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Clermont County expands probation department in wake of drug crisis

Posted at 3:03 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 18:20:38-05

BATAVIA, Ohio — An increase in felony indictments, which are largely fueled by drug addiction, has sparked an increase of people in Clermont County’s probation department, county officials said.

The increase has made the The Clermont County Common Pleas Court Adult Probation Department “desperate” for additional employees and space, according to Director Julie Frey.

The Board of County Commissioners voted on Oct. 23 for the department to lease additional space at 322 E. Main Street in Batavia. Officials have hired four more employees, bringing the total number of workers to 34.

The county saw a 48% increase in felony indictments between 2017 and 2018, according to county officials. The increase was largely due to drug violations. The department has served 1,372 people each month this year. Last year, the department served 1,174 per month.

Deputy Director Mary Brock said the department sees about 139 pre-trial defendants per month, which is up 33%.

Frey said the department is flooded because it can take a year for indictments to catch up to the probation department.

“I don’t think people realize the chain of events and how this impacts every part of the criminal justice system,” Frey said.

Some people within the program receive medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Officials said the number of referrals for the treatment continues to grow.

Employment Specialist Amy Kruse said prison overcrowding has a ripple effect on the amount of people they can help.

“The more individuals we have going through our systems I always think the more individuals we’re helping,” Kruse said. “We’ll be able to offer employers more qualified individuals.”

Brock said overcrowding in jails and prisons have also increased the amount of people they supervise.

“We’re trying to find different ways to handle that increase and reduce recidivism with those people,” Brock said.

The department paid for additional employees through its Justice Reinvestment & Incentive Grant. The department also receives grant funds to help offset employees’ salaries through the Community Corrections Act. Both of the grants, which operate on two-year cycles, were renewed in July.