Cass County Board: Commissioners hear probation, department of corrections annual reports

WALKER--Cass County Probation Director Jim Schneider and Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Vic Moen presented annual reports to the Cass County Board Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Cass County courthouse in Walker, Minnesota. Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

WALKER-Cass County Probation Director Jim Schneider and Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Vic Moen presented annual reports to the Cass County Board Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Schneider's office oversees people in a pretrial status and those placed on probation after sentencing for adult misdemeanor or misdemeanor crimes and for juveniles.

Moen's office oversees those sentenced for felony and non-traffic gross misdemeanor offenses.

"Our goal is to facilitate the client's effort to change their behavior, which in turn lowers their risk and makes it less likely they will be re-arrested in the future," Schneider stated in his report.

Over a three-year period following discharge from probation, Schneider said 38 percent of high-risk clients re-offended, 23 percent of moderate-risk clients did, 15 percent of low-risk clients did and 5 percent of very low-risk clients re-offended. There was a 25 percent re-offense rate for those whose risk classification was still pending.


Of the clients on probation after being sentenced as of Dec. 31, 80 percent of the high-risk clients were re-arrested, 51 percent of moderate clients were re-arrested, 10 percent of low-risk clients were re-arrested and 4 percent of very low-risk clients were re-arrested.

Of the clients in the pretrial release program, 12 of the 45 high-risk clients on supervised release were in custody, three of the 36 moderate-risk clients were in custody and none of the low-risk clients were in custody.

Cass has operated its pretrial release program since November 2015, partially paid for by a $100,000 annual grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Justice Programs. The county hired one additional probation officer and contracted for a study on the program's effectiveness. Schneider said at the end of this year, he will analyze data on the program's effectiveness to determine whether to recommend continuing it.

In 2018, drug offenses followed by assault/harassment offenses topped the list of reasons people were arrested and placed in a pretrial status, he reported. He also said driving while intoxicated offenses remain high relative to the county's overall population and account for almost half of the cases for which adults are placed on probation for gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor cases. Driving after cancellation/no insurance/traffic is the next highest category, he reported. Assaultive behavior is third.

For juveniles, minor consumption of alcohol tops the list of reasons they are on probation, followed by assaultive behavior and theft or damage to property, Schneider reported.

The number of adults on county probation was about steady with 956 cases in 2017 and 958 cases in 2018. The number of juvenile cases rose from 402 in 2017 to 438 in 2018.

Between 2016 and 2018, 68 juveniles successfully completed Cass County's diversion program, in which first-time offenders between ages 10 and 18 are referred to the Leech Lake Tribal Restorative Justice Program instead of to court. Of those in the program, 58 percent had not re-offended in three years, Schneider said.

Cass County's Wellness Court has served 115 DWI offenders with an 18- to 24- month intensive supervisory program since 2006, with 64 successfully graduating. Of those, 52 regained their driving privileges.


The recidivism rate for those who complete Wellness Court is 14 percent, compared with 23 percent for DWI offenders who did not participate in the program.

Cass receives a $7,000 annual state grant to pay half the $20 per day cost for adults in extreme poverty who serve time on electronic home monitoring. In 2018, juveniles served 932 days and adults served 3,478 days on electronic home monitoring.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has an office in Walker and also sees clients a few days per month at Pine River and Cass Lake, according to Moen.

There were 341 clients on DOC probation and 80 clients on DOC supervised release in Cass County in 2018, down slightly from the 361 and 81 in 2017. Some of the clients were serving probation or supervised release for more than one crime, he said.

The highest number of adult felony offenders involved in the system committed drug offenses, followed by assaults, then DWI, then criminal sexual conduct and then theft.

The recidivism rate for those on supervised release is 33 percent in Cass and 34 percent statewide, Moen said, while it is 13 percent for those on probation. Moen reported the recidivism rate has been relatively stable over several years.

For those who violate their probation or supervised release, the most common violation is failure to maintain contact with their agent or follow instructions and failing chemical tests.

Roman George oversees the DOC Intensive Supervised Release program for Cass County. High-risk offenders are identified while still in prison and will participate in this program upon their release. Offenders admitted to the program remain in it until they successfully complete it or reach the expiration of their sentence, George said.


They are on house arrest, have electronic monitoring (which may include GPS), have random drug/alcohol tests, unannounced home or work visits from their agent and mandatory 40 hours per week of work, education, training or treatment.

Caseloads cannot exceed 30 clients per two agents. Intensive supervised release costs about $18 per day per client, plus the electronic monitoring cost of $6.90 to $7.20 per day. Traditional probation or supervised release costs about $4 per day.

George also described the DOC Challenge Incarceration Program, which is voluntary for prison inmates who have 60 months or less of time remaining on their sentence. It is an intensive three-stage, 18-month program. It includes chemical dependency treatment (if applicable), education, cognitive skills, restorative justice, physical training, military bearing/drill/ceremony, work crew and transition preparation.

The program's statewide capacity is 180 Challenge Incarceration Program beds at Willow River and 90 at Togo for men and 45 beds at Shakopee for women, George said. An evaluation of the program between 1993 and 2002 showed a 32 percent decrease in chances of new felony convictions among participants, a 35 percent reduction of re-incarceration for new crimes and $4,600 per participant reduction in costs, he said.

The DOC also has a sex offender treatment program at Sanford Health in Bemidji.

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