Texas has one of the highest “justice-involvement” rates in the country, largely because of the ranks of people on community supervision—i.e., probation and parole—have increased dramatically in the past several decades. Texas’s community supervision rate of 2,328 per 100,000 people is about one-third higher than the national rate, and the highest of any of its neighboring states.
Yet, community supervision too often fails in its primary goal of rehabilitating offenders and reintegrating them into society. The result is a cycle of crime and punishment for many of Texas’s justice-involved people. It’s time to transform probation and parole into institutions that more effectively rehabilitate people, keep our communities safer, and avoid costly reincarceration episodes.
The major cause of the exploding justice-involved population is re-incarcerations of people on community supervision. Other states have taken creative approaches to ending the cycle of re-incarceration that many probationers and parolees experience. One promising variety of community supervision reform is “Performance Incentive Funding” (PIF) which rewards probation and parole departments for successfully rehabilitating people on community supervision.
We recommend that Texas establishes performance-incentive funding for probation and parole offices.
• An incentive program would entitle probation or parole offices to additional funding if they reduce the percentage of felony probationers/parolees they return to prison for technical violations or reoffending compared to the historical rate for that jurisdiction.
• Successful offices would get a percentage of the projected savings on each individual not returned, based on the estimated marginal cost of the time that person would have spent in prison.
• Those savings would then be re-invested to better fund rehabilitation programs, hirer more officers, or even give bonuses, ideally promoting a virtuous cycle where the best methods can be expanded upon.
By capping probation terms and realigning incentives so that probation and parole offices are rewarded for reducing re- incarceration rates, Texas can help thousands stay out of the justice system and start productive new lives, while saving taxpayer dollars.