Cass board looks at annual probation report
By MONICA LUNDQUIST
Cass County Correspondent
BACKUS — Jim Schneider, Cass County probation director, presented his annual report to the county board Tuesday.
County probation serves all juvenile offenders, plus adults sentenced for gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses. The state monitors adult felony offenders through the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Cass probation officers oversaw adults sentenced for 1,064 offenses during 2011, down from the 1,117 in 2010 and juveniles sentenced for 774 offenses in 2011, compared with 886 in 2010.
Of the adult offenders, 802 were on probation for DWI, 226 for assaultive behavior, 82 for driving after cancellation, 57 for controlled substances, 42 for escape from custody/false information to officer/other, 40 for property offenses and 15 for traffic offenses.
Of the juvenile offenders, 263 were sentenced for assaultive behavior, 181 for minor consumption/tobacco use, 141 for property offenses, 59 for burglary/trespass, 55 for false information to officer/minor traffic/fleeing from officer, 46 for controlled substances and 26 for traffic.
Probation violations increased from 364 in 2010 to 466 in 2011. While the increase is not good, Schneider told the board, it does not necessarily mean new offenses were committed. Violations can be for consuming alcohol or failing to pay fines or restitution.
Those on probation are asked to report for chemical use at one of three reporting centers the county operates: at the courthouse in Walker, at Pine River Police Department or at Pike Bay Town Hall near Cass Lake.
Schneider called the Wellness Court, a joint effort with Leech Lake Tribal Court, a real success with only two of the people who completed the program to have had new DWI charges. Participants must commit to a minimum of 18 to 24 months in the intensely supervised program.
Nearly two dozen people participated in Wellness Court each of the last two years.
Another program Schneider sees as highly successful is the diversion program for first-time juvenile offenders, ages 10 to 18. Of the 895 youth who participated since 1995, only 35 percent of 314 have reoffended, he said.
In 2011, of the 90 offenses from juveniles in this restorative justice diversion program, the largest number were for disorderly conduct, followed by minor consumption, theft/shoplifting, property damage and marijuana use. One each was for possessing stolen property, tobacco use, curfew violation, obstruction, fleeing from police or trespass.
Schneider sees the probation program as one to “enhance public safety and facilitate offender change through evidence and restorative practices.”
One probation officer oversees the 25 people currently in the wellness court. One is assigned 81 adults and 35 youth in the diversion program. Three more probation officers carry caseloads of 234, 175 and 202 each. In addition to his administrative duties, Schneider also oversees 151 cases.