mary-ellen-stillMary Ellen Still is retiring after 46 years with the Dutchess County Office of Probation and Community Corrections, which she has directed since 2002.

How did you start in the Probation Office?
I graduated in 1978 with a sociology degree from SUNY Albany, where I developed an interest in criminal justice. I interned at the probation department in Schenectady County and saw the difference probation could make in people’s lives, particularly youth. I took the Dutchess exam to become a probation officer trainee and was selected. Over the years, I worked in every part of the department, so it gave me a broad view. 

What is the office’s role?
We provide pretrial services for the courts, interviewing people who have been arrested and making a recommendation to the judge regarding release. We also supervise people on probation and provide pre-sentence investigations that cover a person’s legal and social history, and offer a recommendation for sentencing. We provide intake and diversion services for youth and have alternative-to-incarceration programs, which include electronic monitoring.

What happens when someone is placed on probation?
They are subject to a set of conditions signed by a judge. We look for the most effective ways to ensure people abide by those conditions and use all our resources to assist them. Sometimes, people choose not to follow those conditions, which can result in a violation of probation and a return to court. It doesn’t always result in jail or prison. For instance, if someone with a substance-use disorder continues to use drugs, and commits criminal offenses as a result, we may look for treatment. 

What new programs have been introduced?
Several years ago we started a successful jail-based intervention program for higher-risk people called Restart. It was designed to have evidence-based programming that people can continue when they’re released from jail. We also have units that deal with domestic violence offenders, driving-while-intoxicated cases and people with severe mental-health disorders. We have day-reporting and women-reporting centers that provide education, employment and other services, and we have transitional housing for men and women. I chair the Criminal Justice Council, which was started in 1993. Criminal justice and community-based agencies meet and look at needs and programs that could fill these needs. 

You have been recognized with state and national awards and served on many boards and commissions. What are you most proud of?
I was very active in the area of domestic violence, and I saw, going way back, that there weren’t the services that there are now. I was involved with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and that group was involved in developing some of the services that we have but didn’t exist before. I also was involved in gender-specific services for women at the state and national level. There are many things I’ve been pleased to work on.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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