Cass County Board: Past, present look at probation and release programs

WALKER--Jim Schneider, Cass County probation director, and Victor Moen, district supervisor for Minnesota Department of Corrections presented their reports on 2016 probation and supervised release programs.

WALKER-Jim Schneider, Cass County probation director, and Victor Moen, district supervisor for Minnesota Department of Corrections presented their reports on 2016 probation and supervised release programs.

County probation oversees all juvenile cases and adults who have been convicted of gross misdemeanor traffic-related offenses and misdemeanors. State corrections oversee assaultive

and other non-traffic gross misdemeanors and all felony probation or supervised release (formerly parole) cases.

Schneider also began a pilot program with a special grant in November 2015 to rate persons when arrested for risk to reoffend, then offer some a supervised pretrial release while they wait for the court to process their case.

Participants are accused of committing crimes of violence and may be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony.


Probation and release programs are designed to hold down incarceration costs, but also to help offenders set a goal to stop their offending behavior by identifying factors in their lifestyle that led to their offending, Schneider said.

The probation agent attempts to help the offender change his or her lifestyle, so they can lead a productive, crime-free future life, he said.

Pretrial release, Schneider said, gives probation officers an earlier chance to lead people toward a more positive motivation for their future life.

Of the 322 bail evaluations done since the pretrial program began, 151 of the offenders were considered high risk to reoffend, 121 were moderate risk, 44 were low risk and six were unclassified.

Schneider said the moderate risk people are those most likely to get the motivation to change their behavior. Low risk already are motivated.

The vast majority of charges in the pretrial program were the 142 facing assaultive behavior or domestic assault or harassment charges and the 119 facing drug charges.

Schneider will track the pretrial program cost effectiveness through a two-year period.

The 835 adults already convicted of misdemeanors or traffic-related gross misdemeanors, then placed on county probation in 2016 were dominated by the 431 driving while under the influence cases.


Others were the 101 for assaultive behaviors, 95 for disturbing the peace, 81 for other traffic offenses than DWI, 48 for obstructing the legal process, 42 for theft/property damage, 22 for underage consumption, seven for drugs, three each for criminal vehicular operation and weapons and two for department of natural resources offenses.

There are fewer county post-conviction probation cases for drug offenses than for those in the pretrial program, because most people facing drug charges are charged with felonies, Schneider explained. State corrections would oversee their probation or supervised release, not the county.

Overall, county adult probation cases declined from 1,019 in 2015 to 835 in 2016.

County probation oversaw 569 juvenile probationers in 2016, down from 689 in 2015. This includes misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor and felony charges.

Minor consumption of alcohol topped the list of juvenile offenses with 157 cases.

There were 91 youths on probation for theft/property damage, 77 for obstructing the legal process, 70 for assaultive behaviors/harassment, 51 for disturbing the peace, 44 for drugs, 33 for traffic, 12 for criminal sexual conduct, 19 for burglary, seven for DWI, five for weapons, two for criminal vehicular operation, and one for a DNR offense.

Cass County offers a restorative justice program for first-time juvenile offenders, giving them an option to work with probation and their families to correct their mistakes rather than to go to court.

Leech Lake Band tribal members may participate in the Leech Lake Tribal Restorative Justice Court, which includes counseling by elders and tribal court in wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth as the foundation for "Living the Good Life, Living by our Cultural Values."


Diversion participants were down slightly from 82 in 2015 to 76 in 2016. As in overall juvenile cases, the 27 who were minors who consumed alcohol were the highest number of offenses in the diversion program as well.

The juvenile diversion program historically has had a 67 percent success rate to keep youths from reoffending, Schneider said.

Cass County has seen an increase from 2015 to 2016 for those the court placed on electronic home monitoring. There were 1,176 juveniles and 1,484 adults being monitored in 2015 and 1,596 juveniles and 1,891 adults in 2016.

The county contracts with digital detention of Detroit Lakes to manage clients on the program. Participants pay $20 per day toward the service. A state $7,000 subsidy also helps pay the service cost.

Cass had 20 gross misdemeanor and five felony substance abuse offenders participating in its wellness court in 2016. It is an 18 to 24-month program alternative to conviction for DWI and substance abuse.

Since its inception in 2006, only six people out of 50 participants have been arrested after graduating from wellness court, compared with 19 percent of the 15 who were eligible to participate, but did not.

Of the clients who completed county probation from 2014 to 2016, 43 percent of high-risk offenders reoffended, 33 percent of moderate risk offenders reoffended, 19 percent of low offenders reoffended, 10 percent of very low-risk offenders reoffended and 43 percent of unclassified offenders reoffended.

The reoffense rate for persons still on probation as of Dec. 31, 2016, was 46 percent for high risk, 27 percent for moderate, 20 percent for low risk and 10 percent for very low risk.


There were 29 high-risk pretrial clients Dec. 31. Of those, 15 were on supervised release and 14 in custody. The moderate-risk clients had 23 on supervised release and four in custody. All nine low-risk clients were on release. Four people were pending a risk assessment.

Moen's state staff sees probationary and supervised release offenders at offices in Pine River, Cass Lake and Walker.

Their caseload in Cass County included 476 at year-end 2016, compared with 480 at year

-end 2015. Of those 318 were male and 158 were female. The clients included 179 caucasian and 287 American Indian.

They included 279 people convicted of drug crimes, 54 for assault, 42 for DWI, 24 for theft and 20 for criminal sexual conduct.

When Moen said he is seeing the harmful effect of heroin and methamphetamine among his probation and supervised release clients as they come out of jails and prisons.

"It's a sad situation nationwide," he said.

Both the county and state probation programs have an option to sanction rather than return offenders to court where they may be ordered back to jail or prison. If probationers or parolees commit a new crime, this is not an option. It is available only for those who violate a condition of their release such as drinking alcohol.


Under sanctioning, Schneider explained, three or four probation agents meet with the person to determine what led to their violation and then determine whether the person has the incentive to avoid future violations.

The client usually must complete some or all of the following: electronic home monitoring, community service work and/or a new chemical dependency assessment.

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