Probation officers encourage offenders to successfully complete program

Over a quarter of Americans on probation are in Texas
Over a quarter of Americans on probation are in Texas

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Just hours ago the Nacogdoches County courthouse was busy with inmates making pleas before any indictment.

The "Jail Call" helped clear-out cells, but it adds to the case load of probation officers.

Half the jail was called to the courthouse. In all, about twenty inmates made the trip. Many pleaded guilty to their crimes, allowing them to get out of jail on probation.

"We have a wide range of sanctions that we use. Of course, with jail being the last one," said Probation Officer Ty McCarty.

In the initial meeting, probation officers tell new probationers the importance of not messing up. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against them.

"It's a little bit pessimistic I think for all of us when anyone goes on probation just because there is a pretty good likelihood that they're not going to successfully complete the probation," said Nacogdoches County District Attorney Nicole Lostracco.

Many probationers have a difficult time finding steady, good-paying jobs. They tend to be stuck in a cycle of poverty. Consequently, they can't always meet the financial obligations associated with probation.

Lostracco also notes many probations are revoked over silly things as opposed to heinous crimes.

"Failure to do community service. How tough is that? My personal favorite, failure to report. All you have to do is show up and say here I am this month," said Lostracco.

Many probationers take chances, knowing jail is usually the last sanction....and for some a trip to prison isn't a deterrent at all.

"We don't like to see anyone go to jail. That's not what we're here for. We're here to help somebody whose made a mistake and learn from it," said McCarty.

A lot of people are learning the tough lesson. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, one quarter of Americans on parole or probation are in Texas.

According to a Texas Department of Criminal justice report... There was a 58-percent increase in probation revocations from 1994 to 2000.

That's for probationers sent to prison for rules violations.

As a result, Texas taxpayers shelled-out $470 million dollars in 2001, paying for their imprisonment.

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