
    by NYShooter on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 02:02:05 PM EST
    arbitrary authority the P.O's have that is maddening.

    The other issue, one that is not nearly transparent enough, is the hell-hole, sadistic, torture chambers our prisons have become. The kid was seen by psychiatrists, and was in and out the psych ward numerous times, and each time he was returned to the general population, his treatment was increasingly brutal.  The guards had an attitude of, "you want treatment, I'll give you treatment!"


    While I'm a fan of paying for non-incarceration (none / 0) (#3)
    by Daniel Millstone on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 12:52:00 PM EST
    alternatives, only capital projects should be counted as infrastructure, not the wages of probation officers. Some stimulus money should and could help states and localities meet recession-induced budget shortfalls but the day in and day out wages of state workers needs to be paid out of operating revenue in the long haul.

    Exactamundo (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 12:56:58 PM EST
    only capital projects should be counted as infrastructure

    Good PO's are Few (none / 0) (#6)
    by CDN Ctzn on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 09:11:59 PM EST
    and far between, but are worth every cent their payed and then some. They possess something called a conscience (look it up sometime) and are altruistic in their motives.

    Our Penal System is just that...Punishment. The whole concept of rehabilitaton is lost on the masses. Just another sign of the rapid decay of our society!