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Carlton County Board approves new probation action plan

The effort aims to reduce recidivism among people on probation.

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The Carlton County Transportation Building
Jamey Malcomb / File / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CARLTON — A new action plan to reduce recidivism among people on probation was approved by the Carlton County Board of Commissioners during a meeting Tuesday, June 14.

Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola presented the plan to the board, and said the committee that developed the proposal included herself, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, judicial representation, representatives from the public defender's office and national advisors.

"Everyone is in agreement with this plan," she said. "This is what Carlton County needs."

Studies began in 2016 to review the county justice system and learn to manage growth of the jail population, according to the proposal. As a result, the Carlton County Probation Committee was created to improve probation and pretrial services.

The plan referenced national data that found up to 29% of people on probation do not successfully complete their sentences. However, according to the plan, research from numerous studies, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows that a 30% reduction in recidivism is possible by implementing aspects included in the plan.

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Ways to reduce recidivism include reassessing clients on probation; identifying the needs of clients; and using programming and interventions.

Ketola said the new action plan will also work cohesively with the female offender program, which has received state funding for implementation at the new justice center.

Ketola added that the plan will be a living document and changes can be made as needed. Furthermore, a new committee will be made to oversee the process with county coordinator Dennis Genereau serving as the point person.

The board also approved filling a vacant truancy prevention specialist position, at a total cost of $85,000 annually.

Donna Lekander, the director of community and families initiative department, said the position is not funded through levy dollars but with federal dollars from the Local Collaborative Time Study.

Commissioner Dick Brenner asked if school districts could chip in to fund the position.

Brenner's question usually comes up during meetings, Lekander said, but efforts to get school districts to contribute have not gathered enough steam to move forward. Itasca and St. Louis counties follow similar models where school districts do not help cover salaries for truancy prevention specialists, Lekander said.

The aftermath of remote learning has left some children out of the habit of going to school, according to Ketola, and some have not been to school in the past two years.

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"Trying to get kids back in to school at their appropriate grade level and just even attending (school) has been very difficult," Ketola said.

The program also acts as a diversion for Ketola's office to help prevent some children from going on to commit juvenile offenses.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
Motions by the prosecution and defense to increase or decrease the bail, respectively, were denied by the judge.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSCARLTON COUNTYCARLTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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