Functions of the Probation Department are to assist the judges in determining an appropriate sentence and to supervise probationers ensuring that they comply with the terms and conditions of the orders of the court. Probation officers are responsible to refer probationers to qualified treatment personnel and to introduce them to vocational or educational resources.
The type and degree of supervision may vary from case to case. Examples of types of probation supervision are: intensive probation, reporting or non-reporting status, or mail report status. The supervision model chosen may depend on the availability of resources, caseload of probation officers, and the needs of the probationers.
Domestic Violence Diversion Program
The Domestic Violence Diversion Program was implemented in September of 1998 by the 57th District Court in cooperation with, and with the support of, the Allegan County Coordinating Council on Domestic Violence, the Allegan County Prosecutorís Office, and the Allegan County Board of Commissioners.
In April of 1998, the Board of Commissioners approved funding for this program. Charging the defendant a $350 oversight fee generates funding for the program.
Purposes and Advantages of the Diversion Program
This program offers a defendant the opportunity to avoid a criminal record upon successful completion of counseling, with the goal to improve family relationships and avoid repeat offenses. It eliminates the adversary relationship between the defendant and family member victim and/or between the victim and the court, the prosecutor, and the police. It promotes an atmosphere of "working together" through counseling, rather than "tearing apart" through trials and court hearings. The program reduces court, prosecutor, and police time by avoiding unnecessary trials and allows cases to be adjudicated more quickly.
The program is designed for qualified first time offenders charged with domestic violence. It allows a defendant to plead guilty and be placed on voluntary probation status for a period of 9-12 months, provided the victim consents. During this time, the defendant is required to attend domestic violence counseling sessions scheduled over a period of 26 weeks. If the defendant successfully completes the probation and required counseling, he/she is discharged from probation and the original charge of domestic violence is dismissed. If a defendant fails to complete the counseling, or for any other reason violates the probation, he/she is required to immediately appear in court and is sentenced.
Probation Oversight Fees
On May 4, 1998, the court began assessing oversight fees to all defendants placed on probation. Currently, those placed on probation less than one year, an oversight fee of $200 is assessed. For defendants placed on probation a year or more, a fee of $300 is assessed.
Electronic Home Monitoring Programs
On June 1, 1996, the department implemented the use of electronic home monitoring programs. These programs, which are alternatives to physical incarceration, provide a visual contact and positive visual identification of the probationer, and allows for breath alcohol level testing for probationers with alcohol-related problems.