Offenders with either a drug/alcohol problem or both, are probably the most frequent challenge probation officers deal with. Over 50% of our cases have some sort of connections to the abuse of alcohol or drugs. The offenders who are addicted are very high risk, sometimes offending before you have the chance to get them processed in. Detox and inpatient treatment are options, but not very popular among with the offender’s. In most cases an assessment is conducted locally along with the treatment to allow the offender to remain at home. In severe cases, detox can be arranged and treatment at an in-patient facility will be arranged.
Slightly more than 75% of all cases administered by the Department have a directly or indirectly associated with substance abuse. As a result, the Department utilizes drug and alcohol testing instruments daily. Many offenders are tested each time they are seen while others are on a random schedule. The Department relies on “instant” drug test cups which detect numerous illegal substances in one test. Should the test be contested by offender, a confirmation test can be conducted by a laboratory, which will identify exactly what the offender has ingested. For alcohol, the Department utilizes intoximeters, which instantly indicate whether the offender has been using alcoholic beverages, or not.
The Bond County Probation Department carries almost one hundred and fifty offender’s who are required to complete community service an any one given time. Community Service is seen as a method for the offender to pay back the community for the harm he or she caused within the community. Community Service can be completed at any non-for-profit organization or governmental agency. Offenders must obtain approval for the worksite prior to starting, to insure it meets criteria.
Many offenders are assigned a curfew for all or part of their term on probation. The times of the curfew vary and are dependent upon the offender’s age and type of offense. Curfews are monitored by Department personnel by conducting home visits, phone contacts, or through checks by local law enforcement agencies. The Department is experimenting with utilizing an automated telephone service for curfew checks on higher risk offenders.
For several years the Bond County Probation Department has worked in partnership with the Regional Office of Education and Kaskaskia College to provide adults of all ages the opportunity to complete their education by obtaining a GED. Offenders are given the opportunity to take classes through Kaskaskia College to prepare for the GED test. When the offender sets for the tests, the Probation Department pays for the costs, and is billed by the Regional Office. Approximately 70 to 80% of offenders in Bond County have a high school diploma at the time of arrest, and another 10% complete their GED while being supervised by the Department.
Following a flurry of research on Probation agencies during the 1980’s, it was found that building an offender’s cognative skills is the single most effective intervention which can be used by probation. The Bond County Probation Department was originally trained in CCI’s Moral Reconation Therapy several years ago, which centered around an offender being taught to make morally sound decisions. More recently, Department personnel were trained in NCTI’s, Crossroads model. This model is currently being utilized by the Department for not only general life skills, but in more specific areas such as substance abuse, bad checks, and shoplifting to name a few.
This year the Department began using a web-based curriculum provided by Third Millinium. This company provides evidenced based, on-line programs for adult offenders involved in alcohol, drugs, or shoplifting. These are being utilized by the probation officers with their caseloads, but also by the Court as a form of diversion.
Offenders convicted or placed on Supervision for the offense of related to domestic violence are all required to obtain a Domestic Violence Evaluation and to complete a 26 session course on Domestic Violence. All offenders lose their right to possess firearms. This is a state and federal law and all Illinois citizens must turn in their FOID cards as directed by the Court, or to their probation officer when requested.
Restitution is used to hold offenders accountable for the financial losses of a victim. Restitution is assessed by the court as a part of the original sentencing or from an order issued during a restitution hearing. To determine the amount of restitution entitled to a victim, information and documentation are gathered from the victim by either the State’s Attorney’s Office or the Probation Department and presented to the Court for consideration. Any restitution assessed by the Court, must be paid in full by the offender by the offender, no matter how much time passes. Restitution can never be revoked. Once ordered restitution is always paid first in Bond County, before any other fine, costs or fees, are collected. The collection of restitution monies requires a strong collaborative effort on the part of the judiciary, state’s attorney, and probation, to be collected in a timely manner.
Research of probation caseloads during the 1980s revealed that there was basically no statistical difference in recidivism rates between “low risk” cases which were supervised on a regular probation caseload, and those which were supervised with minimal or no contact at all. As a result of this research, the Department developed a method of monitoring this type of case without having regular contact with these offenders. For a little over the past four years, the Department has been overseeing the completion of all conditions only of all court supervisions (i.e. first time DUIs, Bad Checks, Domestic Batteries, Community Service only, etc). At intake these offenders are given specific instructions, due dates and reporting instructions. This process was expanded two years ago to include all “low risk” probations. At first this process yielded about a 75% compliance rate, with most violations being a lack of reporting. Last year the program was changed slightly to include in the process a telephone reporting service. This has increased the compliance rate for reporting to 99% and a compliance rate for completing conditions of almost 90%. There are almost 100 offenders in this program at any one time and is considered to be very successful to date.
If the offender is convicted of a felony offense, and some Class A Misdemeanors, the offender must provide a DNA sample. This is a quick and easy test which requires the offender to swab each cheek with a large q-tip. The sample is then forwarded to the Illinois State Police for indexing and placed in the repository.
Sex Offenders are not only required to provide DNA, but they have registration requirements and additional laws which must be abided by for the term of the order, registration, or in some cases, for life. Probation Officers will assist the offender with the registration process and make them aware of where to call to be up to date on the latest sex offender specific statutes. Sex offenders are also required to obtain a sex offender specific evaluation and to complete all recommended treatment. Sex Offender specific treatment usually involves attending at a minimum, once a week, if not more, and through the term of the order. Additional information concerning registration and offender information can be obtained at http://www.isp.state.il.us/sor/
The next grouping did not normally have contact with Probation Officers due to the seriousness of the offense, however the legislature recently changed the statutes to include several lesser felonies in the registration requirements and as a result, probation departments are now involved with these cases. If an offender is convicted of an offense which falls within the purview of The Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Act, DNA will be required, along with registration for different periods of time, depending on the offense. Where this affects Probation Departments the most is when a 18 year old or above is convicted of an aggravated battery (like a fight on school grounds) and the victim is 17 or younger, the offender would fall within this requirement. Additional information concerning registration and offenders information can be obtained at http://www.isp.state.il.us/cmvo/cmvo.cfm
Transfer of probation cases between counties within the State of Illinois can be arranged with prior approval from the offender’s probation officer. There is a process that must be followed and the offender has to prove to the probation officer that their life would improve as a result of the move. The offender must also be made aware that the county they are moving to, can request modifications to their order and that additional fees may be imposed as a result of the move.
Several larger counties around the state have dedicated personnel providing pre-trial service to their Court. In reality all county probation departments provide limited pretrial service in their community. The primary responsibilities of pretrial services are to provide background information on offenders who are in jail and awaiting release, or a reduction of bond. In addition, when the Court places condition of release on an offender’s bond such as a curfew, home confinement or drug test, the probation department will insure that these conditions are met. Lastly, is the preparation of pre-sentence investigation reports, where information is gather and presented to the Court to consider during sentencing hearings.
If the terms or conditions of probation, or any other type of court order falling under the purview of the probation department are violated, officers act swiftly to take corrective action themselves if it is a minor violation, or to initiate court action if a new offense is committed. Probation Officers are required to delicately balance public safety and assisting the offender in becoming a law abiding, productive member of the community, by means other than incarceration, if possible.
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