Different aspects of criminal justice have been very fascinating to me for many, many years. As I was skimming through the chapter 11 of our textbook, Inside Texas Politics, I noticed on page 351 about Community Supervision. Upon further research into the topic, I uncovered some great things that have come out of the program. It continues to be a great source of rehabilitation for low grade “common criminals”. I will explain what Community supervision is and how it relates to probation and deferred adjudication, Texas is trying to really support and help rehabilitate people who were/are convicted of more petty crimes. It seems petty drug charges is one of the main areas the courts are using Community supervision for. It is proving to be an effective method for rehabilitation. On the other hand, Texas is a leader in the execution of people on death row. Whether you are for or against the death penalty is not the goal, just some interesting facts to compare with that of the community supervision program. Lastly, I will be comparing previous and present crime rate statistics. Depending on the finds in the statistics, can any of the results be connected to Community supervision or the death penalty.Order now
According to Inside Texas Politics, “Community Supervision or probation, is an alternative to incarceration that allows offenders to live and work outside of prison while they serve their sentence.” (Rottinghaus, p. 351) The most relatively common form of community supervision is called deferred adjudication. This is when the offender offers a guilty plea immediately with no jury trial. If and when the offender completes the sentence given by the judge the charges will be dropped and the offender will be released. However, if the offender does not complete the terms of community supervision, he or she will have to serve whatever initial sentence was imposed by the judge. Since the offender is required to plead guilty to get community supervision, they may not ask for or appeal the sentence. This seems to encourage offenders to complete community supervision.
The Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department is so committed to ensuring the of the program they have stated the goals of the program. It lists the Mission and Vision statement and Values the County has established for the community supervision program. It basically says how the county will work as hard as they can to ensure that anyone that can be put in the program can be. Also, it states how they plan to help identify offenders that should benefit from the program. The values that are listed show that the county cares about the offenders no matter what they may have done previously. They are committed to doing everything they can to work with the offenders. (Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department home page)
There are several types of supervision for people who commit both felonies and misdemeanors. The most commonly used types of community supervision are Direct and In-Direct supervision. (Executive Services, p. 6) Direct supervision is when a person actually meets with a Community Supervision Officer (CSO). The person must see and have direct contact with the CSO at least one time every three months. Indirect supervision is when a person does not have to have direct contact with the CSO but still has to check-in, in person to the community supervision office. In 2016, about 375,000 people on community supervision and more than one half of the people are sentenced to direct supervision. (Executive Services, p. iii & iv)
Community supervision is not only good for a minor or first-time offender, it also has several positive effects on the community as a whole. Many times, the offender, as part of their sentence will be required to complete some type of community service. They can do anything from working in the local food bank to working on a construction site. Working in the community helps minor offenders learn better strategies and life skills to become productive members of society. It also helps them to stay out of trouble in the future and focus on more important things in their lives, like work and family.
Harris County is 4th in the state for releasing inmates into community supervision, 262 in 2016. Dallas County released almost 1,000 into the program. 37% of inmates in the state were released to community supervision are for drug related crimes. Almost 2,000 inmates released, had simple drug possession charges. Not to say possessing drugs is not a crime or should be down played, just that a certain drug is becoming more and more legal every day and is legal, in some form, in about half the country. (Executive Services, 2016) When compared the overall crime rate, in Houston, declined 5% between 2014 and 2015. Although, not a high percentage, any drop in the crime rate causes positive impacts on the community. (McCullough, 2016)
There have been many reforms to the criminal justice system mover the years. The reforms have helped Texas save around $3 billion. (Wilson, 2014) In 2016 Harris County received $2 million to help make changes to the criminal justice system. One of the most important things on the agenda was to stop sending people, who commit minor or less sever crimes to jail/prison. We as a community, pay higher taxes to keep these minor offenders behind bars. The offenders would be more likely to be placed, on what is now known as, community supervision. (Flynn, 2016) In 2017 the county proposed $35 million to improve and establish more facilities that would house and help offenders focus on “life skills” to get back to being productive members of society, especially people who are at low risk of repeat offending. There are not enough of these types of facilities in the area, so many offenders are placed on waiting lists but remain jailed. This again proves higher taxes that have to be paid by the taxpayers. (Zaveri, 2017)
What about the taxpayers, are they content paying for the criminals forever? I will explore both some good and bad sides of these areas in our Texas criminal justice system. Texas, with 550 executions since starting to record the number in 1976, after the last major reform to the federal criminal justice system, by far as executed far more inmates than any other state. Already through April 30, 2018, there have been 5 executions in the state and more are scheduled throughout the rest of the year. There have been 13 exonerations in Texas since 1973. The total number of executions throughout the country has dropped dramatically since 1999. In that year nearly 100 people were executed and to only 23 people in 2017. By race, over 55.5% of inmates executed were Caucasian Americans followed by about 34% being African Americans. (Death Penalty Information Center, 2018)
Depending on what county on lives in affects how much is spent to try death penalty cases. The exact number change by year and source, so any exact number is difficult to find, but the average I came up with was about $1 million. The Death Penalty Information Center says the cost is “from indictment to execution”. The average cost to house an inmate for 40 years is around $500,000. When you add the cost to care for over 400 inmates given 40+ year sentences and all different types of life sentences (with and without parole) the cost is $206 million. When compared to the $5 million spent on the actual executions, it doesn’t seem like that much. But should the cost really matter if a serial killer has been sentenced to death? I don’t know that I would even consider the cost if I were an attorney. It is about what is fair tor the victims. What kind of time are the victim’s family’s looking for, as punishment? All of these things are taken into consideration at the time of the sentencing. (Executive Services, 2016)
How does the cost of executing someone compare to keeping them in prison for life? The average cost of trying a death row case in Texas is about $1 million, while caring for a lifer is about half that. The total cost, from inditement to death is what makes up the $1 million, that includes the years the inmate is waiting to be executed. However, when you think about, the over 400 people in Texas that are sentenced to some form of a life sentence and only 5 executed in 2016, The actual cost to taxpayers to care for lifers far exceeds that of death row inmates. Also, none of the death row inmates are not just put to death right away, the average time in Texas is about 10 years. (Executive Services, 2016)
Is this really helping a victim’s family when the offender is sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty? Many victim’s families say no matter what the outcome of the case, it will never bring back their loved one. It does, on the other hand, help them to know that the offender will never be able to harm another innocent person again. What about the offender’s family? Of course, you would hope someone in your close family would not do something like murder several people, however, sometimes the offender’s family members are the people who turn them in. The family tries to be as supportive as possible but will also want justice to be served.
Money is what talks in the country. This is why the cost of housing inmates and putting someone to death are just a couple reasons people are so against spending money on these areas. Texas has spent and wants to spend more money to keep reforming the criminal justice system. Community supervision is a great way for the state to cut costs on the corrections system. Building new and improving existing buildings for minor offenders will help get them out of our over populated prison system. Getting minor offenders into the community supervision program is proving to help stop them from reoffending, helping them to get life skills, and helping them to be active and productive members of society. Any ways the state can reform, will ultimately save taxpayers money. Community supervision is one of the best things the state can keep endorsing and improving on for our community and state.