BOISE -- A year ago, Ada County along with the Ada County Sheriff's Office took over misdemeanor probation supervision duties that had previously been contracted through a private company, Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services, owned by Nancy Cladis.
In 2011, former probationers sued Cladis, alleging she forced probationers to overpay, contending fees for drug and alcohol testing should have been included in general probation fees. A former employee told KTVB in 2011, probationers were also being held longer than necessary. The lawsuit is set for trial in January 2015.
One year after county-controlled supervision
The Ada County Sheriff's Office was unable to provide KTVB with a direct comparison of data from before and after the county began providing misdemeanor probation services, but did provide an exit survey from April 2013.
The survey shows 96 percent reported being satisfied with current service, and 92 percent felt the services had improved compared to the last year (when the private company controlled services).
Comments given specifically about the change included "Much better than the last probation officers", "It [is] a lot better since Ada County took over", and "Service seems to be more stable...less chaotic...better overall".
KTVB rides along with probation officer and deputy
Probation Officer Keri Anderson and Ada County Deputy Rob Fowler have been working for Ada County Misdemeanor Probation since the county took over in October 2012.
On Wednesday, they took KTVB on a ridealong while they did compliance checks on some of Anderson's domestic violence probationers. Some of her clients have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in exchange for an original felony charge being dropped. Many are considered high-risk.
"Because they have a victim that's in the community, and we want to make sure that she or he is safe," Anderson said.
Anderson says most of her clients are on probation for two to four years. Some check in weekly, others monthly, depending on their risk level. She does unannounced in-home checks at other times.
"We look for any evidence that maybe violence is going on in the home. Look around to see there's no holes in the wall. The condition of the home. Is it orderly? Is there alcohol in the fridge, and just look at their overall demeanor with us being there," Anderson said.
Deputies, officers say services are easy to provide under one umbrella
Neither Anderson nor Fowler were employed by the private company, so they can't give direct comparisons, but both said they feel like the county-run probation office is effective for probationers.
"I think there was some nervousness at the beginning when [probationers] would come and visit us," Anderson said. "But we assured them that we were there to help them be successful on probation, and we wanted to help them comply with their court orders. We've treated them with respect, and that's gone a long way. So overall, I think all that dust has settled now, and we're on a good roll."
Since the county took over, one of Anderson's probationers on the compliance checks said he's happier with his new officer than his prior officer under the private company, saying: "[My last officer] just wasn't very concerned about my problems, I was just another number. She never asked me any questions like Keri does and see how I'm doing."
Deputy: Helping probationers succeed helps stop a cycle of crime
Fowler compared the county's current system to a phrase in healthcare, "continuity of care" saying it is cohesive now. He says resources, like treatment options, are more available now to help probationers stay in compliance.
"Everything being under the same umbrella, it just helps things go smoother. And what it really does is offer us the ability to deliver those services at a much quicker pace," Fowler said. "Since we're all part of the same agency, you have that whole continuity, and that cooperation that goes on. And it's really quick, so it makes it a lot more effective."
Fowler says it's critical to help people in the probation stage so they don't end up in more trouble.
"Sometimes people if they don't take a misdemeanor crime very seriously, they end up right back in trouble because they figure, oh it's just a slap on the wrist and don't take the probation seriously to modify their behavior so they don't actually get in trouble again," Fowler said. "We're here to protect society, but ... sometimes it doesn't do any good to throw a guy in jail and take away his family's only means of support and such."
County to review arrangement Thursday morning
County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the current misdemeanor probation arrangement with the sheriff's office tomorrow morning. They may discuss or decide if that should continue, though the meeting agenda did not say if a formal vote would happen.
The attorney for Nancy Cladis did not return a voicemail on Wednesday afternoon.