• 61°

County program up for award once again

Lawrence County’s Bureau of Community Corrections is setting a trend – program officials are make a "three-peat" for a state sanctioned award.

Monday, May 14, 2001

Lawrence County’s Bureau of Community Corrections is setting a trend – program officials are make a "three-peat" for a state sanctioned award.

For the third time in a row the county’s community corrections office has received a nomination for the "Clifford Skeen Non-Residential Prison Diversion Award" for the bureau’s Intensive Supervision Program directed by Janet Hieronimus.

The program won the award in 1999 which was the first year for the program in the county. The program received nominations for 2000 and 2001.

Hieronimus said, "Most of the credit goes to Judges (W. Richard) Walton and (Frank J.) McCown who support the program enthusiastically. Also, credit is due Lynne Stewart, administrative assistant of Crown City; Jean Acquista-Gibson, curfew officer, of South Point, and Carl Bowen, Chief of the Bureau of Community Corrections for their individual contributions to the program’s overall success."

Hieronimus said the program provides "closely supervised probation for high-risk and/or repeat non-violent offenders."

She said the program diverts felony offenders from state institutions while "maximizing community safety and deterring criminal behavior."

Last year she said, the program had an 86 percent success rate compared to the state’s 43 percent average.

Hieronimus said individuals in the program follow a highly structured program that meets the needs of those the program monitors. Drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, direct job placement and GED testing are given to individuals that need those services. Referrals for drug and alcohol counseling, domestic violence and anger control counseling, sex offender counseling, employment training and adult education are also made to offenders if the counseling is required.

Hieronimus said one of the main goals of the program is to turn offenders into functional members of our community. By diverting certain offenders from prison, the county and state can also save money. Heironimus said the average cost of housing an inmate in a state prison is $20,000 per person. The county’s diversion program cost an average of $1,590 per person.

"We try to make a difference in people’s lives," said Hieronimus, "If we can do that, then it makes a difference in all our lives…the community is safe, we spend fewer tax dollars, the individual 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."

The award, said Heironimus, is given by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Bureau of Community Sanctions in honor of the late Ohio Representative Clifford Skeens who sponsored the Community Corrections Act in 1978. She said the act was introduced to reduce the number of non-violent offenders sent to Ohio’s prisons.

To receive the award, programs are measured on the number of diversions, standards set, success rate and cost-factors.

There are 84 programs like the county’s in the state and only three have been chosen.

In addition to Lawrence County, Adams and Mahoning Counties have been nominated.