With 375 adult criminal offenders reporting to the Starke County probation office for services, Chief Probation Officer John Thorstad said recently that the state has come up with new methods to identify what each offender needs to be successful in the probation program.
“Indiana has come up with a new risk assessment that determines what type of programs or what type of involvement an offender needs with probation,” Thorstad said.
But a lot of the success depends on attitude.
“A lot of it is their desire. If an offender wants to succeed, that’s it. We don’t and can’t force offenders to succeed in the program. They either want to comply or they don’t. A lot of it’s based on their choice. If we can change an offender’s way of thinking or give them some options, that sometimes shows them that it works,” said Thorstad.
A lot of the clients are familiar faces to the probation department.
“I would say the majority of offenders are hardcore,” said Thorstad. “They are offenders that continually get into trouble. Surprisingly, it’s age too. The younger ones seem to get into trouble more than the older ones.”
But a major deterrent to keeping offenders on the straight and narrow is employment. Most employers won’t hire felons.
“I would say the majority of the employers in the county don’t hire felons. Finding a job for a felon is next to impossible,” said Thorstad. “For a probation office that throws fees or programs into the mix, there’s money involved. I’ve had offenders that have stolen to make their fees. Most of the major Starke County employers just won’t consider a felon.”
Tomorrow we’ll look at the reason the probation rolls have increased in the past few years: use of and dealing in methamphetamine.