Angelina Co. probation office says trial assessment is safer

Cassey Cos, Victim Services Coordinator
Cassey Cos, Victim Services Coordinator

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's hard to really understand why people commit crimes. However, if they are on probation, the officer aims to help those offenders become productive citizens in society. That includes assessing their problems and offering help.

"You don't want to under-supervise a high-risk offender," says Cassey Cos, a victim's services coordinator.

You also don't want to over-supervise low-risk offenders.

The Angelina County Probation Department Director Rodney Thompson says balance is key to keeping the public safe.

"We want to know right up front what we need to deal with when they come on probation," says Thompson.

To do that probation officers do a risk/needs assessment on every new offender.

Texas has been using this list of questions for almost thirty years.

"It's very short officers can do it in five or ten minutes," says Cos.

They say it just doesn't identify potential problems early enough, alcohol or drug-abuse, mental health issues or even if they're going to re-offend.

So Angelina County is taking part in a study that is working with a new assessment.

Cos says they've been using it for two weeks.

"It's just very detailed a lot of stuff I wouldn't expect people would reveal - they do. Honesty surprises me," says Cos.

It's a ton more thorough than the old one. Cos says they're averaging about two hours with the new probationer going through the questions.

If problems are identified, the officer can come right over here to the courthouse. Ask a judge to require the probationer to have a global positioning system monitoring an alcohol bracelet even more therapy.

"We don't want to wait a month down the road - oh this guy has these issues we need to deal with now. We'll know that a little better up front," says Thompson.

Before it's too late and a probationer commits another crime.

"We're going to know how dangerous these people are within the community," says Thompson.

This morning a judge approved the probation office's plan to start four-day work weeks.

Probationers will have more flexible hours to meet with officers starting in September.