Illinois law generally favors probation for non-violent offenders, making it the most common form of criminal punishment in the U.S. today. Probation is an alternative to jail time, allowing convicted individuals to continue living and working within their communities, provide for their families, participate in various programs and services, and compensate the victims of their crimes. Over 4 million people across the country are currently on probation, which means that approximately 1 in 31 U.S. citizens are under some kind of court order. In Illinois alone, the number of individuals on probation surpasses 125,000, with more than 400 offenders on probation in Bond County.
But is probation effective?
The calculation of recidivism rates varies based on different formulas, and no consensus has been reached on which is the most accurate. I adopt a straightforward approach: if a person commits a crime while on probation or after completing their probation, it’s a clear case of recidivism. Numerous factors can influence this result, but this is the simplest way to determine it. Last year, the Illinois Department of Corrections reported a record low recidivism rate of 51%, a figure that’s notably lower than the national average of just over 60%. It’s our hope that this trend continues in Illinois. As for probation in Illinois, the recidivism rate hovers around 30%. In Bond County in 2010, this figure stood at 14.2%.
WHY IS PROBATION NECESSARY?
The escalating expenses and size of the prison system in the United States are astounding. In Illinois alone, over $1.2 billion is spent yearly to support the Illinois Department of Corrections in caring for nearly 50,000 inmates. Therefore, it’s imperative that we continue to uphold or further enhance alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent offenders, which enforce accountability within the community.
For several decades, probation has stepped in to fill this need, increasingly extending its services within the community at a lower cost. In 2011, the Probation system in Illinois had a total budget of roughly $225 million, employing 2,900 probation staff to supervise more than 150,000 offenders. On a local level, the Bond County Probation Department had operational costs nearing $173,000, and is currently managing just over 600 cases safely within the community.
Introducing offenders back into the community inevitably sparks concerns over public safety. However, it’s important to remember that prisons and jails will always be necessary for violent offenders in our society. When thoughtfully implemented and assigned to individuals who can safely be supervised in the community, probation stands as a feasible sentencing alternative. Public safety is always the utmost priority for the Bond County Probation Department. Any potential risks of further criminal behavior or serious violations, particularly new offenses, are taken very seriously by the Department’s personnel and are addressed promptly.
Located in the southwestern region of Illinois, Bond County spans a square-shaped area of approximately 380 square miles. This county is situated 47 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri, a geographical detail that adds to its unique charm. The area is home to a population of just over 17,600 individuals, with the landscape dotted by ten distinct cities and towns.
The largest city and county seat of Bond County is Greenville, boasting a population of slightly more than 7,000 residents. As the heart of the county, Greenville plays a central role in its development and progress.
In regard to law enforcement, Bond County has an established Probation Department. The history of probation services in the county traces back to the efforts of a local school teacher who also served as a football coach. He was the first probation officer in Bond County, managing the role part-time for about a decade. Interestingly, he kept the necessary files in the trunk of his car, a testament to the humble beginnings of the department.
The Bond County Probation Department was formally established in 1987 with the hiring of its first full-time probation officer. The department has since grown and now consists of five full-time and two part-time employees. They manage an average monthly caseload of approximately 602 offenders, demonstrating their critical role in maintaining law and order within the county. The fiscal year 2011 saw a budget of $278,027 allocated to the department.