In response to the article bellow, on Nov. 13, Judge Carole Clark made the following comment on the old blog:
Judge Carole Clark wrote:
I would be more than happy to discuss the Smith County Child Support Probation program to you if you would come by the office. It really is working very well at collecting child support. It is five years old and now being emulated by many counties in the East Texas area.
There is more to it than the jail piece which is a very small percentage.
It has collected about 3.5 million dollars per year, the court costs accumulated (most of which goes to the county) the probation fees which pays the salaries of the probation officers and a small fee to the Office of Attorney General to recoup some of the state tax dollars.
My office phone is 903-590-1601.
Our response followed:
Better yet Judge Clark, Why not tell us about it here online? I am sure our readers would like to know more, I know I would. I will be happy to allow your comments with no editing.
Judge Clark’s Gracious response is printed here:
Judge Carole Clark wrote:
The Smith County Child Support Accountability Program was begun in March, 2002. It was a collaborative effort between the Smith County Probation Department, the Office of the Attorney General, local lawyers, the 321st District court, the CCL and the CCL #2.
This program was aimed at the thirty percent of the population who do not pay their child support as ordered and for which there had not previously been adequate tools to enforce these obligations. The program uses laws currently in place which allow for people who have been found in contempt for failure to pay child support when able to do so to be on probation. This probation is civil probation but has many of the same requirements as criminal probation. They report to a probation officer regularly, pay a fee to support the program, work and pay their support.
The program began with 100 people and one probation officer. It now has six probation officers and appx. 1100 persons. The history of this program is quite amazing. For many of the persons on probation, working and paying support are new experiences and many owe tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent support.
If someone on probation does not comply with the probation requirements, their probation officer , after attempts to remediate the situation fail, will ask the Office of the ATtorney General to file papers with the court requesting the probation be revoked. The maximum jail time is 180 days.
The most common conditions of probation I see violated are reporting to probation and paying the child support. An arrest warrant is issued and when arrested the person is brought to court on a Monday or Thursday afternoon. I see people twice a week as the law requires me to see them quickly.
If after hearing, I find a person did violate their probation and has no reasonable excuse for doing so, some jail time is awarded as a means of “getting their attention.” Some of these people are not regulars in the jail and for them, it is usually a “wake up call.” For some, unfortunately, jail for violation of probation is a familiar story.
After a time in jail, I call the person over to court and let them go to the AIC for more intensive monitoring. However, a number of these folks violate criminal laws while they are not paying child support and I cannot deal with their case until the criminal case is handled.
If AIC is appropriate, I send them. The results are very gratifying. Many are now working and paying. Last Friday, 149 were in the AIC. Not all are child support. Of those, 110 were working. Many have never worked at a legal job.
If AIC doesn’t work, the law provides referral to the Da’s office can be made for criminal prosecution for a state jail felony.
All in all, the programs are collecting in excess of 3.5 million dollars per month, plus fees for probation, court costs and child support.
We have reduced the 30% of nonpayors to appx. 10% and are collecting money for families.
At a later time the Judge added:
Judge Carole Clark wrote:
There is a small typo in my entry. It is 3.5 million per year. Eventually, I hope it to be per month!
I am sure everyone understood. A little Freudian slip no doubt!
One other comment came to this blog in response to Judge Clark’s comments:
“Contempt of court is contempt of court, even when it is contempt of the equally import possession and access portion of the Child Support Review Order. I pray that the court will someday hold the custodial parents fully and legally accountable for their obligations to act in the best interest of the child and not use children as pawns. Children who grow up with out fathers suffer, and society pays the cost. Emperor Clark needs to look at what she’s wearing.”
I decided to include this in todays post since the reply was to a relatively older post, and seems to deal with a topic that gets lost in the scuffle.
There were other comments and commentary from other blogs related to this topic. Perhaps the one that drew the most attention was this one from “Grits”
That story was then picked up by a large number of other blogs.