Probation Kiosk Draws Concerns
Dallas County, Texas, probation officials, who have been the subject of intense criticism for losing track of thousands of probationers, want to dramatically increase the use of probation kiosks with offenders who need the least amount of help and pose the lowest risk to society.
For instance, many of the people who report to the machines are not going to be on probation for such offenses as DWI, according to Teresa Clifton, who oversees the machine at one of the regional probation offices that now uses it. However, nearly half of the approximately 900 people who have reported to the machine since it was introduced last year were on probation for driving while intoxicated, while the same number were on probation for a range of felonies, including drug dealing, burglary, and engaging in organized crime, according to a probation office database.
Although probation officers assign offenders to the automated program after using a state-approved form to determine their low-risk status, the probation officers’ union said in a written statement that it “has expressed concern on several occasions that public safety could be jeopardized if the wrong types of offenders are assigned to kiosk.”
Dr. Tony Fabelo, a consultant who recently completed a harsh review of the Dallas County probation department, agreed, saying that the county is currently unable to identify the best candidates for the machine. “They have no quality control,” he said.
Despite the criticism, interim probation department director Dr. Jim Mills said he would like to get three more kiosks, which rent for $30,000 a year, and to have about 3,500 more people report to them. Doing so could save the department about $600,000 in labor costs, which could be used for raises and new hires, he said.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Dallas Morning News (09/18/05) P. 1A; Egerton, Brooks .