First probation officers to supervise sex offenders under new law

By The West Virginia Record | Nov 13, 2008

CHARLESTON -- The first probation officers hired specifically to supervise sex offenders under provisions of the Child Protection Act of 2006 were sworn in Nov. 7 in the Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin delivered the oath of office.

The five probation officers will work in Region Five, which consists of Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, Putnam, and Wayne Counties. "The five officers will operate a pilot program to carry out provisions of the new law, which requires extended supervision for sexual offenders, especially those convicted of crimes against children," said Mike Lacy, Director of the Division of Probation Services.

Their only duty will be to supervise sex offenders. They will work out of their cars, not offices. They will work holidays, nights, weekends, and hours in between to provide intensive supervision. The officers also will be working with circuit court judges and treatment providers to make sure offenders are complying with court orders. The extended supervision includes polygraph examinations and electronic monitoring.

"We will have safer communities and we will have safer families," Lacy said.

"You are about to embark on what is truly a historic mission," Benjamin told the officers. "Congratulations and welcome to the team."

The new officers are Jason Adkins, Courtney Lewis, Casey McCann, Jeremy Mitchell and L. Paul Pratt.

Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury noted that parole officers, who work in the Division of Corrections, normally supervise people who have been incarcerated while probation officers normally supervise offenders who have been sentenced to probation in lieu of serving time in a penal institution. The Legislature, however, chose in this law to have probation officers carry out the extended supervision of sex offenders. Canterbury said that was in part due to the high level of professionalism and excellence of the corps of probation officers in West Virginia.

"The five of you today are entering a remarkable tradition," Canterbury said. "If you do your job right, you will never see your name in the paper. If you do your job right, nobody ever notices. Except we notice. You can count on us."

After the pilot program runs for about nine months, the supervision program will be expanded one region at a time throughout the state over the next two or three years. A total of thirty probation officers eventually will be hired to carry out provisions of the law.

A new position already has been created within the Administrative Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals to oversee the Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Program. Caren Bills began work on Sept. 2 at that position, Deputy Director of the Division of Probation Services. She previously was Chief Probation Officer in Putnam County and has worked as a probation officer in West Virginia since 1991.

The program was developed under the leadership of Justice Robin Jean Davis when she was Chief Justice in 2006 and 2007. Her support was crucial in refining the vision of the supervision protocol. Her work was a continuation of her interest in protecting children in our communities during her "Year of the Child" in 2006 and "Year of the Child, Too" in 2007.

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