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Criminal Justice Notes: Planners Group, Probation Advisory Committee Meet

By Laura Nicholes
TAC Legislative Staff

The Criminal Justice Planners group, facilitated by the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University, met in Huntsville the first week of October and discussed re-entry initiatives and collaboration of county and state resources.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) recently launched a new website which includes a Texas County Resources page with data sheets on juvenile justice statistics, local re-entry resources and a primer for legislators regarding cost-saving public safety measures and the impact on local taxpayers. TCJC solicited suggestions from county stakeholders regarding the addition of other information resources for those re-integrating or for family members and community members interested in county-specific transitional services and criminal and juvenile justice data.

The group also discussed the management of jail populations, probation and parole practices, the state budget, mental health funding, juvenile justice and preservation of the integrity of the local delivery system.

The planners revisited past legislation which may see renewed attempts in 2013, as well as new legislative proposals and recommendations from research and policy advocate groups. Stakeholders in attendance all agreed that educating legislators, especially the newly elected, is a top priority heading into 83rd Legislative Session.

TAC Presents at the Probation Advisory Committee
The Texas Association of Counties (TAC) was invited to address the Probation Advisory Committee following the conclusion of the 40th Annual Chief Probation Officers Conference on Oct. 10.

The Probation Advisory Committee (PAC) is a 14-member committee appointed by the chairman of the Judicial Advisory Council, which is established in the Texas Government Code.

The PAC, representing the interests of the 121 Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCDs) throughout the state, formulates opinions and makes suggestions for improving local community corrections programs and services. The CSCDs work with county official offices on a daily basis, including sheriffs, clerks, attorneys, treasurers, auditors and commissioners courts.

During the presentation, TAC staff explained the organization's role in the legislative process and its relationship with the 4,474 county officials it serves. TAC staff and the respective county officials closely monitor legislation that impacts the county budget, jail populations, fines and fees, courts and sentencing. One of the largest cost drivers in the county budget is the management and support of the local criminal justice system, and CSCDs are an integral part of that system.

TAC staff encouraged probation directors to communicate with their county officials about legislative initiatives that are important and will have a positive or negative impact on their department operations, caseloads or budgets.

Enhancing communications with county officials, building a network to include representatives of county government and participating in the legislative process, especially bill analyses and fiscal notes, were key elements of the presentation.

About the PAC
The PAC makes recommendations to the Judicial Advisory Council, who in turn advises the Director of the Community Justice Assistance Division and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice on issues confronting the community supervision system and of interest to the judiciary. The Community Justice Assistance Division is a division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and serves as the oversight agency which sets minimum operational standards and appropriates legislative funding to local adult probation departments.