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Community control rate recognized

State touts county probation efforts

The Lawrence County Probation Department has been recognized by the state for helping people on community control

While most courts see about 40 percent of people on intensive community control end up going on to regular probation, in Lawrence County that number is almost twice, according to an audit of all the probation departments in Ohio.

Chief Probation Officer Carl Bowen Jr. said that the auditors from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections found their rate to be at 72 percent.

Bowen said that it is a combination of the probation department team and the community that makes the program successful. And the idea is to get offenders skills to deal with life, rather than just incarcerating them.

Among the programs the court offers are “Thinking for a Change,” a twice weekly class by Probation Officer John Sexton. Bowen said the class is given a scenario and challenged to find a solution.

“It’s a way of changing their train of thought and how the deal with a situation,” Bowen said. “It teaches how to make good choices.”

Then there is the community service program, where they get to be around positive role models. They also find programs to help them complete their education, become gainfully employed and other life skills.

“We work on addressing their needs, things that will better them for when they are cut loose,” Bowen said.

He added that he has to give credit to the officers and staff that deal with the probationers on a daily basis.

“Everybody does a tremendous job,” Bowen said. “We look at as having one goal, which is rehabilitating these offenders to the best of our abilities and get them to be taxpaying citizens again. If someone goes to prison, we look at it like we failed and our programs failed.”

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard said that he is more than happy with the probation department being recognized by the state.

“It means that all these people on intensive supervised probation are hitting all the marks and doing all the requirements levied on them by the probation department and then successfully graduating to the less restrictive regular probation,” he said, adding that it was entirely attributable to the staff.

“There is no other reason, than the people in that office and to their seeing the success of the individuals who are under their probation practices,” Ballard said. “You can’t really say enough good about their office, for them it isn’t just a job. For them it is a 24-hour a day commitment to the success of that office. And that is objectively measured by the success of the probationers.”

He added that he couldn’t be prouder of the probation staff.

“I told them that when I took office at the end of 2016, my goal was to work with them so that we provide the absolute best opportunities for the citizens of this county through the administration of justice through the court and the probation department,” Ballard said. “And I said my literal words to Carl were that I wanted that department to be the best that it can be. I told him the other day, I don’t think you can argue with the success rate that not only are you the best you can be, you are the best in the state in this one category. They are a terrific group of people that are committed to doing their job.”