Using Best-Practice Standards to Manage Probation Caseloads During a Reduction in Force Mandate
On top of facing underfunding issues for several years now, probation departments across Texas face additional financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020 and continues to be an issue today. In response to underfunding concerns, the Hidalgo County CSCD began utilizing best-practice standards to develop programs to manage a high volume of probationers with less staff while managing minimal risk simultaneously. The slow but steady transition started in 2012 and continues to be a big part of the organization's restructuring process. As the department faced a reduction in force mandate due to additional financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it accelerated the transition of utilizing best-practice standards to become more efficient and remain financially solvent. Hidalgo County CSCD administrators faced the dilemma of drastically reducing the number of CSCD personnel without completely overwhelming the organization's workload, which had to operate with less staff due to COVID-19 financial losses. The Reduced Risk Program created in 2012 to supervise low-risk probationers was used to redistribute a high volume of cases of nine officers furloughed within months after the pandemic emerged. The Reduced Risk Program continues to be viewed as a viable solution should financial issues continue to plague the department over an extended period.