IRONTON - People placed on probation or community control sanctions have a higher than average chance of eventually landing in prison.
But not in Lawrence County.
In the state of Ohio, 40 percent of people placed on probation will wind up in prison. But in Lawrence County, that rate is just 28 percent, thanks to programs designed to help probationers succeed.
That means in fiscal 2017, 72 percent of people on probation in Lawrence County avoided prison - the best rate in the state - according to Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard. And the state is recognizing Lawrence County with an award.
"The award recognizes the commitment that Carl Bowen and his department have shown for years," Ballard said Monday. "It's nice to see the state recognize Lawrence County for their efforts."
When people are first placed on probation or intensive supervised probation, the county probation department does an assessment to determine what type of action or programming needs to be made, said Carl Bowen Jr., program director.
"For Lawrence County to be the best in the state speaks volumes for our employees and the courts," Bowen said.
"It takes all of us working together," said Lynn Stewart, a county probation officer. "We have to communicate."
The 72 percentage means that 72 of 100 people in the county program don't go to prison, she said. "We have a wide variety of services for a small county."
"No one wants to be a drug addict," Bowen said.
The seven-member department also uses drug abuse counseling centers like Riverside Recovery, Spectrum and the STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace to work with individuals on probation, Bowen said.
They also use a "Thinking for a Change," program administered by John Sexton, another probation officer.
"I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish," Bowen said. "It shows we're doing things right. If they go to prison, our program has failed. We're paid to rehabilitate these individuals."
The probation department does drug testing, pushes for individuals to get jobs, has them do community service like working at the courthouse or on one of two farms, he said.
Vegetables grown on farm are used at the jail or local community farms, Bowen said. "They have chickens and the eggs are taken to the county jail," he said.
Bowen also expects the community service program to expand this year and a litter program to be added.