Congradulations are in order for Janet Hieronimus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 1999

A little more than a year age, Janet stepped into the job of adult probation officer with the Prison Diversion Program at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

Sunday, April 4, 1999

A little more than a year age, Janet stepped into the job of adult probation officer with the Prison Diversion Program at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

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Not only did she have the complex, often frustrating, job of helping turn around the lives of adults whose paths had gone severely astray, but Janet had to develop a program from virtually nothing.

There were no policy manuals. There were no set procedure in place. There were no real objectives.

Janet had some guidance from state officials in Columbus, but mainly she rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

Today, Janet and the program she developed are one of four finalists for the Clifford Skeen Award, which is given in honor of the late Ohio Rep. Clifford Skeen, who sponsored the Community Corrections Act in 1979. the act sought to reduce the number of non-dangerous offenders sent to Ohio prisons.

The field of contenders originally numbered 83, but was pared down to four several weeks ago.

This coming Friday-March 19- Janet ans her three colleagues who oversee similar programs in Union, Adams and Mahonong counties-will go through formal interviews at the state prison in Lucasville. The final winner will be determined after that with the award presented at a special luncheon on Friday, April 9, in Orient. Accompanying Janet next week to the interviews will be Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown.

Janet’s work certainly merits top honors. Consider this:

In the past year, the average cost to house an inmate in a state prison was $18,000 per person. However, thanks to Janet’s hard work, The Lawrence County Prison Diversion Program cost an average of $1,500 per person.

The savings in terms of taxpayer dollars alone is immense.

The program provides closely supervised probation for high-risk and/or repeat non-violent offenders. It diverts felony offenders while maximizing community safety and deterring criminal behavior by the individuals chosen for the program.

Last year the Lawrence County program had a 94 percent success rate and exceeded its diversion goal with a 157 percent placement rate.

Included in the program are drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, direct job placement and administering pre-GED tests. Referrals are made for drug and alcohol counseling, alternative housing for women, domestic violence and anger control counseling, employment training and adult education programs.

"Our goal last year was to divert 30 individuals (from serving sentences in a state prison)," Janet said. "However, we exceeded that by having 47 successfully complete the program."

As a comparison, Scioto County had 60 diversions last year, but that was acomplished with three probation officers where Lawrence county only has one.

Janet said Common Pleas Judges McCown and Dick Walton have provided tremendous help and support, allowing her " to make a difference in people’s lives."

"I think that’a really what is important,"she stressed. "If I can do that, then it makes a difference in all our lives…the community is safer, we spend fewer tax dollars, the individuals at risk turn their lives around…it all pays off. If we can turn these people into law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, then everybody wins."

Ans as if this latest honor wasn’t enough, Janet recently learned that her program’s score on a recent audit by the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections was 100 percent-for all 96 standards set by the department. That’s quite an achievement, too.

We hope the folks interviewing Janet on Friday conclude what we already know-that Janet and her program are winners.

Jennifer Allen is publisher of The Ironton Tribune