The probation services in McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr and throughout Hidalgo County are conducted by the Hidalgo County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. In 2011, there were 9,131 probationers under supervision, with 2,638 on probation for misdemeanor offenses and 6,493 on felony probation. The county spent, on average $12,600.78 per day to supervise all probationers.
Qualifications and Certification for Probation Officers in Hidalgo County, Texas
Qualifications – Probation officer jobs in Hidalgo County require candidates who possess the following qualifications:
- Be 21 years of age or older
- Possession of a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice or related discipline
- Have at least one year of experience in social case work or counseling; or
- Possession of a master’s degree in a human services field
- Good moral character; no serious criminal offenses
Basic Certification – Within six months of hiring, new hires must complete the Texas Probation Officer Certification program to become probation officers in Hidalgo County. This includes instruction in emergency response, first aid, CPR, and restraint techniques.
Firearms Certification – Officers may obtain a certificate of firearms from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education on a voluntary basis; this accreditation allows probation officers to carry firearms while on duty.
Ongoing Training – In the first four years, probation officers must obtain 80 hours of additional training every two years; thereafter, only 40 hours of additional training every two years is required.
Probation Services and Expanded Programs Available in Hidalgo County
Probation officers in Hidalgo County are responsible for the supervision of offenders sentenced to probation or community service, as well as defendants awaiting trial. In 2010, the Hidalgo County District Attorney implemented a change to pretrial diversion programs. Defendants who wish to avoid a trial and enter a substance abuse treatment or mental health program must now enter pleas of guilty before diversion. Only if the program is successfully completed can the guilty plea and criminal charge be dismissed. This policy has sparked enormous controversy within the large Hidalgo County Latino community. If non-citizen offenders fail to complete the diversion program, they may be subject to deportation for having a criminal conviction.
Hidalgo County supports a Drug Court, which has been mandated by state law since 2001. Offenders who have committed a non-violent crime related to drug use may submit to assessment testing. If the offender is determined to be a viable candidate for substance abuse treatment, they may enroll in an intensive supervision program. This program includes random and frequent drug testing, multiple treatment sessions weekly, and monitoring by the court judge. Supervision may last from 12 to 18 months.
In 2011, Hidalgo County implemented an alternative incarceration program which placed 50 non-violent offenders on house arrest. The pilot program was used to demonstrate that alternatives to jail for first time offenders would provide significant cost savings to the county without compromising public safety. Offenders were allowed to work or attend treatment programs. This program is expected to expand in coming years, spurring hiring or probation officers.