Probation is a New York State-mandated function. The Probation Department offers crime victims a voice in the judicial system, provides information and services to the Courts, and assists in supervising and rehabilitating offenders. Probation Officers (POs) protect the community by intervening in the lives of offenders, by holding them accountable, offering guidance, and serving as a catalyst for positive change. Probation Officers are sworn New York State Peace Officers, carrying significant authority and liability.
The Probation Department consists of the Criminal and Family Divisions. Both divisions provide pre-disposition diversion services, and for those offenders who cannot be diverted, court-mandated investigations and community supervision services. Probation generates approximately $1 million a year in restitution surcharges and fees, which is used to defray local probation costs, as well as approximately $2.6 million in State Aid and several hundred thousand dollars in Federal and State grants.
New York State passed bail reform legislation in 2020 requiring all counties to have a certified Pre-Trial Service program to monitor defendants in the community while their cases are pending in court. The Probation Department took on the role of providing Pre-Trial Services and Probation Officers and staff help ensure that defendants appear for their court dates and report to Pre-Trial Services as their case progresses. The Pre-Trial Services program:
- Reminds, when necessary, all defendants of required appearances using their preferred means of contact (mail, phone, text, etc.) to maximize appearance rates and avoid warrants
- Monitors defendants and provides direct service or makes referrals to community-based services as deemed necessary or as ordered by the Court
- Provides Electronic Monitoring (Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) or Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM)) to assist and motivate all assigned defendants to make their Court dates
Probation prepares Court-ordered pre-disposition reports for both the Criminal and the Family Courts. These reports are comprehensive offender evaluations that include actuarially based risk assessments and identify viable dispositional alternatives. Probation investigations inform judicial decisions and establish a rational basis for community supervision of offenders, if appropriate and consistent with the safety of the community. Correctional facilities and the New York State Division of Parole rely on the reports as well. Investigation services in the Family Court could involve matters of child custody, adoption, Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS), family offences, guardianship, and consent to marry for underage youth.
Probation Supervision is the most common Court-imposed sanction in both Criminal and Family Court and is 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.
The Probation Department uses an actuarial based risk assessment to determine an offender’s needs, supports and risk of recidivism. Probation uses this tool to ensure that the system response matches an offender’s risk of recidivism. Probation employs a range of technological aids including ignition interlock devices, remote alcohol monitoring, house arrest, and GPS monitoring. Field Operations are an essential part of Probation Supervision and include on and off hour visits. Special Operations are coordinated and supported with the assistance from the Police, District Attorney, Traffic Safety Board, and State Grants. Nassau County offenders are given every reasonable opportunity to make community supervision work, and those who do not, are held strictly accountable.
Offenders sentenced under the Leandra’s Law-statute are required to have an ignition interlock device installed in any vehicle owned or operated by the offender. Monitoring of offenders sentenced to a Conditional Discharge is conducted by Probation Officers in Probation’s Alcohol Interlock Monitoring (AIM) program. Probation Officers in the Criminal Division DWI Units conduct monitoring of offenders sentenced to Probation.
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.
Probation's highly successful Operation Night watch 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.
Family Division Services
The Family Division consists of Intake, Investigations, and Community Supervision Services. Probation Intake provides adjustment services to divert appropriate juveniles from the Family Court system. In each case, the juvenile and his or her family are interviewed, appropriate assessments are completed, and individuals are referred to services that match their needs. Throughout the intake and adjustment process the juveniles and their progress may be monitored by the Department of Probation. Nearly 50% of all cases are adjusted by Probation and are kept out of the Court system effectively.
Cases that cannot be adjusted are referred to the County Attorney’s Office for formal court intervention.
Pre-Disposition Supervision of Adolescent and Juvenile Offenders
Probation provides voluntary assessment and case planning services for Adolescent Offenders who appear in the Youth Part. These services and Probation supervision are geared towards helping young offenders remain in the community and receive developmentally appropriate treatment based upon their identified needs to help reduce recidivism.
Peer Diversion Court
Peer Diversion Court is a diversion program run by the Department of Probation. This program offers young people (ages 11-17) who commit low-level offenses the opportunity to be adjudicated by their peers. Youth volunteers from local high schools’ staff all positions in the court and hear real cases of other teens who have been arrested and charged with a qualifying offense. The high school volunteers conduct a hearing in which the offender must accept responsibility for his/her actions and then the peer jury deliberates and decides on a fair and appropriate sanction using restorative justice goals. Common sanctions include community service, oral and written apologies, essays, jury duty, mediation, drug testing and anger management.
Juvenile Detention Center
Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) provides secure detention for juveniles awaiting appearances in Family Court or the Youth Part of the Superior Court. Probation strives to provide a high level of care for juveniles while controlling fiscal costs. NYS reimbursement offsets 49% of in-county resident cost, 100% of out-of-county resident cost, and 100% of all Raise The Age resident cost.
Raise the Age
On October 1, 2018, the first phase of the Raise the Age law took effect in New York State, as the State no longer automatically charges all 16-year-olds as adults. In October 2019, the law phased in for 17-year-olds. The impact of Raise the Age has created an increase in the volume in the detention of Juveniles at the County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). Currently the County JDC is a Secure Detention Center, meaning it can house Juvenile Offenders and Juvenile Delinquents, but not youths that are adjudicated as an Adult Offender.