The process of merging Starke County Community Corrections with the County Probation Department has been a smooth one, so far. That’s according to Shawn Mattraw. He’s the director of the new entity, known as Starke County Court Services. “Some of the concern some folks have shared is they felt maybe the Probation side might be swallowed up by Community Corrections, that we just want to take over everything, and that’s not the intent,” he says. “The intent is we want to make sure that we can provide our probation officers more resources to do their job more effectively.”
He says the recent hire of a full-time corrections field officer will help with that effort. “Part of his responsibilities, of course, he’ll check on individuals sentenced to probation, community corrections, pretrial release monitoring,” Mattraw explains, “and that gives our probation officers somebody in the field that can assist with compliance checks and take some of the load off their plate, as well.”
Mattraw adds that the merger has led to more evidence-based sentencing recommendations, especially the use of risk assessments for criminal defendants. He says additional employees have been trained in the system, and Court Services is working with defense attorneys and the Prosecutor’s Office to streamline that process. “So that way, you have a defendant that comes over here, gets evaluated,” Mattraw says. “We can let everybody in the judicial system know, ‘Here’s his risk level. Here’s what we recommend in terms of supervision, and here’s what we recommend in terms of treatment.’ It’s not a crapshoot. It’s not a guess. It’s a more precise and scientific evaluation, specifically based on the risk score of that defendant.”
Over the long term, Mattraw believes the changes will help Starke County focus its resources on the high- and moderate-risk offenders who need it most.
He credits the county’s Probation and Community Corrections staff with making the merger a smooth process.