Recognizing probation departments (Part 1)

Recognizing probation departments (Part 1)

Part 1
By Kyla Hurt

The American Probation and Parole Association’s 21st year of Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week (#PPPSWeek) takes place July 19-25.

The annual celebration of work done by community corrections professionals is celebrated in every state. To acknowledge the work done locally, we are taking a look at the Morgan County Probation Department.

According to their website, “The mission of the Morgan County Probation Department is to strive to ensure public safety through the reduction of recidivism by enforcing court orders and rehabilitating clients, utilizing empowerment, motivation, accountability, assessment, and referrals to appropriate services, while restoring victims and raising community awareness through the use of evidence-based practices.”

In Director Tod Dillard’s words, “We have two main functions. We write reports for the court when requested … our job is to provide information both good and bad … we provide a snapshot and we look at all different factors of their lives. From there, the court will use that information to use what they believe to be the most appropriate disposition based on that individual and not necessarily just based on the offense itself … The second piece of that is community supervision, so someone can be placed on court supervision or probation typically, and what we do there is once they’ve been placed with us is the same thing … we do an intake where we’re gathering information and assessing risk [to reoffend] … then we try to accentuate the protective factors -all the strengths that they have- while reducing those risk factors … Our goal is that anyone who has successfully completed our probation program, that we have significantly reduced the likelihood they will re-offend.”

Dillard says they are also part of a bail reform happening, so that is a newer part of the department. “The staff is really experienced here,” affirms Dillard, which includes two new hires, one of whom is a pretrial officer with the program.

The bail reform program looks at various factors that may be affecting a client’s life – and using some of them to assist him or her following the mindset that a person is innocent until proven guilty. “We are providing the court with information prior to setting bail that would allow them to set an appropriate bail … more information than what they had previously.”

There are plenty of resources the department will use, as well. Thinking for a Change is a cognitive rethinking program used within the probation department. Sometimes, they are providing the direct service, while at other times, they are a linkage to outside services, says Dillard.

It is an ongoing process, from the minute anyone meets a client – building a relationship. Dillard says, “That’s the thing, when you’re able to build trust and self-esteem in individuals who lacked the opportunity to build those things on their own when they were younger, that’s probably the most rewarding part of it.

To all the community corrections professionals, thank you for all that you do every day of the year. The Morgan County Probation Department is located at 345 W. State St. and can be reached at 217-243-9468 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Their website can be found at morgancounty-il.com.

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