Goodhue County Court Services is the county department responsible for probation supervision of adults convicted of gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses as well as all juvenile felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses for the First Judicial District Court. The Minnesota Department of Corrections supervises adult felony cases in Goodhue County.
Court Services has undergone significant changes in the past year along with several other county government offices. As you may have read in previous articles, hundreds of years of county experience have been lost to retirements, and Court Services alone lost 34 of those years with the retirement of longtime Director Joanne Pohl in March of 2019.
Following promotions, backfilling a vacant position and reassignments, Court Services continues its operations with the same staff complement of 11 employees. Our office staff is composed of four adult probation agents and case administrator, three juvenile probation agents and case administrator, an office manager and the director. Cases are assigned on a geographic basis with each probation agent (officer) assigned to a certain area of the county.
This policy is intentionally designed to encourage collaboration with local police departments, schools and community agencies and to become familiar with local residents and businesses. These partnerships build trust and cooperation in community supervision enhancement and crime prevention efforts.
With the changes mentioned earlier came new challenges and new opportunities. It was a natural time to review practices and procedures and ensure Court Services continued to follow best practices in probation service delivery to the residents of Goodhue County. The probation staff are dedicated, highly trained professionals and bring much experience to their work. They invest many hours into annual training on topics such as probation officer safety, sex offender supervision, chemical dependency evaluations, domestic violence, juvenile mental health screenings, interstate case transfer, trauma informed care, drug trends and evidence based practices to name a few. These are in addition to staying current with yearly legislative changes in laws affecting probation and how we perform our jobs.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections publishes an annual Probation Survey Report that compiles probation statistics for each county in the state by gender, race, offense level and offense type. During the course of 2019, survey data shows Court Services entered 549 cases from 22 different offense categories. The highest number of cases were in the categories of DWI (226), drugs (74), disturbing the peace (51), domestic assault (48), traffic (43) and assault (22).
Agents must remain nimble and well trained in dealing with such a broad number of offense types and a diverse probation population. The discharge of probation duties are founded on principles of Restorative Justice and a balanced approach to supervision that considers public safety, offender accountability, competency development in offenders and victim impact.
It remains our priority to advance the safety of Goodhue County residents and assist offenders with re-entry as contributing members of the community.
Mark Jaeger is the Goodhue County Court Services Probation Services director.