WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – In the second of a three part series on alternative sentencing, we will be looking at the way probation is determined and how it works for not only the defendants but the court system as well.
In comparison to home confinement, probation is a more strict, more intense alternative to jail. Home confinement is what many consider house arrest, with probation the defendant does have the ability to go more freely to a job, an appointment, to the grocery store or even social events without permission from the assigned officer, however, the individual is still subject to random drug testing, to attend classes, such as parenting, educational or drug classes, sometimes a curfew is put in place and the consequences are harder for a probation violation than home confinement violation.
“I can show up while someone is out to dinner, at work or at a ballgame, we are allowed to check in on them at any time, we are allowed to go through their phones to make sure they aren’t talking to anyone they aren’t supposed to be talking to,” Said Tonya Webb.
Webb is one of the four Probation Officers assigned to Mingo County, she along with Marcia Price, Chief Probation Officer, Carla Preece, Probation Officer and Renee Moore, Drug Court Officer.
The four officers currently have around 60 individuals, not including juveniles who are being monitored by their office.
As with home confinement officer, Probation Officers have the right to arrest an offender, but whereas home confinement works as an entity of the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department, Probation works through the West Virginia Supreme Court and officers are considered as officers of the court.
Only a Judge can sentence someone to Probation, Magistrate Court does not have the authority to do so.
The average sentence for most individuals is up to five years, exceptions are made in cases of child abuse and sex crimes and sometimes those cases can be extended for an additional one to two years in what is known as intense supervision.
Judge Thompson said, “Probation is not a joke, if you don’t follow the rules, there are consequences.”
Often when a defendant enters a guilty plea, they will request what is known as a pre-sentence investigation report, a Probation Officer will be assigned to the case and will conduct a background check and interviews on the defendant, the officer will interview the victim or in the case of a juvenile, the parent and/or guardian of the victim. All the information obtained in the report will be presented to the Judge before the sentencing hearing.
Individuals on probation fill out monthly reports either during the home visit by the officer or by stopping by the office, they are also assessed when they are placed on probation by day report and if needed they are required to participate in parenting class, educational or substance abuse classes. Also, if they are unemployed, they are required to perform community service.
An individual can be placed on both Home Confinement and Probation at the same time.
If a defendant on probation fails a drug test, doesn’t report for classes or doesn’t show up for community service, that individual can sometimes fall under what is known as the “three strikes rule” for the first minor offense they can go to jail for 60 days, on the second 120 days and on the third offense it is to the jail to serve the original sentence.
A few of the rules and regulations of Probation are: the person must comply with federal, state and local laws, they must have a working phone, the person cannot change their address or phone number without notifying the officer, no contact with any individual who is a felon or has felony charges pending, they cannot own, possess or sell a weapon, they cannot use, purchase or possess narcotics unless prescribed by a licensed physician and they must bring all untaken medication in the original bottle to the probation officer, failure to do so could result in revocation proceedings, they cannot possess or consume alcoholic beverages and are subject to a Breathalyzer test. Persons on Probation must notify their officer within 48 hours of being prescribed a new medication and must notify or have a family member notify the court within 24 hours of a hospital admission, the person may not leave the state of West Virginia without written permission from the probation officer, exceptions are travel to Pike and Martin Counties in Kentucky.
Any individual who escapes from custody during a probation arrest, that person can be charged with jail escape because probation is an alternative to jail; this charge which is a felony can carry an additional jail time.
The following individuals are currently being sought by Mingo County Probation at this time: Travis Abbott, Gilbert, Cody Bailey, Williamson, Nathan Cantrell, Delbarton, Marvin Crile, Logan, Andy Fields, Kermit, Elijah Hall, Delbarton, Richard Jarvis, address unknown, Christopher Likens, address unknown, Brandon Scott Mullins, Kermit, Angel Mumma, address unknown, Moran Prater, Edgarton, Delbert Spurlock, Kermit, Eric White, Dingess and Donald Workman, Williamson.
If anyone has any information as to the whereabouts of any of these individuals, the Mingo County Probation Office has a Facebook page or you can contact them by phone at 304-235-0390. All information received is kept confidential.
Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News, she can be contacted at [email protected] or 304-235-4242 ext 2278.