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Q:  How did Probation begin?
A:  Probation began in the United States in 1841 when a shoemaker named John Augustus, known as the “Father of Probation,” asked a Boston judge to release a man charged with public drunkenness into his custody.

Q:  What is Probation?
A:  Probation is a court ordered sanction (a sentence) that allows a person to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer.  The conditions of this community-based supervision can vary.  The conditions can include jail time, fines, restitution, community service, ignition interlock, psychological/psychiatric treatment, substance abuse treatment, or other sanctions.  Probation will require an offender to report to a Probation Officer in accordance with a schedule determined by the officer.  If an offender does not follow the rules of their probation, they could go back before the judge and be sent to jail or prison.

Q:  What is the mission of Probation?
A:  Probation’s mission is to ensure public safety.

Q:  What is a Probation Officer, and what do they do?
A:  A Probation Officer is someone who supervises a person who has been placed on Probation.  Some of the officer’s duties include the following:

  • Monitoring compliance with court orders

  • Preparing reports for the court

  • Assisting offenders in obtaining needed services (substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, etc.)

  • Overseeing the rehabilitation of offenders

  • Conducting offender work and home visits

  • Administering drug tests

  • Collecting DNA

  • Registering Sex Offenders and verifying their address

  • Providing services, support and protection for victims of crime


Probation Officers must become competent in addressing the following issues:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

  • Sexual deviancy

  • Child abuse

  • Domestic Violence

  • Mental Illness



Probation Officers work closely with community organizations and social service agencies to provide offenders and victims with the support and services that they need.  Probation Officers maintain partnerships with law enforcement and other justice agencies to share information and expertise.

Q:  Who is on Probation?
A:  Generally, offender eligibility is determined by New York State law based upon the crime of conviction.  The final determination is made by the sentencing court after hearing from the prosecutor, defense attorney and with regard to the offender’s background as stipulated in the presentence report.

Q:  What is the difference between Probation and Parole?
A:  Probation is a sentence or disposition imposed by a criminal court or family court. In general, probationers are released in the community without serving a period of local incarceration, although in certain circumstances they may be sentenced to both imprisonment (local) and probation; the sentence of incarceration shall be a condition of and run concurrently with a sentence of probation. Probation is a county function in New York State, although in New York City, the probation department is run by the City government. The New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (DPCA) provides regulatory oversight and funding to local probation departments.
Parole is a portion of a correctional sentence served in the community following a term of incarceration in state prison. For offenders serving an "indeterminate" sentence, the NYS Board of Parole makes decisions whether an eligible state inmate is granted or denied parole. Offenders sentenced to a "determinate" prison term generally are released after serving 6/7 of their sentence. The period of supervised release following incarceration for such offenders is known as "Post-Release Supervision." Parole or Post-Release Supervision is intended to assist offenders in returning to society. These offenders are supervised in the community by parole officers, who are state officials employed by the NYS Division of Parole.

Q. What does PINS stand for?
A. A PINS or Person in Need of Supervision is any child under the age of 18 who exhibits a consistent pattern of incorrigible, ungovernable and/or habitually disobedient behavior, or a person who is truant from school on a consistent basis, or anyone under the age of 16 in possession of marijuana.

Q. Who can file a PINS referral?
A. Anyone can file a PINS referral.  The referrals are located on this site or at the Columbia County Probation Department.  The person making the referral must have personal knowledge of the child’s consistent pattern of problem behavior. 

Q. How long does it take to file a PINS?
A. A PINS complaint is a form that can easily be filled out in a matter of minutes.  The person filing the PINS referral must be able to document specific behaviors in chronological order.  For school filed PINS referrals, a complete discipline and attendance record must be attached.  A school filing a PINS referral on a student with disabilities must provide documentation stating that the child’s problem behavior is not a direct result of the child’s disability. 

Q. What is the difference between PINS intake/diversion and PINS probation?
A. PINS diversion is the process by which a child voluntarily agrees to be monitored by a Probation Officer while agreeing to abide by certain “conditions of adjustment”.  These conditions are a set of rules, agreed upon by the referral source (parent, school, etc…), the assigned PO and ultimately the child.   The PO conducts a thorough assessment and provides the child with the opportunity to develop a case plan based on the child’s/family’s strengths and the child/family’s needs.  Successful adjustment of a PINS diversion case depends on the level of cooperation by the child and his/her family.  Community-based services are often recommended to children and their families in order to assist the child and family in completing the PINS diversion program successfully.  It is those cases that are not successfully adjusted that get referred to Family Court.  At that stage, the PINS referral becomes a PINS petition. 

A person deemed to be Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) by the Family Court can be placed on a term of Probation Supervision for up to one (1) year.  An order of probation includes a number of general and specialized terms and conditions of which the child must comply with.  Should a child on probation supervision not comply with court ordered terms and conditions, the Family Court Judge may place a child on a longer term of probation, or place the child in the care and custody of DSS, for up to one (1) year, and in some cases until the child’s 18th birthday.

Q: My son/daughter received a Juvenile Delinquent (JD) ticket from the police, what happens next?

A: You need to appear at the Probation Department at the date/time specified on the ticket.  You and your child will meet with a Family Court Probation Officer.  The PO will explain your rights and options on how to proceed.  You always have the right to be heard by a Family Court Judge and may exercise this right at anytime during the process.  Following an interview and assessment you may be offered JD Adjustment/Diversion Services if eligible, or the matter may be referred to the presentment agency immediately if the case is determined to be unsuitable/ineligible for Adjustment/Diversion Services.  Everyone is evaluated on a case by case basis.


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