If you have any questions for Andy about the prison system, what it is like, what goes on there, or anything, please leave the question in a blog comment and Andy would be happy to answer it. It keeps him occupied and allow us to learn about the system.

Also, for his friends, he would LOVE to get pictures of anything, so if you have his address, please send them to him, or if you would like to email them to the blog editor, you can do that and he will print out the pics and mail them to him.

He is now attending the class he must take before his release, and he will mention the journal entry memo they discussed that day in class.

Even if you don't know Andy, feel free to comment on his blog entries, which he gets and will respond to.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Class discussion topic for today...“The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.” 
Today the teacher of my course let me know that she had taken a look at our site, so let me welcome her to our discussions.  Together we tried to briefly explain to our class the purpose and content of the last ten months of this blog, and suggested that I might want to share blog comments with the class and possibly obtain questions from the class to ask all you readers. I think this is a great idea that may help us refocus our agenda here and make the blog more interesting and sustainable.  (I’m not sure about you, but I have definitely found it much harder to be creative in my writing recently. ) Please offer your suggestions and/or questions.

Maybe knowing the topics will help you think of some questions.  The study topics that remain during my expected stay are: 1) Re-entry into Society, 2) Personal Development,
3) Interpersonal Relationships, 4) Civil/Legal Responsibilities.   

For background information, there are about 25 members of this class ranging in age from 19 to probably 50 years old.  All of us expect to be released within 4 months.  Some of us will go home at the beginning of December; others, who just started the class, might have a full 4 months until they get out.  There will be other people that will enter the class between now and the time I leave who are currently still awaiting their specific parole answers.

I received another round of your comments in the mail last night.  My mom had sent them out at the beginning of the week.  Thanks again for all the input here that you’ve kept up.  I still really appreciate it.  I took some time last night organizing all of the blog paperwork I’ve collected over the last 8 months.  Does that sound kind of funny to hear?  The “paperwork” part, I mean.  I’m guessing that I’m the only person who doesn’t view the blog via a computer screen.  As a side have no idea how inconvenient the lack of a computer is!  I brought all my paperwork to class today and I’ll try to order it in a sensible fashion where I can share it with the class and receive some feedback.

A question that arose in class today is something we would like to pose to the readers here.  It concerns probation.  There are a lot of guys in here that have been placed on probation in the past.  It seems to us that probation is not a good solution to our criminal dilemmas.  There is a general feeling in here that probation is a recipe for failure.  Let me ask the questions directly:
1)  How many of you have been on probation in the past?
2)  Did you successfully complete your probation?
3)  Does probation make revenue for counties or does it cost counties money?
4)  Do you think probation is a viable rehabilitation tool?

Here are some things about probation that guys in here find fault with:
1)  It is too expensive for the offender.
2)  The impositions it directs onto the offenders are so limiting, on a time constraint level,   
that the offender often has a difficult time trying to maintain and hold down any normal job.
3)  Probation offers next to zero rehabilitation opportunities.
4)  When someone is placed on probation they usually make the decision to go on probation under duress.  The ramifications of not completing probation are almost never explained to an offender beforehand.

With regard to the financial aspect of this: Does it cost the state/county more to carry an offender on probation, or more to send them to jail?  In a nutshell, the experiences of many prisoners with probation is negative.  What percentage of offenders complete their probations?  Is there a better alternative to the way the current probation system is set up?

We will all be looking forward to your comments. Thank you.


  1. Part 1
    Good morning class! Id like to start by saying that the discussion topic you mentioned "The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.” is one of the most amazing statements. Such a small sentence with such a powerful meaning. Im gonna borrow it for sure.
    1. Ive never personally been on probation, but I know those who have, and 2. probation was successfully completed. Here are some of my thoughts:
    3. Does probation generate revenue or cost counties? Im not sure there is a real concrete answer to this that would be an across the board type answer. Probation does generate revenue, but does it offset the administrative costs to run a probation dept? I think it probably depends on the particular county and how many probationers are required to pay fees in that county.
    4. Probation as a viable rehabilitation tool. I personally dont think its a rehabilitation tool, nor do I believe its meant to be. I think its a form of punishment, meant to be a lesser form than prison.
    Regarding the faults that the offenders find with probation:
    1. The expense for the offender. Agreed, probation is expensive.
    2. Time constraints. Agreed, probation does limit ones ability to hold normal work hours,sometimes to the point of hindering the ability to hold a job, especially in todays economy, where a college grad has a hard time finding a job, much less an ex offender on probation.
    3.Probation offers next to zero rehabilitation opportunities. From what I know, there are classes that are required to be taken, but a class is usually a show up, get your time and grade, show you have taken it, type of deal. Nobody is going to be rehabilitated in a few hrs of class.
    4. Ramifications of not completing probation are not fully explained to the offender. There is no cut and dry answer to this one. I think 1. most times when an offender is placed on probation, he/she is looking at "im not in prison" and the full extent of their responsibility is not recognized at that point. 2. Not successfully completing probation can mean different things. It can mean, one violated his probation by racking up a new and different charge, in which his original probation may be revoked, or his probation may be extended to include the new charge, in which case the original probation may not be successfully completed without having any new problems, but the combined probation might be successfully completed. Ive seen both. I was told by my sons lawyer that its a fact that the longer the offender has on probation, the less likely he will be able to successfully complete it. I dont remember the percentages that he quoted me but I do remember that if an offender has a 10 year probation, the success rate is very low and that felony probation of any type is a very hard probation to do.

  2. Part 2
    In researching topics such as this, I had a hard time finding current Texas information, but I did find some rather interesting information written in 2006, entitled "Laying the Foundation for a Better Probation" by Marc Levin Esq., director of the Center for Effective Justice. The link to this article is Hopefully the teacher can pull this up and print the entire article out. I will include direct quotes.
    every $1 the state spends, the probation system
    collects $1.13 in offender fees for supervision,
    victim restitution, court costs, and fines. This
    does not include the 10.2 million hours of community
    service work performed by probationers
    in the 2003 fiscal year, which at minimum wage
    would be valued at $52.5 million.4
    􀂄 In 2001, 37 percent of prison intakes and 41 percent of state jail intakes that were revoked probationers
    accounted for $547 million in direct incarceration
    costs. The figure is substantially higher
    today due to more probationers, higher revocation
    rates, and inflation-related increases in incarceration
    costs. Simply based on the more than 4,100
    additional revocations to prison in 2004 as compared
    to 2001, the figure today is at least $653
    􀂄 From fiscal years 1995 to 2004, state probation
    appropriations declined 4.3 percent in real terms,
    and far more in inflation-adjusted terms. During
    the same period, felony revocations increased
    44.4 percent, imposing substantial costs on taxpayers
    through increased incarceration.6
    􀂄 Incarceration costs $40.06 per day, per offender
    in the institutional division of TDCJ, a figure that
    excludes construction costs. Probation costs
    $2.27 total per day, which includes the $1.09
    state cost and $1.18 in offender fees.7 In short,
    while prisons will always be necessary to incapacitate
    violent offenders, probation is much less
    costly because it involves far less government.]