Cass County Board: Probation officers implement plan to reduce recidivism

BACKUS - Cass County Probation Department has begun to assess each client's potential to reoffend in an effort to help offenders avoid committing new offenses, Jim Schneider, director told the county board Tuesday.

BACKUS - Cass County Probation Department has begun to assess each client's potential to reoffend in an effort to help offenders avoid committing new offenses, Jim Schneider, director told the county board Tuesday.

He presented his annual report to the board.

He said county probation officers now look at each client's belief system, who they hang out with and what their temperament is to determine where the officer can help them change their lifestyle to help them turn around their life.

"The 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," he added.

Sometimes just changing who they hang out with can help a person avoid returning to jail, Schneider said.


When county probation officers assessed clients in 2013 and 2014, he said those given a risk rating had a 16 to 20 percent recidivism rate, while those unclassified had 27 percent recidivism. Now, all are being rated, with those in moderate to high risk being given the most counseling.

As of January this year, 54 clients were rated high risk and had a 40 percent recidivism rate, while 79 clients rated moderate risk had a 32 percent recidivism rate and the 106 low risk clients had only a 9 percent recidivism rate.

In 2014, county probation managed adults who committed 542 DWI offenses, 178 assaultive behaviors, 133 driving after license cancellation offenses, 151 disturbing the peace cases, 62 underage consumption cases, 79 theft or damage to property cases and 39 possession of marijuana or fleeing a peace officer offense.

That total 1,184 of adult cases was down from the 1,220 probation oversaw in 2013.

County probation oversaw 598 juvenile cases in 2014, down from 782 in 2013.

The juvenile offenses included 171 minor consumption, 140 assaultive or harassment, 15 criminal sexual conduct, 17 burglary, 30 possession of marijuana, 105 theft/stolen property, 76 obstruct legal process/arson/ negligent fire/criminal vehicular operation/ forgery and 44 traffic cases.

Probation oversees a diversion program. It enables first-time juvenile offenders a chance to participate in a restorative justice counseling program, which also focuses on the youthful offender making amends for his or her offense(s).

In 2014, 56 juveniles participated for committing 80 offenses. Of those 65 percent successfully completed the program and avoided going to court.


Adult probation clients served 1,899 days on electronic home monitoring in 2013 and 1,993 days in 2014. Juvenile clients served 450 days on that program in 2013. The program was significantly expanded for juveniles in 2014 to 2,561 days.

Clients pay $20 per day to be on electronic home monitoring. Cass County probation has received an $8,500 grant for 2015-16 to assist low income clients by paying half the electronic home monitoring cost.

Cass County Court and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Court jointly offer a wellness court alternative with intensive counseling to help repeat DWI offenders get sober and stop reoffending.

Since its inception in 2006, 45 people have graduated from the program, with five, or 13 percent, reoffending.

Of those who participated in wellness court in 2014, six graduated, six did not.

Now that probation officers have classified risk levels for offenders, Schneider said, officers spend more time with high and moderate risk offenders to motivate them to change.

"We find low risk offenders are more likely to self-correct their behaviors," he said.

Probation also is working with district and tribal courts to more accurately assess pre-plea persons' potential risk to reoffend, he said. They are looking at the cost effectiveness of a formalized pre-trial release program for Cass, he added.


It cost $729,039.66 to operate Cass County probation in 2014, up from $720,725.45 in 2013.

Schneider said state statutes allow the state to pay 50 percent of probation costs, but in actuality, the state pays only 40 percent.

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