2011-08-25 / Local & State

Probation Officers Honored At Swearing-In

First swearing-in ceremony part of new state procedural rule
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER


Judge Carol L. Van Horn, left, of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas, administers an oath of office last Wednesday morning to county adult probation officers, left to right, Jody Keefer, Darron Butts, Drew Washabaugh and Daniel Gunnell. Judge Carol L. Van Horn, left, of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas, administers an oath of office last Wednesday morning to county adult probation officers, left to right, Jody Keefer, Darron Butts, Drew Washabaugh and Daniel Gunnell. Swearing to be fair and impartial as well as promising to perform their duties with both fidelity and competence, six county probation officers stood before Judge Carol L. Van Horn of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas last week to take a oath of office.

Required as a result of a recent change in the state’s juvenile court procedures, the swearingin ceremony held August 17 was a very special and meaningful event for the adult and juvenile officers, many of whom have held their title for numerous years.

Receiving their commission were Chief Probation Officer Dan Miller and fellow officers Jody Keefer, Darron Butts, Beth Bryant, Drew Washabaugh and Daniel Gunnell, who took an oath of office, signed a written oath and took the opportunity to shake hands with Judge Van Horn.


As chief of the Fulton County Probation Office, Dan Miller accepts the oath of office as Fulton County commissioners David Hoover II, Bonnie Mellott Keefer and Craig Cutchall look on. As chief of the Fulton County Probation Office, Dan Miller accepts the oath of office as Fulton County commissioners David Hoover II, Bonnie Mellott Keefer and Craig Cutchall look on. “We’re officially empowering our probation officers to perform their duties and recognize them for the critical work they perform each and every day,” announced Van Horn.

While the change in regulations effective July 1 required only the commissioning of the county’s juvenile officers, the judge noted it was decided the swearing-in of the adult probation officers was as equally important. Governed by both the county and court, she added it was critical to salute the work the officers perform as an arm of the court.

The Fulton County Probation Department oversees a variety of active and nonactive cases. From cases involving sexual offenses and thefts to individuals suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, active cases requiring supervision typically total between 300 and 400 cases annually. In comparison, nonactive cases requiring the enforcement of fine and payment collections run between 150 and 200 per year.

While caseload numbers or statistics have nearly doubled since 1995, the number of officers employed by the county has remained unchanged, according to Chief Miller. Adding to their difficulties is the increasing number of “unfunded mandates.”

“A huge emphasis in the criminal justice system is focusing on providing individuals with the tools necessary to change negative attitudes, believes and criminal thinking patterns,” said Miller, who added a variety of tools are at the department’s disposal such as electronic monitoring, the SCRAM alcohol bracelet, the Day Reporting Center, drug/alcohol and mental health services, and employment and education services.

“Over the last several years the implementation of these programs has continued to save the county in jail-related expenses,” Miller stated. Specifically looking at 2010, the sentencing alternatives saved over $185,000.

The chief said another key component to the Probation Department continues to be its active community service program, which receives participation referrals from both the magisterial district judges and the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas. Through the program, individuals are given the opportunity to give back to his or her community and in some cases see a reduction in their jail sentence in exchange for hours completed. Last year was coincidentally a stellar year for community service with a record-high 3,800 hours logged.

In looking at juvenile cases, the Probation Department receives between 15 and 30 referrals annually and currently has 32 juveniles under supervision for a variety of infractions ranging from burglary and theft to sexual-related offenses.

“The juvenile system is centered around community protection, individual accountability for the crimes committed and restoring the victim or community for the harm or damage caused. We utilize a wide variety of services concentrated on rehabilitative efforts. The mission is targeting those areas of the juvenile’s life that lead to the commission of the crime,” stated Miller.

He concluded a collaborative effort with local agencies and treatment providers has led to a successful system for adults and juveniles. Among those that play an active role in the system are the district attorney, district judges, sheriff’s office, state police, court administration, Services for Children, school districts and various drug and alcohol providers.

“The key to the system is getting all parties to come together in a collaborative effort to solve issues facing our community,” Miller said.

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