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Probation and drug testing update

Sounds like good news.

Late last summer, the director of the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department resigned, and the Harris County District Attorney’s office said it would stop using the agency’s drug tests as evidence after revelations that its overburdened drug-testing program had led to the wrongful jailing of some probationers and people awaiting trial based on false positives.

Director Teresa May, appointed in February, is being praised for addressing those missteps and bringing a pioneering and transparent approach to the once embattled agency.

“She’s very open and I’m satisfied that, at least for right now, that those problems have been corrected,” said longtime state District Court Judge Denise Collins, who called for the department’s previous chief to step down last year.

Collins, a member of the committee that vetted and recommended May, said she “is so innovative and has such great perspective on the entire department because there are some changes that need to be made, and she has kept her word with what she said she was going to do.”

Since March, the department has cut its drug testing volume in half after May hired a consultant who found that many probationers had for years tested negative on hundreds of tests. The abnormally high test volume was a big part of the problems revealed last year, May said.

May, 52, came from Dallas County’s probation department, where she helped implement a model that significantly reduced the number of offenders who ended up behind bars after their probations were revoked. The result was a lower jail population and a savings of millions of dollars.

See here for the background. The model May helped implement in Dallas is basically a risk assessment model that differentiates between probationers that need close supervision and drug testing, and those that will do better with minimal disruption to their daily lives. The idea is to design it for success and not failure, as Sen. John Whitmire characterizes it, with “success” meaning fewer people being put in jail for probation violations. One of the reasons why we had such problems with jail overcrowding in the past is that it made more sense to pick jail time over probation because the terms of probation were so onerous, and so likely to wind up with you in the slammer anyway for a violation of those terms. Needless to say, this is something we want to avoid going forward. One key to this is getting the judges to buy into this, and that seems to be happening as well. Kudos to Ms. May for her work so far.

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3 Comments

  1. Derrick Torres says:

    Hi, I got a dwi in jun 2013 I was on bond supervision till oct 15th and I have been wearing a drug patch the hole time well I got put on probation oct15th and my second visit my p.o said that one patch came out bad with thc I get my patch changed every 14days but the one right after that patch was good I’ve been an operator at a plant for 8yrs and I dont use thc at all I get tested all the time at work randoms!!!! Judge fields told my p.o to give me 6 more months probation and 5days in jail for something I did not do im a big man thc will still have been in my system. …. I need help asap I have a family to provide for I cant do jail time for something I didnt do and I wasn’t even on probation yet I dont think its right its bad enough my job knows im on probation now I got to miss days to go to jail for there mistake a bad drug patch I need help what can I do?????????

  2. Any body have a suggestion? ?????? Reddmann81@yahoo.com

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Let’s face it. Our criminal justice system IS about punishment, period. We make damn near every single thing a crime, then let loose the police on the populace, and, well, what do you expect? Jails filled to the brim, and for those trapped in the maw of the justice system, on probation or parole, the very real possibility of having those revoked.

    We could start with changing the laws, making “victimless” crimes no longer illegal in the first place. Caught a guy with some pot? Who is hurt? Prostitution? If we are talking about two willing adults, why is that a crime. Lets leave legislating morality to the Taliban. Save the jails to lock up people who actually hurt others.

    As to the alcohol and drug testing of probationers and parolees, well, if the crime was alcohol or drug related, maybe I could see that, but if we are drug and alcohol testing those whose crimes had nothing whatsoever to do with alcohol or drugs, why? What’s the point, other than to just make more punishment, fear and uncertainty for the probationer? What if the test is botched and a sober probationer gets railroaded….just like what happened already?

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