DARKE COUNTY — The fight against crime, and the fight against recurrence of crime, got a boost as Darke County’s Adult Probation Program qualified for a state grant totaling $54,852.
The grant, awarded by the State of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, will be used for the county’s Intensive Supervision Program (ISP).
James Mollette, chief probation officer for Darke County, explained that the ISP is one of three levels of probation in the county.
Persons on the first level not required to report. Those on the second level are required to meet with his or her probation officer approximately once a month.
On the ISP level, however, the person must report at least weekly, if not a few times per week.
This level of probation is for offenders most likely to fall back into a pattern of criminal behavior, according to Mollette.
How doe his department determine who gets placed in ISP?
“We use the Ohio Risk Assessment System, or ORAS,” said Mollette. “It’s a tool we use that looks at a person’s criminal attitudes, beliefs, education, employment history, their neighborhood, their criminal history — it uses all those factors. Someone just getting out of prison, for example, instantly falls into this classification.”
The trend in Ohio, as well as in many other states, is an effort to keep low-level offenders out of prison in the first place.
“The State of Ohio’s prison system doesn’t want to see low-level felonies,” said Mollette. “A grant like this helps us to divert them, giving the judge more sentencing option than to send someone to prison.”
As part of this effort, the department focuses not only on keeping those on probation from relapsing into criminal behavior, but concentrates on the underlying factors that themselves contribute to recidivism.
“Of the areas we measure, the most important are typically substance abuse and a person’s education and employment,” said Mollette. “If we can tackle those two areas, they can do good in our society.”
Substance abuse, particularly heroin addiction, is a vexing issue for the department.
“Heroin is the biggest health and criminal threat in the county,” said Mollette. “We’ve been using Vivitrol for close to a year, a high percentage of those in the ISP or in the pre-trial stage in court.”
Vivitrol, a drug used to treat heroin addicts, blocks the effects of opioids, but is not a cure-all remedy.
“Vivitrol has been successful, but the challenge is that the addict may then seek to obtain other drugs, like cocaine or marijuana. Vivitrol does nothing for those drugs,” he said.
Currently, the county’s adult probation program employs six full-time officers, including Mollette. At any given time, the officers are responsible for overseeing 90 to 100 adult offenders.
Mollette says that a person’s upbringing frequently plays a significant role in the probability of committing criminal acts.
“When you have someone whose mom and dad are constantly fighting, being drunk, doing drugs, that’s going to shape them,” he said. “Growing up, this person may have a bad opinion of law enforcement, a bad opinion of the court system. Combined with substance abuse, chances are they will fall into the same trap.”
“Though we say that someone can overcome that, that it’s not an excuse, it makes it harder,” he added.