Pee Tests not only worry for Probation Dept

Greg Harman

No wonder we couldn't get the records we were seeking from the Bexar County Probation Department, no one could f'ing understand them!

Over the past few months, we've written a bit about problems in the department's contract with its pee-testers at Treatment Associates (under investigation by the state Attorney General for dumping client records in a public dumpster) and its own administration (under threat of lawsuit for jailing clients for very likely erroneous urine analysis results by TA).

But assembling the paper trail to substantiate a broader range of allegations made by former and current probation officers with deep grievances with the department has been a tougher undertaking.

First, we were informed Probation is not actually a county department and does not have to provide documents through the District Attorneys office. Our mistake. (There were avenues to explore here, but we really didn't feel like spending thousands of dollars to create a computer program to search out more wronged probationers or dedicate the next six months of our life to searching records court by court. Hey! We're a small paper.)

Then, when we refiled our request with the state it appeared that so many exemptions to state Open Record law that we weren't going to be in much better position.

So we have contented ourselves to gradually pull on the state audits, the most recent of which fell into our paws this morning. And, yes, like the headline says, it appears there are problems beyond our as-yet limited accounting.

An audit performed last year, Bexar County Supervision Department Revocation Compliance Review, was published on December 31 and released to the San Antonio Current today.

Now, we blogged some earlier audits for the recent Year in Review ish, letting you know that:

while programs in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Austin decreased their revocation rates by an average of 14 percent since 2005, Bexar County probation revocation rates skyrocketed `the other way by` 80 percent.

Why so high?

That's what CJAD wanted to know when they sent a team down last February to investigate.

They found a startling lack of managerial oversight; failure to follow the Progressive Sanctions and Incentives Supervision Model (or, PSISM), an evidence-based, tiered supervision model that has resulted in serious declines in probations going back to jail in other cities, like Austin and Dallas; overall lack of PSISM awareness; a district attorney's office that refused to accept PSISM-based recommendations; and pitifully bad book-keeping.

So a poorly supervised office, with inadequately trained staff who either refused or were unable to offer probationers additional or lessened penalties for infractions since the DA wanted everyone back in jail (apparently), and years of supervision documentation just plain missing from client folders.

Reads this most recent report:

The case files contained documents using an unorganized methodology or contained no relevant documents when such were expected. Relevant documents missed included urinalysis results, vendor letters, and new offense information. The review team noted the case files missing several months' worth of documents if not an entire year. Some case files were found with hand-written notes added to demographic printouts. The team was hard pressed to locate sanctions and incentives during the period of recurring entries.

Damn. Can we start firing people yet?

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