Controversial proposals to reform the Texas probation system could save taxpayers nearly $49 million during the next two years, far more than previously predicted, two state reports said yesterday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The savings would come from thousands of fewer criminals being sent to prison – 1,700 during the next two years, more than 5,000 by 2010 – and from fewer people staying on probation as long as they do now. That would allow supervision to be concentrated on probationers who need it most. In all, 118,000 fewer offenders would be on probation in Texas during the next five years, under a new limit of five years on probation terms that could be extended by a judge.
Last year, more than 10,000 probationers were sent to prison for violating the rules of their probation, so-called technical revocations. A primary goal of pending bills is to more closely supervise probationers in their local communities and provide alternate means of punishing them – time in a local jail, house arrest, additional counseling, and self-help programs – without sending them to a state prison. It generally costs about $40 a day to house someone in a Texas prison, while the basic cost of probation is about $2 a day. The state spends about $2.5 billion a year on criminal justice.