History of Texas Probation Association
In 1970, the Texas Corrections Association was created to address the concerns of corrections professionals in the field of criminal justice. TCA was chartered for all disciplines of corrections professionals. In the mid 1970’s, the need and the drive for a more structured and better-funded probation system for both the juvenile and adult systems began to emerge. It was felt by some probation professionals that the focus of the Texas Corrections Association, while still instrumental to the needs of corrections professionals, was not focused enough on the desperate need of probation departments around the state. In 1974, the Texas Probation Association was chartered to address those needs, and create an association just for probation professionals. The initial thought of a professional probation association brought about the importance of networking through training, and the ability to gather ideas on how we might better serve our communities and perform the tasks placed upon us by the courts.
After its inception in 1974, TPA was instrumental in the pursuit of legislation that eventually led to the establishment of the Texas Adult Probation Commission in 1977. Working closely with a young legislator named Jerry “Nub” Donaldson, and State Senator B.B. Schwartz, the Texas Probation Association was instrumental in the passage of legislation creating the Texas Adult Probation Commission (TAPC). TAPC was established as a regulatory agency, which sought the improvement of the probation system, and provided equality among counties in Texas toward the provision of services to offenders. With parole costing the taxpayer $1,100.00 per year, and incarceration costing a whopping $3,700 per year, something needed to be done to relieve the mounting cost. Funding probation at $.097 per day per offender for felony cases seemed to be the right thing to do. The passage of Senate Bill 39 began the process of state involvement in local Adult Probation Departments.
In 1979, with the legislative assistance of the Texas Probation Association’s first lobbyist and recently retired legislator, Jerry “Nub” Donaldson, we again led the fight for the establishment of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission by supporting the passage of HB 1704. Governor Bill Clements had appointed a committee to look at the delivery of juvenile services to offenders in the state of Texas. The recommendation was that Juvenile Probation should have a unified corrections system, placed under the direction of the Texas Youth Commission. The argument of TPA and practitioners in the field was that probation should be a locally administered alternative, under the direction of the judiciary. In the end, TJPC was created and designed to assist local juvenile departments, through state funding, in their provision of services to juvenile offenders. The successful venture by the state into funding adult services had fueled the belief that early intervention, and local control could work if it was begun earlier in the lives of offenders.
Thus began the relationship between the legislature and the community corrections and juvenile justice systems of the state of Texas. Reality had taken charge, and the fact that probation was a much cheaper alternative to incarceration in TYC or TDC was on everyone’s mind. Placing funds into the front end of the system to divert people from incarceration just seemed to make sense and was viewed as the best approach for saving state dollars.
In each and every legislative session that has transpired since 1975, TPA has had an unwritten agenda that continues to fight for the continuation of adequate funding in the Adult and Juvenile Systems. Even before the very first TPA Conference, held in Waco, Texas in 1975, probation has never been a politically popular sentencing option. To the taxpayer, a hard line stance on crime means incarceration. This is what the taxpayers of the state of Texas have traditionally wanted, and probation has always been viewed as mild punishment. In the political arena, a hard-line stance on crime gets you reelected. As such, our association has been so busy defending our profession from damaging pieces of legislation; we have had little time to focus on our ideas. The focus was that we needed to work together to get anything accomplished. Many voices make a lot more noise than one voice. Therefore, the creation of an association to work toward the improvement of our community justice systems was with a great deal of merit. Probation officers needed to be viewed as professionals, because they were responsible for the supervision, the direction and the future of someone’s life. TPA was to become that “professional association.”
As in the past, community corrections and juvenile probation will have to continue fighting for our local autonomy, which, without the support of TPA, surely would have been lost long before now. One of the many benefits of being employed in a system of local government is the pride of working with the local courts, and the involvement of the community in which you live.
Questions about TPA’s benefit to the field center around what TPA has done for probation since the establishment of the Adult and Juvenile Probation Commissions? First and foremost, TPA provides the field with the most unified voice possible. There will always be disagreement on some issues, but the fact remains that TPA still acts as a voice for many probation officers statewide. On occasion, some will argue that TPA did not take an active enough role in favor or in opposition to a piece of legislation that was, in their opinion, damaging or helpful to the field, therefore, it has done nothing. Alienating a part of our membership base is not the desire of the association. On those issues where there is widespread difference of opinion, we try and remain neutral, although that neutrality is at times influenced by the direction of the legislature, or amendments to a particular piece of legislation. All of us want a better working environment in which we receive the funds necessary to meet our objectives, we all want to be recognized for the jobs we do, and be respected for what we are trying to accomplish. All of us want to believe we have made a difference. TPA has “done” a great deal. Many were busy trying to maintain our funding base and providing justification for the programs we have. For many years, we have actively fought the possibility that there would be a consolidation of probation and parole. We fought against state control of juvenile probation services. We were fighting the proposal of taking on additional responsibilities without any additional funding, and justifying our mandated right to be a part of a criminal justice system in which incarceration receives the lion’s share of attention and funding. And we were fighting for additional programs, and the funding necessary to provide cost effective treatment programs in our communities.
If there is no one to speak for the field and the offenders we are charged to supervise who will insure that we remain a part of the state-funding base? TPA has always been there to hopefully thwart any damaging legislation, which will impair us from doing our jobs to the best of our ability. TPA is the primary reason that probation officers around the state can consider themselves professionals in the field of corrections.
The Texas Probation Association is important to our profession. Getting involved helps you to turn your “job” into a career. And it helps to make a difference.
Persons who have been elected President of the Association include:
Robert D. Barron, McLennan County
Amador R. Rodriguez, Cameron County
Roy K. Robb, Coryell County
Charles W. Hawkes, Jefferson County
Don Hightower, Wood County
Dan Richard Beto, Brazos County
Steve Robinson, Travis County
Walter Minica, Bell County
Melvin Brown, Jr., Montgomery County
Jim Stott, Jefferson County
Estela P. Medina, Travis County
Roy H. Williams, Sr., Dallas County
James M. Martin, Jr., Jefferson County
Fred Rangel, Angelina County
Israel “Buddy” Silva Jr., Hidalgo County
Roxane Marek,Wharton County, CSCD
Aris Johnson, Gregg County, Juvenile Probation Department
Toby Ross, Johnson & Somervell Counties
Ed Cockrell, Jefferson County JPD
Caroline Rickaway, Brazoria County CSCD