Functions of the Nassau County Probation Department
Probation is a State-mandated function. The Department provides information and services to the Courts, offers crime victim’s a voice in the judicial system and assists in strengthening families. Probation Officers (Pos) protect the community by intervening in the lives of offenders, holding them accountable, and serving as a catalyst for positive change. Probation Officers are sworn in New York State (NYS) peace officers, carrying significant authority and liability. All POs must earn 21 hours of mandatory training credits each year, including firearms.
Probation consists of the Criminal and Family Divisions. Both provide pre-disposition diversion services and for those offenders who cannot be diverted court mandated investigations and community supervision services. Probation generates in excess of $1.5 million dollars a year in restitution, surcharges and fees which is used to defray local probation costs as well as more than $2 million dollars in State Aid and several hundred thousand dollars in grants. State reimbursement for operation of Nassau’s Juvenile Detention Center (JDC), for which Probation assumed oversight from the Department of Social Services in January 2012, generates an additional $1.5 million in State reimbursement.
Probation prepares annually more than 3,000 Court-ordered pre-dispositional reports for the Criminal and Family Courts. These are comprehensive offender evaluations that include actuarially-based risk assessments and identify viable dispositional alternatives. Correctional facilities and NYS Parole rely on the report as well.
Probation Supervision is the most common Court imposed sanction and the most cost-effective alternative to incarceration. Probation Officers enforce the conditions of probation established by the Court. These typically include restitution to victims, treatment for addiction or emotional problems, electronic surveillance and community service.
Probation is fully committed to the use of actuarially-based risk assessment to match offender risks, needs and services. Young felony offenders, sex offenders, repeat drunk drivers, gang members, the mentally ill and other high-risk individuals are intensively supervised. Lower risk probationers require less direct supervision, which permits larger caseloads. Probation also employs a range of technological aids including ignition interlock, remote alcohol monitoring, house arrest and GPS monitoring. If an offender violates probation, the Court issues a warrant. The rate at which the Court upholds Violations of Probation (VOP) in Nassau County is one of the highest in New York State Offenders are given every reasonable opportunity to make community supervision work, and those who do not are held accountable.
Probation’s highly successful Operation Nightwatch and Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) programs involve Probation and Police visiting the homes of high-risk offenders, with a primary focus on weapons and drugs. In addition, support from the District Attorney’s Office and Traffic Safety Board helps Probation make more than 3,000 unannounced off-hours visits to the homes of drunk drivers and 1,286 sex offenders each year.
Alcohol Interlock Monitoring (AIM)
Probation has led New York in utilizing ignition interlock devices to combat drunk drivers for several years. In 2010, through Probation’s Alcohol Interlock Monitoring (AIM) program, Probation expanded its services to include the interlock monitoring of relatively low-risk, first time DWI offenders sentenced to a Conditional Discharges (unsupervised probation). Through ongoing collaboration with the County Executive’s Office, Judiciary, District Attorney’s Office, Traffic Safety Board and other stakeholders, Nassau County continues to set the standard for DWI management.
Nassau County continues to have one of the highest pre-trial detention rates in New York, significantly affecting local costs of incarceration. New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS) funding supports Probation’s efforts to keep the percentage of pre-trial detainees as low as possible and also allows the Nassau County Correctional Center to operate at a more cost-efficient classification level. Probation officers screen all prisoners awaiting arraignment and monitor approximately one thousand defendants Conditionally Released to Probation (CRP) as an alternative to pre-trial detention.
Nassau County’s Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP), one of nine pilot sites State-wide, has been operationally since January 17, 2012. Probation risk-assesses all non-violent 16 and 17 year-olds to help identify those adolescents appropriate for diversion and those requiring services to address specific needs, which left unaddressed, increase their potential for further antisocial behavior. Again Probation is collaborating with system stakeholders to achieve better outcomes while preserving system resources.
In our role as the Family Court “gatekeeper”, Probation is mandated to provide “adjustment services” to divert appropriate juvenile delinquents from Family Court. Every juvenile arrested is risk-assessed and approximately half are successfully adjusted, a significantly better percentage than the State average. In addition, to improved outcomes at the individual level, Intake Services preserves Court resources for those juveniles needing them most. Again, the goal is matching timely and appropriate system response to offender risks and needs.
Juvenile Detention Center
Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) provides secure detention for juveniles awaiting Family or Criminal Court appearances. Local reform efforts have allowed Probation to reduce secure detention costs by nearly half while maintaining the same level of care for the juveniles. State reimbursement offsets 49% of the remaining local costs. Nassau also continues to rent unused beds to Suffolk County on a per diem, a100% reimbursement basis, further reducing costs.
Since 2013, Nassau County has been one of six New York State Office of Children and Family Services Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) pilot sites, bringing additional State dollars as well as Annie E. Casey Foundation funding and technical support to further local system reform and help to establish a detention model that will impact policy and funding statewide.