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TAB pushes for criminal justice reform

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Amarillo, TX - Shifting priorities in our state's criminal justice system could mean less people in our prisons and more people in our workforce, according to one Texas lobbying group.

The Texas Association of Business is pushing the legislature to make changes they say will boost the state's workforce and economy while saving taxpayer dollars.  The TAB is one of the most influential lobbying groups in Austin, and for the first time this year, their legislative agenda specifically includes criminal justice reform.

The Association is throwing its support behind laws that would offer alternatives to incarceration, like drug treatment and enhanced probation programs.

"Frankly, that's just the responsible thing to do," says Terry Easterling, Director of Community Supervision.  "If the offender is not incarcerated, he's able to work, he's able to support his family, his family's not drawing welfare benefits, for instance. So it's a win-win, I think, for the state of Texas and for most offenders."

In Potter County, probation costs about five percent of what incarceration costs, and those on probation are generally responsible for most of their own expense.  And our local probation office says out of the roughly four thousand offenders they saw last year, only about four hundred had their probation revoked - which is a ninety percent success rate.

"We collect about two million dollars a year in supervision fees," says Easterling.  "We collect a number of other fees, whether it's transactional fees, urinalysis fees, you know, those kinds of things. So the offenders are paying a large part of their own way."

And the fact that probation requirements usually include holding a job and passing regular drug tests allows offenders to be productive members of society while paying their debt to it.

To learn more about the issue or see the TAB's 2013 Legislative Agenda, follow the links attached to this story.

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